I have heard DiRt Rally be described as the Dark Souls of racing simulators, and after my time with DiRt Rally 2.0, I can definitely see why!

The first thing you will find when playing DiRt Rally 2.0 is how steep of a learning curve it has. This game is certainly not made with the casual player in mind, in fact unless you already have a keen interest in rally racing then this game will force you to sink or swim, and in my experience, if you choose to swim then you will be handsomely rewarded with a brilliant gaming experience.

During my early hours with DiRt Rally 2, I found myself constantly sliding down ditches, hitting barriers and usually finishing a stage with my poor car looking like it had been through a Destruction Derby game rather than a rally one! The game will punish you for this however, because if there is no opportunity to repair your car before the next run then you will be forced to take your wreckage out for another stretch, and with parts of your bodywork hanging off and no headlights, this can make life extremely difficult. But this is where DiRt Rally 2 really shines, it makes you think about every move you make. Not only do you have to play with maximum concentration as to not crash and wreck your vehicle, but you also have to think about how fast you’re going to hit each corner, as trashing your car will not only shaft you for the current stage but maybe the next one too.

All of this comes together to make DiRt Rally 2 a hard game to master, but stick with it and you’ll quickly find yourself getting closer and closer to the top spot and wanting to go back for more. The best example of this was after hours of playing I still found myself at the bottom of the championship pack, without a single point to my name, it looked like I was going to finish the event in last place. That was until I managed to complete my first full stage without taking any damage with a time that put me into 15th place in the championship. 15th may not sound too impressive but it meant I had my first couple of points on the board, and after hours of learning how to handle my car, this was a punch the air in celebration moment! And it didn’t stop there, the more time I spent with the game, the more I got the hang of it. Now I find myself competing toward the top end of the championship with the satisfying feeling that I’ve been through a lot and deserve to be there.

Developer Codemasters of course have history when it comes to racing simulators, not only were they responsible for the success of the first Dirt Rally but also the current run of Formula One games. If anybody has played the F1 games then you know how incredible they look, so going into DiRt Rally 2 I was expecting the same. What I got though was quite a hit & miss experience. When I am in the middle of a race, the interior of the car looks slick and the race course looks great as I fly by at top speed. Though take a second to really look at the background of any race course and you will see trees, bushes and especially the people that all look like they belong on the last generation of consoles. It probably doesn’t help that the game likes to do slow motion sweeping shots of the track before every race, which pretty much exposes all of this. The cars themselves look very impressive for the most part, especially the interiors that always seem to stand out. Also the way the weather effects look and how it effects the track visuals is good enough and again, looks great going at full speed but be careful not too look too closely when you stop. These visual complaints are far from a deal breaker but compared to other racing sims such as Gran Turismo, Forza and even F1, DR2 seems to lack a little in the graphics department.

Sound on the other hand is outstanding! The roar of the engine as you try to handle your car through a fast chicane or a hard hairpin turn is enough to give you goosebumps especially if playing with headphones. The mixture of fantastic gameplay mixed with the convincing sound effects, gives every car a real feeling of weight that I loved.

Speaking of the cars, the selection here is quite impressive. As expected you will have to start out your rally career on the low end when it comes to vehicle choice, that is unless you choose to go with the special day one edition of the game, then you can use one of the higher end cars from the get go. The selection of cars you can unlock through the garage will be enough to keep car enthusiasts excited, and wanting to keep progressing through the career modes to make as much money as possible to be able to improve their mighty collection of rally cars.

The career mode is the main feature of this game. Although there is an online element, including daily and weekly challenges, the bulk of the gameplay comes through rally career and rally cross career. Both career modes are a lot of fun, as mentioned earlier due to how good the gameplay is and how desperate I became to better myself and climb the ranks, as well as trying to earn in game cash. The only let down for me was outside of the actual races and rankings, there isn’t really much going on. I wasn’t exactly expecting to see something like NBA 2K’s Spike Lee directed career mode or Fifa’s journey mode, but it would have been nice for my created character (Well, selected model) to have more to do than just appear inside the car during replays. Other modes such as historic rally, time trial and custom mode are fun to dip in and out of but I found myself mostly sticking to the addictive career modes.

Overall I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with DiRt Rally 2.0. Sure it’s let down a little by some poor looking visuals at times, and a career mode that could have been expanded upon a bit, but that hasn’t stopped me from jumping out of my seat in celebration after successfully chasing down the class leader in a true test of nerves. Remember, this isn’t a title that you can just pick up and play, it is a game that you need to learn and eventually master, and the satisfaction I have got from getting past this games steep learning curve is something that I have never got from another racing game before, and is what will keep me coming back for more. The Dark Souls of racing simulators you say? Yeah I’ll give you that.

I give DiRT Rally 2.0:

8.5 / 10