On the PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360, Dirt 2 is an off-road racing game that’s difficult to fault, but sadly, that’s not the case on the Wii. There are some great course designs, and there’s definitely fun to be had racing on them. That fun is short-lived, though, and the lack of longevity combined with subpar visuals, choppy frame rates, and inconsistent opponent AI make the Wii version of Dirt 2 difficult to recommend.
In addition to split-screen support for up to four players, Dirt 2 offers three different modes for solo play. World Tour is a career mode in which you start out as a clubman driver and progress up through the amateur, pro-am, and professional racing ranks. Arcade mode lets you race individual events and championships without the constraints of the World Tour structure. Challenges are where Dirt 2 gets some much-needed variety in the form of Last Man Standing, Powerslide, Airtime, and Gatecrasher events. The problem is that none of these event types, including the regular races, are very good.
Races in Dirt 2 involve only four drivers, and on the default difficulty setting, you can generally expect to be leading the field by the time you exit the second or third corner and then not give your opposition a second thought until the next race. That’s because AI drivers, while occasionally very quick and aggressive, have a habit of slowing down for corners far more than necessary. They also seem oblivious to your existence at times, so if you make a mistake that affords them an opportunity to catch up, there’s a good chance they’ll crash straight into the back of you rather than make an intelligent attempt to overtake. Raising the difficulty level makes things a little more challenging, but switching up to the pro setting doesn’t make your opposition significantly more formidable. Rather, the clubman, amateur, and pro settings merely determine how many driving aids are behind the scenes making your car easier to handle.
The best thing that can be said about the racing is that the course designs offer some interesting and varied challenges. The UK track is recognizable as a caricature of the twisting rallycross that graced other versions of Dirt 2, but other locales, such as Japan and China, feature very different layouts. There’s also a hilly Iceland circuit where you spend some time racing on snow and ice, which isn’t radically different from racing on sand but at least provides a change of scenery. Unfortunately, no matter where you’re racing, Dirt 2 is never easy on the eyes. Cars and trucks all look good, and it’s neat that they get dirty as races progress. The same can’t be said for the environments that you’re racing through, though, which can all be described as either “ugly” or “uglier.”
Getting through the World Tour mode should only take you three or four hours, and it’s made easier by the fact that once you unlock the somewhat overpowered Mk II Ford Escort, you have the option to use it in every subsequent race–even those between buggies and trophy trucks. None of the World Tour races are so good that you’re likely to revisit them in Arcade mode, so that just leaves Challenge mode. There are five different types of challenges, but only four of each in which to earn bronze, silver, or gold trophies. The weakest of these challenges are Trailblazer events, which are just time trials with target times to beat; and Last Man Standing races, which eliminate the last-place driver at the end of each lap until only one remains. Better than those are the Gatecrasher races, which force you to drive well so that you can pass through gates at required speeds; and Powerslide events, in which your score is based solely on how long you spend drifting. Airtime challenges that score you according to how much time you spend in the air after hitting ramps that are scattered all over the courses sound like fun on paper, but it’s far too easy to attain gold scores for them in solo play.
Split-screen multiplayer support doesn’t add much to Dirt 2. Your opposition is more believable and some of the challenges are more fun, but the visuals get even worse. And the sound effects–which are at least inoffensive during solo play–crescendo into a confusing mess when they’re playing for three or four drivers simultaneously. The dozen or so licensed songs on the soundtrack are a good fit at least. When you add an infrequent but irritating bug that causes your car to stop and respawn when you clearly haven’t strayed out of bounds to this already undesirable mix, you’re left with a racing game that’s definitely best avoided.