A more successful element of the Dirt Tour career mode is the way that all menu navigation is handled from within your RV and in the area immediately outside it. This first-person menu system not only adds to the feeling that you're a pro race driver taking part in a world tour, but it also lets you seamlessly navigate both the single-player and multiplayer modes without ever breaking that immersion. For example, the desk in your RV is where you pick your next event on a world map. If you turn to your right, you can step out of the RV to look at the vehicles in your garage, purchase new ones, and check magazine covers for news on the progress that you and any of your friends with a copy of the game have made. If you turn to your left, you find a notice board on the wall where all of the multiplayer options are listed. Unsurprisingly, there's no split-screen functionality, but the online options delivered via Games for Windows Live are impressive to say the least.
The first-person menu system lets you access both solo and multiplayer modes from the comfort of your RV.
Every event type, track, and vehicle that appears in the Dirt Tour can also be selected online. Point-to-point and circuit-based races, as well as staggered start rally stages, are joined by a couple of more inventive modes that, while relatively rare occurrences in single-player, could well end up being the most popular online. The best of these is Domination; in this race, points are awarded not only for your finishing position but also for recording the fastest times in any of the four sectors into which every track is divided. The same number of points (10 for a win, eight for second place, and so on) is available for each sector and for the end result, which makes it entirely possible to win a Domination event without even placing on the podium. That's great because, unlike regular races, it gives you an incentive to keep trying even if you wipe out (or get taken out) on the first corner and have little hope of catching the rest of the field. Last Man Standing is a fun event as well, though because the driver in last place is excluded every 20 seconds after the first minute has passed, finding yourself at the back means you subsequently have to spend a couple of minutes watching your opposition in spectator mode.
Given how superb both the cars and the various environments they race through look, it's impressive that the frame rate never drops below 30 frames per second. The sense of speed is great, whether you're racing through a jungle in Malaysia, across the Utah desert, on the streets of London, or inside a Los Angeles stadium. The attention to detail at all of these locations borders on excessive given how little time you have to take in the scenery, but it makes watching the action replays all the more satisfying--even if there's no option to save them. Dirt 2's audio design is also worthy of praise because while much of your time is spent listening to the awesome revving of your engine and the energetic soundtrack that plays anytime you're not racing, there are also ambient noises to listen out for at every location and the cheer of spectators as you pass them. Perhaps the most impressive audio of all, though, comes courtesy of your codriver who, anytime you take part in a rally stage, does an excellent job of telling you what turns and hazards you're approaching. He or she (you get to choose) does so well that, unlike during other events held at the same locations, you hardly ever feel the need to glance up at the minimap of the course. Furthermore, your codriver will react believably to your driving, so if you slam sideways into a wall, you might hear a scream, while after brushing against a tree, you might be reassured that your car suffered only a scratch.
Rally stages are significantly easier with a good codriver at your side.
It's not details like these that make Dirt 2 such a superb racing game though. What makes Dirt 2 so special is the fact that its multiple difficulty levels and forgiving gameplay mechanics make it accessible to newcomers while offering a significant challenge for veterans of Codemasters' Colin McRae Rally series and other off-road racers. There's also the single-player mode that spans no fewer than 100 events (often comprising multiple races), a suite of multiplayer options that includes plenty of different modes and leaderboards, and, of course, your sweet RV, which fills with souvenirs from all of the locations that you race at as your career progresses. If you have even a passing interest in off-road racing, you won't regret a second spent behind the wheel of Dirt 2.