Joystiq impressions: DiRT 2


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The series that gave our own Ludwig Kietzmann his first gaming injury is thundering back this September on, well, pretty much every platform imaginable. Last night we were treated -- and it was a treat -- to a first look at in-game footage from Codemasters' hotly anticipated rally racer, DiRT 2.

There are some fundamental changes coming to the series for its second go-round. The biggest of which is a very strong focus on marrying rally racing with the world of extreme sports. Inspired by X-Games icons such as Dave Mirra strapping in behind the wheel and taking the sport to new heights (and lengths! We watched a video of a rally car landing a flawless 181ft jump) the game's designers are ratcheting up the edge, but, more importantly to gameplay, introducing whole new elements. Rally on after the break for more.

Note: all images associated with this preview are target renders (not to be confused with bullshots).
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The most immediately noticeable additions come by way of enormous (fictional) stadium venues packed with up to 140,000 fans and featuring rally cross events which integrate elements such as the aforementioned epic jumps. In one of the videos we were shown, we saw several cars tearing along a course that wove itself indoors and out, covering at least six or seven types of terrain -- and with plenty of elevation changes.

Building on the garage front end of GRID, the game's hub between races will take the form of an RV, the idea being that you're traveling the world in this thing ... and the backdrops will reflect where you are. We got a quick glimpse of it after witnessing some of the new technology the game's packing.

Frankly, we don't think DiRT 2 could look better on current hardware. It's already a game that seems like it could almost be on the next generation of consoles. A lot of this has to do with a bevy of new effects and improvements on old ones. The dirt thrown up by the cars looks great and the new water tech is leaps and bounds beyond anything you've seen, bordering on photo realistic.

We were also struck by a mass of subtle touches, like when we watched a car drive through a deep puddle on a sandy surface from the in-cockpit view. The windscreen was first hit with water, then a mixture of water and sand, which mixed together and began to slide down as the wipers kicked in.

Our final glimpse of in-game footage was intended to show that traditional stage-based rally racing is still a substantial part of the game. In this case, though, it wasn't so much that we were seeing a very sharp-looking -- and harrowing -- run through a Croatian mountainside. It was, again, the small touches that really "made it." For example, you can now unlock various dashboard trinkets, such as a swaying hula dancer, to customize your car. We even spotted an NXE Avatar -- presumably of the player -- swinging from the rear-view mirror.

Still, we were left with unanswered questions. What about the various other types of off-road racing present in the first game? And what, pray tell, will the Wii, DS and PSP versions look like? Consider us thoroughly jazzed to go hands-on with DiRT 2 -- in all its incarnations -- at E3.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.