|System: X360, PS3, Wii, PC, PSP, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Sumo Digital||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Codemasters||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sep. 8, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Andrew Groen
Dirt 2 for the PSP is a great framework for a relatively fantastic portable racer that makes some very serious missteps; in doing so it squanders much of its potential. A slightly budget price tag of $30 helps us forgive the mistakes a bit, but it's ultimately not enough to cover the blemishes entirely.
Racing games on the PSP have had a great tradition over the years, as the system is by far more capable of handling the genre than the DS. But, a few glaring oversights keep this one from entering the pantheon of great PSP racers like Ridge Racer and Burnout Legends.
Chief among these problems is a lack of playable content in the game's single-player, a dearth in terms of variety of courses to race on, and, most importantly, a physics engine that can at times make certain levels incredibly difficult.
In early levels, the practically moon-like physics of Dirt 2 seemed like a big asset to the game. Since it's very difficult to simulate a sense of speed and urgency on the PSP, the physics help you feel like you're racing on the edge and you could careen off the road at any time. It added some much needed tension. However, there is one particular level that nearly ruins the entire game with how poorly designed it is.
It's a Moroccan off-road course that combines the usual floating physics with a course that has bumps and curbs all over. The result is a level in which it is nearly impossible to keep your car upright or to finish the race without careening off into a wall. All of the game's other levels are fine, but this one just frustrated the living heck out of me. The race is possible, but the best way to finish is by racing at a dull, constant speed of 40 mph, and then wait for your opponents to crash. It's good that there's a way around this fault, but I seriously doubt any racing fan wants to pay money for a game so that they can drive 40 mph. Most of us can do that on our own.
This wouldn't be as crippling of a problem as it is if the PSP version included the same time-rewinding feature included in the console version of the game, but sadly that feature is absent. Ever since the time-rewinding concept was featured so prominently in Grid last year, just about every major racing game to hit the market knew they needed to get that feature into their game as soon as possible. It's been so unanimously agreed that time-rewinding is a perfect fit for racing, that its omission seems glaring even in a handheld game. Especially in a racing game where sometimes just hitting a small bump in the road at the wrong speed or angle can ruin an entire race.
All of the other components of a great racing game are there, though. Great racers on the PSP always have to contend with that problem of making the player feel a sense of speed and tension, and as previously mentioned, Dirt 2 manages to get over that hurdle.
Graphically, it's also a fantastic game, especially for its budget price. It won't blow you away like other racers might, but the locations are beautiful and varied, and the cars all looks distinct and cool. However, there are some problems in terms of graphical variety. There are not very many different courses in Dirt 2. Any sort of race variety comes in the form of 'mirrored' tracks (tracks that you race backwards), which is a nice, cost-effective way to change things up, but it doesn't help to give players some different settings to race in since it's still precisely the same level. The cars all look great though, which is easily the best thing that survives from the console version.