The scene is abuzz with talks about it dethroning Richard Burns Rally, the much-loved cult classic

Codemasters decided to give its popular but ultimately arcade style Dirt series a much more simulation-oriented spin when it launched the first Dirt Rally game in late 2015. Now, a sequel to that first Dirt simulation has been released, called Dirt Rally 2.0, and it seems to have impressed many high profile gaming outlets, as well as a series of driving game loving YouTubers. Some even say it could be the best rally game ever, finally surpassing a game that dates back to 2004 (and many avid rally sim fans still swear by it to this day). I am, of course, talking about Richard Burns Rally (RBR), a game that at the time of its launch was considered ahead of its time in many areas.

Until the release of Dirt Rally 2.0, fans of the genre were still looking for a replacement to the 15 year-old RBR, but apparently, they may have finally found it. However, even though it builds on the first Dirt Rally (a good core game with some shortfalls that irritated fans), it may still not win over the hearts and minds of fans unless it’s really good.

So is it? Well, if you were to judge it purely based on graphics, Dirt Rally 2.0 looks okay, but it’s quite far behind the best driving games out there.

Cars do look great and are quite detailed in-game, but everything else (environments, textures, and weather effects) leaves a little to be desired.

In this respect, it honestly doesn’t look that much better than the first Dirt Rally game that’s now over four years old.

Even that first game was not what would have been called amazing eye candy, even back then. And yet many still found that game enjoyable and extremely addictive. Why? Because it’s extremely challenging to play and really leans toward realism - the fact that rallying is more difficult and dangerous than typical circuit racing was reflected in the first game and now it’s been refined in this second title in the series; it was also what made rally fans fall in love with RBR all those years ago.

Dirt Rally 2.0 gets the driving part spot on - you can play it successfully on a controller, but to really make the most out of it (and also achieve good results in-game) you need a good racing wheel. And once you install said wheel, you’ll find yourself sawing left-to-right at 100 mph on a straight bit of road just to avoid dips, ruts, puddles, or inside line rocks.

One big feature Codemasters is pushing with Dirt Rally 2.0 is surface degradation.

If you aren’t familiar with the world of rallying, surface degradation refers to how smooth and grippy the surface you’re racing over is. In other words, it depends on where you start on the grid. If you’re among the first to tackle a special stage, then you won’t see that many ruts on the racing line, whereas if you start among the last, then you will have to adapt to a deeply rutted surface that is not necessarily as smooth at the end of the day.

This surface degradation feature really adds another dimension to the experience, and how it affects the car is different depending on the location. The game comes with six different environments (New Zealand, Argentina, Spain, Poland, Australia, and the USA), each with its own stages. Sadly, unlike the procedural generation system used in Dirt 4 to always provide random, fresh roads to race over, Dirt Rally 2.0 has regular stages, put together by an actual level designer. The upside of this is the fact that it all looks just that little bit more realistic and some parts that are built into the stages could not have been possible if an algorithm was in control.

Dirt Rally 2.0 is, as with the first installment, addressed at hardcore rally fans and car simulation fans. Playing this game is brutal and punishing, even if you are familiar and experienced with this type of game - this will definitely scare off some more casual players, yet at the same time it will make die-hard fans love it even more.

The car roster in Dirt Rally 2.0 includes models from both the first game, as well as Dirt 4, plus there are also R-GT cars in the game now.

In real life, they are driven exclusively on tarmac courses, yet in Dirt Rally 2.0 you get to drive them over all sorts of loose surfaces. Why is this exciting? Well, these are high-powered rear-wheel drive cars with V-8 engines...

There is definitely a lot to like about Dirt Rally 2.0, even though, according to some avid gamers, it’s still not perfect. However, no game breaking flaws have been reported, and the main points of criticism about it seem to stem from the fact that Richard Burns Rally still allowed for deeper car tuning and customization options, the fact that some cars from the first Dirt Rally have been removed (there are sadly no Group B cars in 2.0,) and the fact that the graphics could be sharper.

The game officially launches February 25, and it is available for PC, Xbox One and PS4.

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