Colin McRae: DiRT 2 (2009, Off-Road Racing Game, Games for Windows) – 9/10 game review

Cast / crew
Game Designer: Matthew Horsman

Colin McRae: DiRT 2 (2009)


Despite a notable lack of rallying and interchangeable international locations (Baja, Morocco, China and Utah are particularly indistinguishable and there is no snow and little tarmac), DiRT 2 improves on it’s predecessor in every other way. Graphics are completely fantastic (especially on PC Ultra) but it’s the handling that is the revelation. This is easily the best handling Codemasters have delivered since Colin 2.0 and is accessible, responsive, predictable and convincing. It is a perfect balance of arcade and simulation. Presentation is also splendid and the personalities are well represented (contrasting with the lack of character for the locations) and smack talking back to Travis Pastrana and Ken Block is endlessly great fun.

This game contains ostentatiously omitted sexual swear word in songs.

Classified 12+ by PEGI. The game is only suitable for persons who have reached the age of 12 or over.
Classified Bad Language by PEGI. Game contains bad language.


Colin McRae: DiRT (2007, Off-Road Racing, PlayStation 3) – 9/10 game review

Cast / crew

Colin McRae: Dirt (2007)


Colin McRae Dirt is the best in the series since the brilliant Colin McRae Rally 2.0 despite slightly odd handling and, surprisingly, establishes itself as the best next-gen racing game by some way. Outstanding graphics (especially on the smooth-running PlayStation 3 version), excellent sound, reference-quality presentation, lovely and accessible replays and lots to see and do are all the icing on the cake of the fun and excitement of the core driving sensation.

Classified 12+ by PEGI. The game is only suitable for persons who have reached the age of 12 or over.
Classified Bad Language by PEGI. Game contains bad language.

Available on PS3.

Continue reading “Colin McRae: DiRT (2007, Off-Road Racing, PlayStation 3) – 9/10 game review”

Lancia Stratos: Alitalia / Fenomenon Forza Motorsport 2 custom paint job

If there’s a Stratos in the game, you can’t go wrong adorning it with the iconic Alitalia green and red. What is it about the Lancia rally cars that made them such icons, not only as rally cars but also as advertising space? We have the Alitalia Stratos and the Martini Delta Integrale, both utterly iconic. Anyway, I digress.

Classic Stratos in the studio and in action from the Lancia Stratos album at rallye-stars

To change things up slightly, this paint job is based more on the Alitalia paint job on the Fenomenon Stratos concept car shown at the 2005 Geneva Motor Show. It was also displayed in snot green. No idea why. Anyway, here’s what it looks like from a page on

Fenomenon Stratos Concept Car aka NewStratos

This was also the first time I noticed a feature new to Forza Motorsport 2 that was to instantly become a firm favourite: Create a new vinyl group. This, brilliantly, takes the group of vinyl’s you have highlighted (it cannot contain a manufacturer decal) and saves it so it can be stamped in any place on any vehicle. This means that transferring text from one side of the car to the other is now child’s play. But you can transfer, not just to the other side of the same car, but to any car you paint! Wonderful. I remember painstakingly recreating a Star Wars logo on both sides of a car I did in Forza Motorsport. I was highly satisfied when finished but it was a lot of work. Now, I could just highlight from one side and paste it on the other and save it for use on other cars too.

I used this wonderful, wonderful new feature for the Alitalia logo. The logo was pretty simple as one of the Forza font’s was similar enough to pass for the “litalia” section. The stylised leading “A” was created using primitives. The whole lot was grouped and saved and then stamped with glee and reckless abandon across the rest of the car.

Alitalia vinyl group

Not only that, I used the same group for the monochrome Alitalia logo on the bonnet and simply used the Change colour option to switch all the vinyls in the group to white. What an absolute joy.

Monochrome Alitalia

Here’s the finished article:

Racing with number 35

Originally, I added some simple patterns to the rear of the car but later changed it to be pointier mirroring the “A” in Alitalia.

Not-so-pointy rear flashes

Pointy rear flashes

I also saved a clean version to my design catalogue which looks much more like the Fenomenon original.


As an aside, you can race in the Fenomenon Stratos in the brilliant Colin McRae: Dirt which you should go out and buy today for your PlayStation 3.

Why Don’t Replay Coders Use The Same Buttons As Everyone Else?

One of the standard features of racing videogames is the replay.

Oddly, it has proven remarkably difficult to get right though the reasons for this are pretty obvious. Most replay systems miss or diminish the best action or fail to make your heroic efforts appear heroic by using the wrong camera at any given moment.

The genre-leading replay system belongs to Sir Geoff Crammond’s legendary Grand Prix series. (What is Sir Geoff up to these days?) The reasons the replay system was so good? It tended to replicate the camera positions as used by the Formula One Administration that broadcast the races on television. The choice of cameras ran into double-digits. The action could be rewound not just dumped back at the beginning. However, these aren’t the most important reasons why the replay system in Grand Prix was so good.

Grand Prix 4 screenshot

The most important aspect was that the computer could intelligently choose a camera and the action to focus on with a mode that remains virtually unique in replay systems: the Director. At any point, you could press a button and the computer would decide what to show and how. It did this by looking at the flow of the race and highlighting a close battle or watching the leader complete a couple of laps or focusing on an accident.

Grand Prix 4 screenshot

I’m not saying that the replay system always chose the right camera but I am highlighting that a decision was made over which camera to use. In most replay systems, the camera choice is entirely arbitrary. At any given moment, the number of camera positions which make your driving look amazing are far less than the number of optimum camera positions. Therefore, most replay systems tend to not present your driving or any specific action with an optimum camera position. Grand Prix makes the strongest effort in any replay system to choose an appropriate camera.

The only thing the Grand Prix replay system lacked (that could have been reasonably added) was, funnily enough, a replay system. Television broadcasts follow the action but if something cool happens like an overtake or an accident, it is replayed from different angles. This never happens in any racing game replay. (The slow motion cameras in the Need for Speed series are not replays.)

Murray Walker

The Grand Prix replay proves such a remarkably convincing system that you could practice delivering a race commentary and pretend you were Murray Walker. It’s not as easy as it looks, er, sounds. Just ask James Allen. Which, I believe, requires a few quotes from the great man:

“…and there’s no damage to the car… except to the car itself.”

“and I interrupt myself to bring you this…”

“This is an interesting circuit because it has inclines, and not just up, but down as well.”

“Only a few more laps to go and then the action will begin, unless this is the action, which it is.”

“This has been a great season for Nelson Piquet, as he is now known, and always has been.”

“And the first five places are filled by five different cars.”

The mighty Grand Prix series replay function even did something else that a lot of replay systems do not: it used the same keys in gameplay and in replay to change the camera.

It is surprisingly uncommon for a replay system to use the gameplay key for change camera. Some games, like Colin McRae: DiRT and the Forza Motorsport series, use a menu to change cameras in the replay. Some games, like the Gran Turismo series, just use an entirely different button configuration (and make sure they don’t tell you about it).

The reason for this is, well, it’s not terribly obvious. The only explanation, and it is one that doesn’t hold any water, is that the programmers of the replay systems will frequently be entirely different from the main gameplay team.

Which leaves the question: why don’t replay coders use the same buttons as everyone else?

(Screenshots, erm, borrowed from Gamespot’s Grand Prix 4 coverage.)

Colin McRae: DiRT Xbox 360 versus PC versus PlayStation 3 comparison and preview

Codemasters have released a PlayStation 3 demo for their off-road racing game DiRT.

The first thing that hits you is the size:

  • PC: 833MB
  • Xbox 360: 770MB
  • PlayStation 3: 555MB

Either Codies techies have recently learned how to zip files or the PS3 has significantly lower quality something somewhere. The question is: does it make any serious difference?

For me, the PS3 didn’t feel quite as sharp visually as either Xbox 360 or PC but it does feel much smoother and more consistent.

  • The PC demo played smoothly on the rally and special stage but had a nightmare with the CORR race when all the cars were on-screen.
  • The Xbox 360 demo played much the same on the three different race types and didn’t suffer the giant performance hit in the CORR race. However, it doesn’t feel consistently smooth.
  • The PS3 demo feels much smoother than both but seems to have a teensy bit more trouble with all the cars in the CORR race than the 360. This is largely noticeable on the replay and not so much in the gameplay.

Where this really factors in is in control. For me, the PC demo simply could not be setup satisfactorily with a gamepad. No matter what setup options I used, the gamepad was always far too sensitive.

Both the 360 and PS3 demos instantly feel fine. The 360 gets plus marks for rumble and terrific triggers but the PS3’s much lighter controller and no rumble makes for a far less fatiguing experience (this applies to all 360 / PS3 control comparisons). The general smoothness of the PS3 demo also means that you feel more in control and that minute adjustments can be consistently applied with effects that can be consistently anticipated.

The accuracy of the PS3 controls does highlight what is probably the biggest problem with DiRT as a game: the apparent simplicity of the driving model. DiRT is not as satisfying to drive around in as Forza Motorsport 2 on the 360 or Motorstorm or Gran Turismo HD Concept 2.0 on the PS3. Those games feel like you’re driving the vehicle depicted while DiRT feels a little more like you’re moving the camera. Well, that’s being a bit harsher than I meant. While it’s certainly not as satisfying a driving experience, it is consistent and eminently playable.

Slimm Says

For me, the PS3 demo just comes out on top thanks to its smoother feel and accurate and consistent controls.

On all the demos, I really miss Nicky Grist.