If you hate DiRT 2, the reasoning won’t be the graphics or gameplay. You will hate it because it is sickeningly addicting and a refreshing alternative to tarmac-based racing games.

The two biggest racing game franchises out today -- Forza and Gran Turismo -- pride themselves on making users feel like Michael Schumacher: precise, cerebral, and devoid of emotion on the track. Your virtual career will be spent on winding, paved circuits, some of which are very well recognized by auto enthusiasts around the world. In the spirit of action sports, DiRT 2 takes a more light-hearted approach to the world of professional racing by combining fast-paced, off-road racing with amusing quips, unique challenges, and humorous vehicle accessories. Big-name personas, such as Ken Block, Dave Mirra, and Tanner Foust, even become your virtual “friends,” chiming in from time to time as you progress through the game.

The centerpiece of DiRT 2 is the extensive single-player campaign called the Dirt Tour. The Tour takes you around the globe from exotic locales, such as Morocco and Malaysia, to not-so-exotic destinations, such as London and Los Angeles. Nine distinct locations span four continents, and each location contains multiple races of varying types, difficulties, and terrains. You complete the races at your leisure, and every race completion brings experience points (XP) and cash. Both rewards unlock subsequent races, vehicles, friends, and opportunities, including shots at the X Games and World Tour Events.

The five racing types-- Rally, Trailblazer, Raid, Landrush, and Rallycross -- are accompanied by additional race modes including Gatecrasher, Domination, and Last Man Standing. Each location uses any number of the competition types, ensuring you won’t be in the same type of race over and over. Since each racing discipline is different and utilizes different types of vehicles, they all have their pros and cons. If you consider yourself a fast driver and don’t enjoy the company of opposing vehicles, the Rally and Trailblazer events will be your sure bets. Fancy some bumper-to-bumper action and stuffing your opponents down the inside in a close race? Take part in Raids and Landrushs. In order to make your way through the game, however, you have to at least put up a strong fight in every race type.

As this is Truck Trend, let’s delve briefly into the vehicles. Available trophy trucks include a Chevrolet Silverado CK-1500, a Dodge Ram, the Kincaid Ford F-150, and the West Coast Choppers Stuka TT. These four do battle alongside four top-tier buggies: the Brian Ickler Buggy, DeJong MXR, Herbst Smithbuilt Buggy, and the Porter PRC-1.

One step below the trophy trucks and buggies are the stock-spec trucks, which include Raid-class familiars such as the Bowler Nemesis, Hummer H3 (in Robby Gordon livery), Mitsubishi Racing Lancer, and the Volkswagen Race Touareg 2. The Stock Baja class is populated by the Dodge Power Wagon, Honda Ridgeline, Hummer HX, and Toyota FJ Cruiser, while the BMW Z4, Nissan 350Z, Pontiac Solstice, and the usual assortment of Subarus and Mitsubishis represent the passenger vehicles.

As one would expect, the vehicle specifications are mostly uniform, keeping driver skill and attention as the focal point for all races. To give drivers a better sense of control, every vehicle also has six settings that are tunable: Gear Ratio, Downforce, Suspension, Ride Height, Differential, and Brake Bias. Tuning is a simple process and won’t set you far apart from the competition, but can provide the edge needed to etch out a victory.