As with other video games of this generation, the vehicles and environment are beautifully modeled. Graphics and sound effects are pleasing to the eyes and ears, especially as vehicle parts get ripped out, windshields get cracked, fences get knocked down, and tires spin wildly on maximum throttle. The sun can be distracting, as you will be picking up massive amounts of glare on certain tracks. Aural input lets you know when your tires aren’t grabbing, and five different view modes -- front bumper, over hood, cockpit, and two outer views -- means you can keep track of the action from every conceivable angle. Humorous vehicle accessories include special dashboard and rearview mirror ornaments and unlockable horn sounds.

Of course, no racing game review is complete without an overview of the physics. This all-important element is central to any racing game, and DiRT 2 does not disappoint. Steering, throttle, and braking controls are realistic; feedback is good as well. Despite being detached from the actual vehicle, you can feel the suspension load and unload every time you hit a dip, crest, or jump. Hitting or grazing obstacles such as boulders, trees, and buildings produce predictable aftermaths, and for me, learning to stick to the middle of heavily-brushed paths soon proved to be an important lesson. There are no apex points to clip, as there was more than one occasion where cutting a chicane or driving along the slight shoulder led to a totaled vehicle because of an unforeseen obstacle.

After the physics, graphics, and gameplay, one of the best features about DiRT 2 is its accessibility. The controls are not overly complicated, and users of all backgrounds can quickly adapt to the game. DiRT2 offers six difficulty settings: Easy, Casual, Serious, Savage, Extreme, and Hardcore. First-time off-roaders on the Easy setting receive five flashbacks, which are redoes that rewind race progress and can be used at any time during a race. Every ascending difficult setting thereafter receives one less flashback, with the Hardcore level featuring no resets. Those who opt for the increased difficulties are rewarded with higher XP and cash prizes.

Despite the lack of a non-Internet multiplayer mode, the single-player races can be quite amusing if played with willing compadres. You are given a pace-notes reader on Rally stages, but if you don’t understand the CPU’s jargon, your friends can give you the track layout in English. My friend and I were also heavily entertained as we watched my roommate play a single, Rally stage over and over until she got first place, which took about an hour.

I’m not a huge video-gamer, and I don’t want to spend hours upon hours performing menial tasks or reading a story. DiRT 2 offers an excellent balance of variety and racing action needed for when you just want a quick race.

Grade: 9/10
Biggest positives: Truck races, scenery from Croatia and Malaysia, cockpit view
Biggest negatives: Some races take place in really dark environments, computer can get overzealous in bumping in later races, haven’t tried multiplayer through XBOX Live
Favorite location: Tie between Baja and Malaysia
Favorite race discipline: Raid