Two of the UK's leading exponents of the racing genre appear to have skidded to a similar conclusion at the same time. Both Bizarre Creations and Codemasters' Racing Studio believe driving games have for too many years evolved narrowly along a largely linear route towards ever-greater realism, ever-shinier bodywork. More polys, more power. And the returns on what both developers see as a stagnating genre must diminish over time.
Bizarre's response is Blur, whose major innovations come not on the road where the studio already excels, but in the broader framework of the experience. Social networking harnessed as a game changer to create a more personalised experience, blending tweets with virtual streets.
And with DiRT 2 Codemasters, too, believes that the future of racing lies in greater personalisation. But while the goal remains the same, it's following a different map.
"If you look at how other genres have moved forward, racing games have used the tried and tested formula for the past 10 years," reckons Gavin Raeburn, the main man behind the wheel of Codemasters' racing efforts.
"What we've tried to do with DiRT 2 is create a much more personalised experience. That ethos runs through every area of the game. Like when you're playing an adventure game and you're controlling an avatar on screen: we wanted the same sort of feeling within our game so you could feel personally attached to whatever you're racing."
In practice this means the player should feel like they are part of a global festival of racing from the moment the game boots up. The front end for DiRT "didn't gel" with the rest of the game, reckons Raeburn, so that's been scrapped, replaced by a system where all menus and options are accessed within the game world.
Your motorhome is your base of operations throughout single- and multiplayer. It'll park up wherever in the world you're due to race: outside you'll get a taste of the local atmosphere as the camera pans around as you skip through menu options.
As you progress, the inside of your trailer becomes decorated with the trinkets of success; and each morning you'll wake to a copy of a magazine with the latest news on your glorious achievements, or successes of rivals (you can see how this looks in the latest episode of the EGTV Show). Notably, you're also encouraged to hang on to a single car throughout your entire racing career, customising it as you go.
The festival aspect is crucial. Perhaps taking a cue from Evolution's MotorStorm, DiRT 2 seeks to recreate the carnival atmosphere of an outdoor racing event. Expect fireworks, DJs, massive, throbbing crowds waving glowsticks, and spiralling sponsor logos beamed Batman-style onto building facades.
In the US, rally driving is the "next extreme sport", reckons Codemasters, so the influence of X Games culture looms large. If DiRT marked the start of the Americanisation of the McRae franchise, its sequel has become a naturalised citizen.
It's simple economics on the one hand. "Colin McRae 2005 sold less than 2004, which sold less than Colin McRae 3, whereas DiRT sold well over double," Raeburn reveals. "In all territories it was selling more." On the other, it's merely shifting direction to reflect accurately the evolution of racing in the real world.
DiRT was a slick, accomplished and tremendously enjoyable multi-discipline racing game. But despite the focus on thematic elements, Codemasters' engineers have identified numerous areas where they feel a performance boost is required for number two.
The handling system has been overhauled, with the help of top drivers like Ken 'car-jumping maniac' Block, who came to the UK and put the game through its paces on the studio's ultimate boy toy: the D-Box Racing Simulator (yours from Harrods for a mere GBP 13,000, apparently - you can watch us clown around with it in today's EGTV Show).
Mode-wise, Rally's back and, we're promised, the most realistic take ever; Trailblazer is the new Hill Climb; Landrush is what Core was with "more exciting locations"; Rally X and Raid return with bells on (the latter featuring point-to-point racing with multiple routes; and new Challenge modes have been added.
The E3 demo we get to sample features three races in new locations: a tradition rally in Croatia; Rally X in and around London's iconic Battersea Power Station; and Raid in the Baja desert. Without hesitation we can say the game already looks absolutely stunning. The EGO Engine worked wonders on the original, and now the team has cranked out 50 per cent more polygons per car, while beautifying the overall appearance with subtle details you may not notice as you tear around a course, such as pollen lilting on a Croatian breeze.
Night racing is a huge part of DiRT 2, and the specially developed lighting system achieves arresting results. We're shown a car thrashing around Battersea after dark, with innumerable light sources flowering beams in all directions, flares rasping into life, and fireworks bursting into pillars of cascading sparkles on the course fringes. It's all hugely impressive.
A quick play through the Raid and Rally stages doesn't afford a considered look at how the retuning of the handling is panning out. All we can say is it feels right on first impressions: taut, responsive steering; satisfying whizz; lustrous detail. A new addition to the traditional rallying is staggered starts, with multiple cars on track at once adding an extra dynamic.
The online component is also woven into the overarching festival theme. Newsfeeds and updates received in your motorhome will inform you when, for instance, a friend has beaten one of your times, encouraging you to pursue the rivalry and snatch back leaderboard supremacy.
"Keeping an online community is a difficult thing," Raeburn understates. Additional features like weekly tournaments - for example, the fastest lap on a track in a specific car - and DLC created with community play in mind are planned.
The series has come a long way since its inception, but still remains true to the founding concept of rallying realism. Despite his shock death just before the release of the original Colin McRae DiRT, Codemasters has, with the blessing of his family, retained the eponymous star's name for the sequel.
"It's a tough situation," acknowledges Raeburn. "We'd been working with him for over 10 years. For him to die on the launch of the PlayStation 3 version of DiRT 1, it was totally unexpected. We had a tough decision: do we move forwards, do we stay with McRae for this game? And we decided to. And that was in conjunction with his family; it felt like the right thing to do."
As such, DiRT 2 is being treated in part as a memorial to the legendary driver. You're given his car near the beginning; and drivers like Travis Pastrana and Ken Block commemorate his career with in-game references to his greatness and influence on their own racing lives.
"He's spoken about as this great rally hero, as he was," adds Raeburn. Finally, later in the game, a Colin McRae mode is unlocked to celebrate his contribution to videogame racing in the most appropriate manner.
But having paid its respects in DiRT, Raeburn concedes this may be the last game to feature McRae's name. "What will happen in the future, I don't know," he notes. "His family have got sign off on everything; [DiRT 2] is a tribute to Colin. Moving forward, it's difficult to know how to include him in the game; we've included him in a memorial format in this game.
McRae's untimely death is a great loss to the racing world, but towards the end of his life, Codemasters argues, his appearance at the X Games, where he rolled his car, may have inspired not just the likes of Block and Pastrana, but rally's explosive growth in the US.
As it stands today, DiRT 2 seems to be making all the right noises, adjusting where necessary, innovating in the right places, and promising another racer of quality with McRae's name emblazoned on the box. Should it deliver just that, there can be no more fitting tribute.
Colin McRae DiRT 2 is due out for DS, PC, PS2, PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii in September. See it in action in today's Eurogamer TV Show.