This is fairly easy to review I suppose... because quite simply, if you are a fan of racing/rally games, you will probably love this. If you hate racers, then keep your suspicions but atleast try the demo. I'm not a big racing fan, but I actually enjoy this game.
Now for some more depth. First off, I want to get the negatives out of the way. (So please either skip this review, or read it to the end, or it will look negative.) There are a few things that bug me in this game, and to be fair, it is the same with almost every single racing game I have played in the last decade or so....
Issue 1: There seems to be some kind of graphical blurring used in these racing games. Sometimes it is very subtle, and I'm glad when its like that. Sometimes it isn't, and although its subtle in this game, it is noticeable and it annoys me. I am guessing... it is done to help keep frame rates steady. If a game (like this) is designed to run on consoles aswell as PC's, then a bit of blurring can help keep the frame rates smooth on every console, no matter how many cars are on screen etc. But for people with a new (high powered) PC, its frustrating to see the fantastic graphics get blurred slightly, even although when it doesn't need to be. But, thankfully, its not TOO noticeable, and it doesn't ruin the game or anything. Its just a pet peave.
Issue 2: Graphically, I think this game lacks a little bit of polish. The graphics are a very high standard.... but it could have looked so much better if they spent another month tweaking the graphics. The cars are basically photo-realistic and animated perfectly. The distant scenery is some of the best I have seen in a racing game. But its let down in a couple of ways. First off, some of the road-side scenery is a bit too clean... You drive under a bridge or through a small town, and it looks like it was built yesterday or was just scrubbed clean with soap. Its not terrible, but it just makes the game look "gamey", when it was so close to actually looking like real life. Also, the particle effects are quite poor and unrealistic. So when you drive in the wet, the spray off the tyres looks quite artificial. The same goes for driving through dust... It just looks like a spraypainted puff of smoke/spray and that could have been better too. I also noticed a road sign almost in the middle of the road... which makes me think this game was slightly rushed in the end, and really could have done with an extra few weeks / month of graphical polish.
Issue 3: "The Style".... Ewww :( The music in this game is actually ok with me, unlike the Need For Speed (NFS) series -- the only game I've ever played where I had to turn the music off. But besides music, there is a style in these modern racing games, and it bugs me. Its as though the games are aimed squarely at dumb 12 year old American boys. In NFS, all the characters are "preppy" or dumb "jock" types. Very American steriotypes basically, and no matter how different they are.. they all annoy me. This game "Colin Mcrae: Dirt" has no characters like that thankfully, but the narrator is precisely like one of these steriotypes.
At the end of each race, he comments on things, and its all, "Whooaaa DUDE! IM Sooooooo stoked! THATS wicked Maaaaan!!!! You rooooock! Yeeeaaahh!!!". And then you progress through the career mode and bit, and he chips in again.... "Wicked maaaan! You unlocked more levels dude! AWESOOOOOME MAN. DUDE!!!".
Now I'm not anti-american at all. I lived there for 4 years, and its partly because of that, that I realise how stupid this is. Most intelligent Americans don't talk like that, and very few people in the rest of the world speak like that. Its no big deal, but it bugs me, because when I'm spoken to like I'm a dumb 12 year old kid, it makes me wonder if I bought a kids game... Also, not everyone is a "Man". He says "Man" every 2 seconds, and yet not all gamers are men... Not all racing drivers are men either. And I doubt very many women who play this game, would appreciate being called "Maaaan" every two seconds.
Issue 4: This is a small issue. The actual immersion into the career mode could have been better. You don't choose a driver (like say Test Drive Unlimited for example). And I don't feel particularly like "I" am actually part of anything. In other words, its just a bunch of races, strung together with a simple tournament type progression. There is prize money which lets you buy other cars (which I really like in games like this), and overall, it is fine for a racing game. But there are a few other racing games which do a better job of this, so this game might end up lacking a bit if they don't offer more in the next game. P.S. I found that prize money is usually round figures ($100,000 //or// $200,000 // etc..), and the cars for sale are all round figures too... so to buy a different paint colour for your car for $1740 or something... just made me think I am going to end up wanting to buy a car for $200,000 eventually, and I will only have $198,260 because I stupidly wanted my car to be yellow.... Maybe that won't happen... but if it does I will be peeved. Customising the way your car LOOKS, should be part of the fun of the game.
Anyway, with all that negativity out of the way.... this is a great game! (haha!).
There are multiple race types.... Hill climb, racing on tarmac tracks.... racing on narrow country muddy tracks.... circuits... etc.. This game really has it all. Whether you like racing in mud or on tracks, or up the side of a mountain... this game will have that mode for you. And if you like ALL those types of races, then you will LOVE this game.
The sound is fantastic. You go under a bridge and the engine noise echoes... just like going through a real bridge in a car in real life. The graphics are very good. The control/physics of the car is pretty much perfect.
There are lots of cars, and huge variety of tracks. I also find the difficulty level to be great. When I was new to the game, I could lower the difficulty and it went easy on me... When I got better, I could raise the difficulty level and it provided a good challenge for me.
The game also LOOKS very fast when you are travelling fast. Some games struggle with this, but this game does a fantastic job. When you are travelling at 90mph along a narrow road.... the scenery is wizzing past very fast, and you really feel like you are going very fast.
Basically... if you are a fan of racing in general, I would guess that this would probably be your favourite game. I really enjoy this game, and even if you aren't a big fan of racing, you might still like this game. It is just so well balanced, fun to play, and easy to get into, that it seems like a good choice for most people. But for racing fans, this has got to be a "must buy". Its more of a simulation than an "arcade racer", but I don't find it stuffy, or bogged down with car tuning and shaving 0.1 second off my time etc... That is all there if you want it... but its not forced upon you. Its a simulation that still manages to actually be a fun game.
For a racing fan (rally in particular), this game is a 10/10 game. For everyone else its 8/10. 8 because its very good indeed. The only reason why it doesn't get a 9 or 10, is because it could have been a bit better as I explained earlier - but please... just because I gave it 8, don't assume its average. 8 should be a high score, and this game is worthy of a high score.
8 / 10