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.