Style and Substance come together in this well tuned racing game
Dirt 2, the newest game in Codemasters' Colin McRae lineage of games is an interesting example of style and substance coming together in a meaningful way. While there's no "story", you're just a guy (or girl) out to win some races and earn your place as a legend in the racing world, the out-of-race portions of the game do a great job of building up an interesting and believable game world. Visually engaging menus (set in and around your racing trailer across various world racing locales), and the ability to pick your name out of a fairly extensive list, only to have real drivers address you by it in offhand comments during and after the races give you the feeling that you're part of something bigger.
Anyway you cut it, this is a great looking game. The cars take damage, the environs are lush and busy, and a real sense of speed is conveyed at higher levels. Fortunately, it's also a lot of fun to play. There are many different race and car types, and they all have unique rules or ways of controlling. As a fan mostly of arcade-y racers like Burnout, I was initially a little thrown off by the more precise driving requirements of this game. I found myself crashing into walls and driving off cliffs, but a forgiving re-wind feature lets you retake a corner without having to start a race over. While there's no 'Driving Line', visual cues, such as tire marks on the road, help you to figure out the best way to approach a corner. Driving feels good, with rally cars feeling agile and fast, and derby trucks feeling immense and powerful.
All in all, Dirt 2 is a fun game with a lot of great stylistic touches and a few interesting mechanics thrown in for good measure. The driving is tight and has a good tactile feel to it. It's definitely a more technical style racing game than Burnout, but it's intuitive gameplay and forgiving rewind mechanic helps to stave off (most of the) frustration for gamers who don't know their way around an engine block. If you're a completion-ist, or just looking to take a quick spin, Dirt 2's got enough under the hood to keep you coming back for a long time.
Worth buying if you think you might be into this sort of racing game, and definitely worth a rental if you're curious. The game also has an online or system link multi-player component which I was not able to try out.