You'll want to leave this racer in the dust.
The Dirt series is well-known on the PS3 and 360 for its critically-acclaimed, off-road rally racing. It would be a reasonable assumption that a racing franchise with such a high-caliber pedigree would be brought to the Wii with a similar level of quality, but that's far from the case. Dirt 2 gives Wii owners the short end of the stick, providing an utterly vanilla experience with shoddy controls and little in the way of extras or polish. It's an afterthought and a cash-in instead of a well-crafted racing title.
Dirt 2 has several different modes to choose from. Players can take on World Tour (play through variations of the game's nine different tracks across four levels of difficulty), Arcade Mode (single race or a multi-race Championship), and Challenges mode (complete certain tasks to earn Bronze, Silver, or Gold medals). There is also a split-screen local multiplayer mode for 2-4 players that allows you and some friends to compete in single or multiple races, or tackle the aforementioned challenges. There is no online component in the Wii version.
The game's track assortment is generally unspectacular; it's a very predictable selection of desert, alpine, seaside, city, and indoor/outdoor environments. There's little in the way of graphical flourish aside from some nice shadowing on your vehicle, and for a game called Dirt there's a pronounced lack of it during the races. Even when you go off the track, you won't see so much as a speck of dust raised by your tires, and while you can knock down cacti and shrubs on the side of the road, the whole affair has a distinctly non-interactive and sterile feel.
The visual bright spots are the vehicle models themselves. Each one is large and fairly detailed, with the Hummer H3s, FJ Cruisers, and Lancer Evo's looking like great representations of their real-life counterparts. There's a downside to this, however; the game's graphics engine can't handle too many of these large models on-screen at once (likely the reason why races are limited to four vehicles total), resulting in regular frame rate drops. These drops are especially frequent in corners where vehicles tend to bunch up, and wide-open areas with larger draw distances. The lack of a smooth, locked-in framerate definitely detracts from the experience. Ironically, the split-screen multiplayer mode has a more consistently solid frame rate, and plays much more smoothly as a result.
While Dirt 2's visuals are mediocre, its sound is abysmal. There's no music played while you race, which is puzzling since there are several different songs played in the game's menus. All you hear during gameplay is the grating drone of your engine, irritating tire screeches, and the squeaky sound of your suspension (that often bears a striking resemblance to a squeaky mattress). Ambient sounds are non-existent. There's little separating the sound and music of the Wii version of Dirt 2 from many Nintendo DS racing titles.
Despite these visual and aural miscues, one would hope that solid gameplay would be Dirt 2's saving grace. No such luck. The biggest offender is the game's sub-par controls. For analog steering, you can use a Wii Remote/Nunchuk combination or the Classic Controller, or you can opt for motion control with a Wii Remote and a Wii Wheel. None of these options are truly effective. You never quite feel like you have complete control of your vehicle; you're either sliding around a bit too much, or bouncing off of objects in unpredictable ways. (I've actually hit an object, bounced into the air, and completed a full 360-degree mid-air twist – all while maintaining my lead of the race.) You can execute powerslides, but the move is so overly sensitive that you'll often find yourself inadvertently spinning around backwards. Motion control is also very difficult to use, due to a slight lag between your actions with the Wii Wheel and the on-screen response (there's no way to recalibrate this, either).
Players must also deal with the awkward handling of ramp jumping. What should be a fun way to catch air is actually an exercise in frustration, since you can't control your vehicle in mid-air. While this may seem more "realistic", your vehicle actually drifts while airborne, causing you to sometimes flip over on landing through no fault of your own. You can't move your vehicle left or right to set up for the next turn, either; typically, how you land is a crap shoot that depends on how you launch off the ramp…sort of. You eventually learn to avoid ramps altogether. Dirt 2 can't decide it if it's a simulator or an action racer, and it ends up doing both styles poorly because of it.
The AI of the other racers is also spotty. On Amateur difficulty, there's virtually no way to lose, while on Pro, one slip-up will cause your opponents to get so far ahead that you'll never catch them. One strange quirk is how the game handles your vehicle going off the track. Instead of letting competitors overtake you or forcing you to lose time, you are instantly transported back onto the track with little to no penalty whatsoever. You'll have other racers nipping at your heels, go off-track, and suddenly find yourself back on the track with them still behind you. If you go astray, it's typically quicker to go completely off the track than to turn around yourself. It makes for brisk racing, but it doesn't make racers pay for their mistakes, either.
An effort to extend the experience is made with the Challenges mode, which tasks one or two players with completing certain objectives in order to earn medals. There are five different challenges: Airtime (get as much air time off of ramps as you can), Trailblazer (finish a course as fast as possible), Gatecrasher (drive through a series of gates at particular speeds), Powerslide (clock a certain amount of time powersliding), and Last Man Standing (the last-place car is eliminated at the end of each lap). While Last Man Standing is fun, especially on higher difficulties, the other challenges aren't particularly inventive. What's worse is that while there are twenty challenges in all, it's really the same five events repeated four times over at increasing difficulties. Powersliding is also borderline exploitable, since you can trigger powersliding by simply snaking back and forth as you drive down the track.
Dirt 2 is as vanilla a racer as you're going to find on Wii. There are some unlockable videos and vehicle skins, but this is a very generic package that feels like it was phoned in. The track selection is small (World Tour mode features many mirror and reverse tracks), the Challenges are recycled, and there are very few bells and whistles to speak of. Combine these flaws with floaty controls, frustrating ramp jumping physics, and an inconsistent frame rate, and you have a title that racing fans should definitely avoid.