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Best of 2009 - Dirt 2

As one year transitions into the next, I find it a healthy and refreshing endeavor to look back upon the past year and reflect upon those experiences which touched me the most; to discover which games stood tall above the rest and, for one reason or another, made a lasting impression.

Over the next few days, I will be sharing my own personal list of the ten best games of 2009, followed by those that didn't quite make the top ten and even a few of my greatest disappointments of the year. These are in no particular order, but they are the games I found most worthy of praise. Reflecting upon them makes one thing clear: it was a great year for gaming.

The racing game market is a remarkably tough one. There aren’t many obvious gaps left to be filled, not many cracks remaining for innovation to squeeze from. Most categories of racing have a clear king and a lot of competition looking to dethrone the current leader, so it’s quite hard for a newcomer to make itself known.

Mario Kart leads the wacky antics category. Forza and Gran Turismo are in a battle to the death over the simulation category. Burnout has people covered that would rather crash than race. And so on.

But as much as I love racing games, it somehow never occurred to me that there was no clear leader for dirt racing. Sure there were off-road racing games, but none of them had the mass appeal, the polish, the depth, and the overall quality to truly take the crown and run with it, to declare boldly that the category of dirt racing belonged to this franchise and anyone who argues is going to damn well have to knock it off of the hill first.

Most dirt racing games were more about stupid trick systems or “Xtreme” sports nonsense that actual racing on dirt, and those that weren’t were just too niche, appealing mostly to those who actually watched rally racing in their spare time and not crossing over to the key casual demographic that just likes to go fast in really cool ways.

Then Dirt 2 came along.

While some may consider rally racing the outcast of the sport of racing, the nerd to the beauty queens and jocks of simulations and arcade racers, nothing about Dirt 2 is nerdy. It simply oozes style from beginning to end and brings an accessibility to racing off-road that no other game has so far managed to match.

It packs a ton of variety into the proceedings and couples that with some of the most stunning graphics seen from a racing game this console generation; quite a feat considering how competitive the visuals of the genre already are. 

What it ultimately boils down to is that you don’t have to be a rally racing fan to enjoy this game. Dirt 2 has done for racing on dirt what Forza 3, Burnout, and Mario Kart have done for their respective types of racing: provide a way for anyone who simply likes going fast to dive in and have a blast in a new, thrilling way. 

For bringing dirt racing to the masses and doing it with style, Dirt 2 makes my Best of 2009 list.

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