The Big Game: Dirt Rally

18 years after the release of the first Colin McRae video game, the franchise finally comes to the new consoles.

The rally driver’s name has not been used in the title since 2008’s Dirt 2, but with this new entry, Codemasters will feel it has a game to live up to his legacy.

Listening to what fans wanted, we knew that they loved previous Dirt games because they loved rally. But what was being offered wasn’t matching the true experience of the real-life sport,” says Paul Coleman, chief game designer at Codemasters, which has developed the series since the beginning.

This is the full rally experience and bringing that authenticity to the franchise makes it feel really fresh and exciting. Our ambition has always been to make it the best rally game ever made.”

To achieve this, and before releasing Dirt Rally on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, Codemasters relied on PC gamers.

The firm launched its brand new title on Steam Early Access in April 2015 – a surprising approach considering the fact that Dirt is already a well-established franchise. Doesn’t Codemasters already know what its fans want?

Early Access really helped us identify what players wanted out of a new Dirt game,” Coleman explains. He adds that the game has been validated over ”80 million miles of community testing during Steam Early Access.”

From how well-received our new physics model has been, to feedback on just about every facet of the game, having that testing ground to help us improve has been invaluable. It was a pretty big departure for the franchise, but that feedback and level of input that we received from the community was fundamental in creating a game that we’re not only extremely proud of, but we feel is exactly what gamers want right now.”

The community being the driving force of this new title, Coleman points out that Dirt Rally did not need a big investment in terms of advertising: This game has been boosted by its passionate community since its Early Access debut who have spread the word, rather than having a big campaign.

But with the console release we’re becoming much more visible and trying to get people more aware of Dirt Rally, rather than it just being something they heard about through a friend.”

The game’s PlayStation 4 and Xbox One launch on April 5th is indeed a new challenge for Codemasters. Even if the team behind the Dirt franchise has an 18-years long experience in developing consoles titles, moving this new entry from PC to PS4 and Xbox One required a lot of investment from the team.

We’ve been working on Dirt Rally for a long time. From its early prototype through to Steam Early Access and now onto consoles, it’s been a long journey,” Coleman admits.

Having initially been developed on PC, we had those great foundations to build from. For us, it was making sure that the fidelity of the handling was the same across all platforms. There’s some difference, such as on the Xbox One where you get the motors in the triggers that give you a little more feedback for wheel spin. But otherwise it’s about hitting 60 frames-per-second and getting a solid 1080p.”

And for Codemasters’ chief game designer, it was pretty clear that console players were ready for some real rally driving: ”From feedback we’ve been receiving, I was confident that there was a real hunger from the console owners for a more challenging rally game on those systems.”

When we began on a prototype, we focused completely on what the car felt like to drive,” Coleman explains. ‘We’re doing things more in-depth to get across the atmosphere and skill required to get behind the wheel on one of these cars.”

Coleman is himself a rally co-driver, a lover of all motorsports” as he puts it. So being able to convey his passion through a screen was an aspiration and a priority. And he was not the only one.

Dirt Rally is the result of a genuine feeling at the studio that people wanted a more authentic rally gaming experience. The goal was to capture that precise essence of what makes rally unique – communicating that raw emotion of hurtling down an icy road at breakneck speed, pushing your car to the absolute limits in the pursuit of that perfect run.

We really ripped up the rulebook on this one. We created a new physics model, and from there we spent a lot of time working out exactly what was needed to make a rally game that felt like a real representation of the sport.”

Coleman’s enthusiasm is quite contagious, and the chief game designer is sure that Dirt Rally will succeed in spreading it even more.

There’s a huge crowd of discerning racing gamers out there that are looking for a more serious experience on new consoles,” he asserts. ”Dirt Rally is a focused, thrilling and challenging title, that’s not only the definitive rally game but also the definitive racing game. It not only offers something for racing fans but for all gamers, which I believe other big titles can’t.

Making sure to target all kind of players was also dear to Codemasters’ heart: Dirt Rally offers a challenge that appeals to all levels of gamer, but we want the game to feel as inclusive as possible from the outset. To aid in that, we’ve included a series of tutorials for the console release that ease newcomers into the experience, Coleman points out.

There’s some great racing games out there right now but we’re confident that Dirt Rally differentiates itself as an authentic, fun racing title and that will really resonate with gamers.”

He concludes: Dirt Rally is the only game that provides this white knuckle feeling of racing on the edge.”

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