Interview: DIRT: Colin McRae Off-Road (PS3, 360, PC)

I recently had a chance to speak with Codemasters about their upcomming off-road racing game, DIRT: Colin McRae Off-Road. Expect to see DIRT: Colin McRae Off-Road for the PC, Xbox 360, and PS3 in the second quarter of 2007.

Inside Pulse: First off, what’s new in Dirt?

Codemasters: As the name suggests DIRT: Colin McRae Off-road is about much, much more than the traditional rally events that you would associate with the franchise. DIRT will feature more car classes, events and disciplines than any other McRae game. Some of the new and most exciting additions are the multi car races such as the CORR series in the U.S. and expansive Paris-Dakar style events.

In addition to the content, DIRT will be the first game to fully utilise our new NEON engine, created specifically for next-gen only. Everything in the game from handling to physics will be fresh, new and better.

Inside Pulse: Can you tell us why you chose to build a new engine Neon rather then bringing the old engine to the next-gen systems?

Codemasters: An old engine by its nature would be shackled with latent features and ideas that would have restricted further development. By creating a new engine it has allowed us to take a step back and define exactly what we need from a next-gen engine. Our dev team have been free to think creatively about what we can achieve with next gen hardware. One example is the wind system in DIRT, which affects everything in the environment. This system was written by one of our programmers who simply thought it would be a good idea. The creativity fostered by introducing a new engine and the power of the systems we have produced would not have been possible using or modifying an old engine.

Inside Pulse: So are you just using this engine for Colin McRae or are you going to bring the Neon engine to any other franchises?

Codemasters: We will be using our NEON engine in all of our future internal next gen games, enhancing it and adding to it as we go.

Inside Pulse: What’s been the biggest challenge during development so far?

Codemasters: Moving from one generation of consoles to a new generation is always a challenge, especially when the complexity of the architecture increases as much as it has this time. Dealing with the multi threaded architecture and immature dev tools has been interesting, but the development choices we have made throughout the development of Dirt have paid off and we are now in the position of having a great game as well a very advanced code base with which to develop future titles.

Inside Pulse: Ok, what’s the easiest platform to develop for, the PS3, 360 or PC?

Codemasters: Xbox 360. It’s a powerful machine with a simple architecture and good set of development tools.

Inside Pulse: Any plans for downloadable content?

Codemasters: Not in this iteration of DIRT.

Inside Pulse: Seeing as how Codemasters has put out a Colin McRae Rally game the last few years in a row, do you have any plans in line for the sequel yet?

Codemasters: We always discuss future design concepts for our games and we have some brilliant ideas that we would like to include in any sequel, but no sequel has yet been approved for DIRT.

Inside Pulse: Recently it was announced that multiple X-Game Medalist Travis Pastana was going to be a part of this game. How is he going to be involved?

Codemasters: We are really excited about Travis’s role in the game, given his amazing result at the X-Games. The winning car he drove at the X-Games will feature in the game as well as the car driven, ironically by Colin who he beat. In addition to being able to buy and race these cars, Travis will feature as an in-game coach. He will be on-hand throughout the game to offer advice, tips and praise based on his experiences. With his guidance you too could become the number one off-road driver.

Inside Pulse: Ok, time for the tough question. What makes DIRT worth buying over other racing games on the market right now or coming out in the same general time frame?

Codemasters: Not many games are built on such solid foundations as ours, with a team that has worked on consistently strong titles such as the previous Colin games as well as the TOCA series you can be confident that the boundaries will be pushed. This heritage and experience really shows in DIRT.

The attention to detail in DIRT is amazing. You can smash a licensed car into a tree and watch its metal bend and move in real time, just like real life. Not only that, the fence you smash into will break and once you have come to a rest you will be able to watch the smoke from your engine be gently blown by the wind. Not many other games pay that much attention to the small details that really matter.

DIRT will also be great fun. The handling model has been updated to give the most fun and accessible handling of the series to date.

What really make DIRT different though is that it is”¦ well”¦ dirty! No polished showroom cars that don’t get muddy or break. These are real off-road vehicles that you can push to the limit, completely destroy and have great fun in doing so!

Inside Pulse: Thanks so much for your time. DIRT: Colin McRae Off-Road is an amazing looking game that sounds like it is being built on a solid foundation. Look for our full review once the game is released later this year.