Dirt was one of the most popular racing games when it was released as it featured not only killer gameplay but a total overhaul of their successful Colin McRae Rally franchise with a wonderful graphics engine, a great interface and a plethora of events to entertain a broad audience. Codemasters are set to follow up the success of the original with Dirt 2 which was announced in November last year.
Dirt 2 has been under development for around 18 months so far and many will be pleased to hear that the hardcore adrenaline fuelled rally experience has not been diluted at all, In fact the whole experience has been improved with new off road events which diversify the title further.
The demo code we spent some time with showed videos from real life racing events to set the mood, which detailed Team Subaru drive Ken Block driving his WRX STI over a massive jump and although stunts are a focal point of the game mechanic they do point a little to the new direction the developers are taking.
This is more apparent in the new stadium events which are set in locations like London’s Battersea Power Station. These races feature tight tracks with a wide variety of inclines and surfaces to battle other racers and cross the finish line first. The Battersea course features almost every surface known to man; gravel, tarmac, loose dirt and a huge area of water to keep you on your toes. When you combine all these surfaces with jumps it leads to a heart pounding experience which requires nerves as steel.
Codemasters were keen to explain that a lot of the development time has revolved around getting the cars to handle as realistically as possible. Dirt 2 has seen further development on the physics side which means the cars will respond differently than before. There is now a realistic model in place to analyse the weight placement on all four wheels and adjust handling accordingly, including traction. We didn’t spend enough time with the game to be in a position to accurately detail how this system works but it is certainly promising and is set to offer the end user a more realistic racing mechanic.
For those graphics buffs amongst you, the Ego engine in Dirt 2 has received a considerable overhaul with a new rendering and lighting system that is designed to give numerous depth to the environments and the terrain. We aren’t allowed to really detail this yet as it is a pre-Alpha build and there is plenty that Codemasters isn’t speaking about yet. The environments do show promise and are impressive already even though we were told they are missing texture detail and certain lighting effects. The crowd implementation is also yet to be finalised but they looked quite realistic already in their alpha state. Codemasters detailed the future with water effects and particles and we can assure you guys that if you are really into your rally games that this is certain to impress. The cars get progressively dirtier and the damage model is also impressive and the widescreen wipers are needed to make visibility improve !
The water elements has also been given a certain amount of focus and it looks extremely realistic, so much so that I don’t think I have seen an implementation as impressive in a racing game. Obviously while this is pretty to look at and fun to drive through it does affect handling and speed considerably so its always good to try and avoid it when possible.
Codemasters also explained that Dirt 2 will share a similar replay mechanic to GRID. This basically means that when you make a driving error you can hit a replay button to stop time and rewind to the moment before you made the fatal error and try again. This hasn’t yet been implemented into the code we witnessed but it was a popular function in GRID and many people will like the option.
Single player is handled with World Tour mode which is the core of DIRT 2. This is still under development and we aren’t allowed to discuss certain aspects of the implementation however you play as a rally driver out to make his name in the competitive world circuit and travel from event to event playing in races of all different types. You also initially start out in an RV. This RV is a menu system which lets you select races, get various updates and tweak your cars all from the main chair viewpoint. This RV travels with you around the world and the exterior surroundings all correspond with your surroundings. So if you travel to the far east then you will expect to see locations to match. A very cool touch indeed.
One of the criticisms of the original DIRT was that the game didn’t have in place a good, competitive online multiplayer system for groups of friends to log on and play in real time. Codemasters have taken feedback on board and are developing a system which allows for friends to see each other and race together on tracks of choice. There is also a option which alerts gamers if their friends break their lap time records … this alone should make the game very competitive within circles of players.
The list of cars has yet to be confirmed and detailed but we have been assured that there will be a good selection incorporated to appease the car aficionados amongst us. The game is set for a US release around September of this year with the European release just before Christmas. Check in on GamingHeaven for more updates nearer the time.
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