There are a few racing games confirmed for PlayStation 5, but one of the most promising so far is DIRT 5 from Codemasters. It'll be one of PS5's earliest racers, and from what we've seen so far, it's looking like an incredibly robust package. In addition to a lengthy single player career with a full-blown story, split-screen multiplayer, and no doubt a full suite of online options, there will be user-generated content with the just announced Playgrounds mode.
We fired a few questions at lead designer Michael Moreton to learn more about the game's direction and building a cross-gen crowd pleaser.
Push Square: DIRT 5 reverts back to a less serious tone after the more straight-faced DIRT 4. What were the reasons behind this approach?
Michael Moreton: There’s a number of reasons behind this. When we were researching and in pre-production we felt that the attitude and vibrancy from DiRT 2 and DiRT 3 most closely fit our vision of DIRT 5. We also felt that a more accessible approach was better as we have the DiRT Rally brand that does an amazing job of providing a fantastic sim series of racing games. We wanted to make a different experience for the player, rather than trying to compete with ourselves.
The game's festival style presentation puts us in mind of Motorstorm. Was that franchise a source of inspiration at all for DIRT 5? What else influenced the direction of the game?
The core pillars of DIRT 5 pushed us towards creating an amplified and playful experience as a counterpoint to the DiRT Rally series. We drew influences from a number of sources, we all fondly remember the previous entries in the DiRT series along with the OTT Motorstorm titles. We also tried to take influence from more real world motorsport off-road series’ such as King of the Hammers, the Mint 400 and similar. We’ve tried to capture those experiences and build on them with our dynamic weather and wide reaching set of car classes.
There's a big focus on DIRT 5's campaign, which has a narrative and stars Nolan North and Troy Baker. Can you talk about their roles in the game, and how the story plays out?
Troy and Nolan play the protagonist’s mentor and rival respectively. We’ve created a light hearted motorsport tale of rivalry between superstars and how a newcomer fits into the picture in our DIRT Offroad Series. We wanted to create a story where the player is aware of these characters and their interactions, but still able to make their own choices about what to race next and where. We feel that adding an over-arching tale to our Campaign really allowed us to build on this idea successfully.
Why did you decide on a story for this entry? What does it add to an off-road racing game?
We felt it was really important to bring the player into the world of DIRT 5 and to make them feel invested in what they were doing. Adding memorable characters allows us to do this. In order to add further elements of a wider world, we approached the incredible guys at Donut Media to provide their unique insight and flair. The job those guys did is fantastic, they provide event intros, tutorials, narrative forwarding, and editorial pieces throughout the campaign in the form of a podcast that can be unlocked and listened to at the player’s leisure. We never wanted to take the player too far away from the racing, but feel that by adding context and setting the game in a world with an ongoing story, we are providing the players with a richer experience.
DIRT 5 is a cross-gen game, meaning it's coming to PS5 as well as PS4. What are the pros and cons of developing a cross-gen title?
It’s always exciting working with new hardware! It’s a game developer’s dream. Seeing what exciting new features are brought to the fore and exploring how we can take advantage of these features to create new and amazing player experiences represents one of the highlights of our jobs; and this generation is no different. This generation has allowed us to bridge the gap more effectively between early adopters and others, giving people the best experience on whatever system they’re on, and if they choose to upgrade later, we give players the opportunity to find new life and enhancements in their existing library. Developing for this kit isn’t without its challenges though! We all have to get to grip with these new features and hardware as well… find out the best ways to take advantage of them and what our limitations are. It’s a learning experience for sure. It’s great that we have such a diligent team that are constantly striving to push the boundaries as it makes implementation of new features easier.
Is there any feeling of pressure knowing that this will be one of PS5's first racing games?
Always! We’re really proud of the game we’ve created though, and feel that we’ve got a great core experience, with some fantastic new features and modes that will really push the boundaries of what players expect from a DIRT franchise game. We’ve also worked really hard to provide a great experience for whatever level of player picks the title up. If we’re the only racer out there, we want to make sure it’s enjoyed by as many as possible. We’ve created a handling system that fans of Codemasters games will appreciate, with depth and complexity to master, while adding layers of assists to ensure that new racers are able to pick up and play with the minimum of fuss.
We know the next-gen version can hit 120 frames per second. What are some other examples of how DIRT 5 benefits from PS5? How are you utilising the DualSense controller's various features, for instance?
We’re really excited by the opportunities offered by the DualSense pad, it gives us the chance to allow players to really feel the road surface and how the cars react to it.
You've dipped into VR with the DIRT Rally games. Are there any plans to support PlayStation VR with DIRT 5?
At the moment we’re focussing our efforts on making DIRT 5 the best it can be, we’ve no current plans for VR, but that doesn’t mean it will never happen.
Finally, who would you bet on in a race between Nolan North and Troy Baker?
That’s a really tough one! Can I say photo finish!?
Many thanks to Michael for answering our questions, and to the folks at Koch Media for setting up the interview. DIRT 5 is due out on PS4 on 16th October, with no set date on PS5 as of yet. Are you excited for this off-road racer? Hop in the driver's seat in the comments section below.