I have to be honest when I say that the battle for rally-racer supremacy last generation was one of the best videogame shoot outs I can think of. We were treated to so many fantastic rally games over the years, such as World Rally Championship, RalliSport, V-Rally 3, and of course the Colin McRae series. There could be a few I'm forgetting, but those four stand out among the rest. Release after release, developers were bringing us quality rally games left and right, and I couldn't have been any happier. Hell, competition got so fierce that even Gran Turismo got in on it with some superb rally racing of its own. Now, we've moved on a generation, and some of these franchises are no longer with us. Sony has halted WRC, in favor of developing MotorStorm, V-Rally is nowhere to be found, and neither is RalliSport. So we're left with Gran Turismo, the revival of Sega Rally, and Codemasters' bread-and-butter…Colin McRae.
Titled DIRT: Colin McRae Off-Road, this all new entry into the much respected franchise is being powered by a first-rate game engine that Codemasters has built from the ground up – it's called Neon. Neon's development lasted for over 18 months, with a team of 30 behind it. Neon's job is to make sure that this Colin McRae handles like no other rally game available today or tomorrow, with meticulously detailed vehicles and environments that come alive on your screen. "Neon provides us with so much more scope and possibilities than an update of existing tech would have ever allowed," says Gavin Cheshire, vice president, Codemasters Studios. "The most obvious results are the visuals and physics that produce incredible particle effects. Neon makes it possible to go into seemingly minute detail, but creates the most realistic and involving environments the racing genre has seen to date."
DIRT will feature a total of 40 officially license vehicles, across 12 car class categories. You'll have the option to choose from 2WD, 4WD, Classic and RWD rally cars, which will include the McRae R4 prototype designed by Colin McRae and DJM. The McRae R4 prototype is a 350BHP 2.5L hatch, and it was designed to be paired to a 6-speed manual gearbox, or a 6-speed semi-auto (flappy paddles/F1 paddles). Its drivetrain configuration can be either 2WD or 4WD, but I'm not certain which Codemasters will be using in the game, if not both. And in case you're wondering, the Subaru Impreza, that Pastrana won the X-Games with, will be present.
Codemasters' promises that the complexity of the Neon engine will surpass your expectations, as it'll be able to calculate real-time physics of air movement. Yes, air movement. Your surroundings will be directly affected by the wind wake your car forms as it rushes down the track; so grass will blow, leaves will stir, trees will sway, flags will wave realistically, and etc. In other words, everything that is affected by the atmosphere will be rendered to reflect the movements of the air.
Likewise, collisions and damage will be rendered realistically. Everything from twisted metal to shards of glass, Codemasters promises that the destruction will be portrayed in the most realistic way. Furthermore, you will have direct interaction with the environment, in that you can break small trees, flatten grass, crack/damage stones, watch chunks of wood splinter, and even wrap your car around a tree. If that's not convincing enough, I don't know what is.
DIRT will feature tracks from all around the world, including Pikes Peak International, located up in the Rockies of Colorado. As an example to the level of detail you should expect, Codemasters has rendered all 12.4 miles of Pikes Peak without missing a single nook. Point-to-point races have become a thing of the past, as DIRT will feature an entire assortment of new race types, in addition to point-to-point races. Rally Cross events, Rally Raid (Dakar-like) challenges, Hill Climbs, races through mud, dirt, gravel, and much more. Expect DIRT to deliver very well in the gameplay department.
Codemasters hopes to have DIRT: Colin McRae Off-Road done and in stores sometime this Summer for the Xbox 360 and in Fall for the PS3. Look for it then, and stay tuned for more updates as they come to us.