DiRT Rally 2.0 is the highly anticipated sequel to 2015’s success DiRT Rally, offering the best Rally simulation experience since Richard Burns Rally all the way back in 2004. At a recent press event at the Phil Price Rally School in Wales, we had the chance to sit down with DiRT Rally 2.0’s chief game designer, Ross Gowing, to discuss the title and its future.

“all of our fans were very vocal about wanting dirt rally back again”

Obviously, DiRT Rally 2.0 has some pretty big shoes to fill. Its predecessor was a highly acclaimed title that captivated the fans, and while DiRT 4 might have come after, it’s DiRT Rally that fans have been going back to. Thankfully fans of the title need not worry, as the studio has been using the first title as a foundation for building its latest endeavor.

“We’ve used that as a foundation to build on everything that we’ve learned since then,” said Gowing in relation to the first DiRT Rally title. “Obviously, the studio has released DiRT 4 in the meantime but all of our fans were very vocal about wanting DiRT Rally back again, so we have tried to enhance everything across the board.”

Looking to bolster this enhancement, Codemasters have looked to professional drivers to ensure that the title is as accurate to real life as possible. “We’ve worked very closely with professional drivers such as Jon Armstrong and Ryan Champion, with the handling being our number one core focus. We want to make sure that that is as authentic as possible, and all of our vehicles are represented as accurately as possible.” 

DiRT Rally 2.0 Porsche Screenshot

Adding to the emphasis on vehicle handling is the addition of tire compounds, a first for the DiRT series. The addition of tire compounds adds a level of strategy to a rally, as long gaps between trips to the service area are going to require a harder compound to ensure your tires last, as opposed to having a softer compound fall off the cliff with 2 miles still to run.

“We also have tire selection for the first time in a dirt game, which you can choose between soft, medium and hard compound tires, and also a wet compound if you’re on a tarmac rally. The way that -tire compounds- change the way that the car behaves is something we’re really excited for players to play around with and offers an additional challenge.”

It’s not just the cars that have had an overhaul either. Track degradation is being incorporated into DiRT Rally 2.0, meaning that if you’re the first car down the road, you’ll be dusting the looser surfaces aside for those behind you. The upper middle positions offer the best surface in terms of grip, with those at the back having to suffer a surface that’s been beaten to a pulp by the lead-footed competitors ahead.

“We’ve built on everything with our new track degradation feature. Where you are in the running order effects the surface conditions, so if you’re down the back of the running order things start getting quite rutted up and quite tricky. We’re back to having bespoke stages again, handcrafted, fixed stages and the degradation offers a real difference every time you drive.”

Returning in DiRT Rally 2.0 is the FIA World Rallycross Championship, offering players door to door racing in the 600 BHP monsters that took the grid in 2018. We asked Ross Gowing what it’s like working with such an esteemed organization, and how the teams and manufacturers respond to the developer’s need for access.

“It’s been really great working with WRX. They’ve given us great access and reference to their circuits. We’ve got the first 8 rounds of the 2018 championship in the game at launch, with hopes of adding more rounds post-launch. A lot of the teams have been great to work with, they’re very generous with the data they provide to us, and likewise, with vehicle manufacturers. The reference that those guys provide to our vehicle art team helps enable them to make some really great looking vehicle models in the game. It’s been a fantastic partnership.”

DiRT Rally 2.0 Rallycross Screenshot

Speaking of vehicle models, Codemasters have been sure to make sure that our mistakes are shown on the car, with a whole new system in place dictating how damage is modeled on the title’s 50+ vehicles.

“In terms of bodywork damage, we wrote a new underlying system to allow for greater flexibility when we are tuning what level of damage and deformation car bodies can have. Some manufacturers have slightly different requirements about what we can represent and what we can’t, but we think that the visual appearance of it is the best out there really.”

“If you want to be super authentic, you can switch on our hardcore damage mode, where one accident can be Rally ending.”

Of course, the damage isn’t just cosmetic, as many an unfortunate driver can tell you. When it comes to all forms of motorsport, one mishap can end your weekend. Understandably, some gamers aren’t here for that sort of immersion, but for those of us who are, Codemasters is looking to make sure that we’re all catered for.

“We’re always treading a fine line. In real life, if you hit a particularly large rock it can be Rally ending, and to some players, that’s very punishing. In the default damage setting in the game, you can probably get away with three accidents before your rally is over. If you want to be super authentic, you can switch on our hardcore damage mode, where one accident can be Rally ending.”

When it comes to the smaller stuff, like shoving a branch through your radiator by ignoring that infamous “don’t cut” note, things are set to escalate as damage scaling takes place. Meaning that little shunt might have some bigger implications by the end of the stage.

“In terms of mechanical damage all sorts of things build on top of one another, so if you heavily damage your radiator, then obviously your engine is not being cooled properly and then the engine starts to suffer as a result of that.”

DiRT Rally 2.0 Audi Quattro Screenshot

While DiRT Rally 2.0 is unapologetically a sim, not everyone is going into the title with a wheel and pedals. Being fully aware of this, Codemasters is ensuring that players who use a controller are going to get an incredible experience, not just those with all the gear.

“We work really hard to make sure that our controller support is on a par with our wheel and pedal support. We know that there’s a big spread of players out there using all sorts of things to control our games, and so we wanted to make sure that controller support is properly represented.”

“Drive within your limits and start to build up speed over time, learn how to listen to a co-driver and put together clean runs”

There’s a chance that some players might be using DiRT Rally 2.0 as their first step into the famous franchise, and while the focus has been on making sure the game is as authentic as possible, those newer players haven’t been forgotten. We asked Ross Gowing if he had any advice for newer players entering the franchise with DiRT Rally 2.0.

“My advice is to always start in a low powered, front wheel drive car. Drive within your limits and start to build up speed over time, learn how to listen to a co-driver and put together clean runs, and then you can start to work up to 4 wheel drive and even rear wheel drive cars.”

If simply starting the old-fashioned way isn’t enough for you, Codemasters has implemented other means of helping you keep yourself out of the trees.

“We do also have some slight assists in the game, so if you find you’re locking up the wheels a lot you can increase the ABS setting. You can tweak the traction control setting as well to make sure you’re getting the power down to the ground more efficiently. You can also adjust your AI competitor speed, so if you love the game but are finding that you’re always finishing 30th, you’re able to dial down the AI so it gives you an appropriate challenge and you have a chance to compete at the front.”

Of course, these assists are completely optional, so there’s no need for fans of the more hardcore experience to worry about their experience being watered down. Those with a little more know-how in the world of cars can also mess with the setups, to ensure they have the optimum car for the stage.

“In terms of tuning setups, at your service areas, you’re able to adjust things like your ride height, gear ratios and all sorts of things like that. There’s plenty of flexibility there. Also at a game level, if you prefer to drive with automatic gears they are available to you, or if you’re someone who owns a full sim setup, everything is there for you also.”

DiRT Rally 2.0 Renault screenshot

“We hear players loud and clear they want more DiRT Rally, with more content and we want to be able to provide that.”

Lastly, one of the most frustrating issues with DiRT Rally 2.0’s predecessor was the lack of post-launch content. Ross Gowing was able to confirm that that is not an issue we’ll be facing this time around, as Codemasters have solid plans in place for the first 6 months after the title’s release.

“We have concrete plans for 6 months after launch. We have what will be known as dirt seasons, and they will be 3 months long. |If you purchase the Deluxe Edition of the game then you will get Season 1 and Season 2 included in that purchase. There will be 3 locations and then 5-6 vehicles per season.”

As for just what we can expect, Gowing was understandably tight-lipped, but we got a small indication that, like everything else with DiRT Rally 2.0, the wishes of the community are at the forefront of the content.

“There are some fan favorite locations coming back, and there are some new and some favorite vehicles in there as well. We’ve got our ear to the ground to see what player’s reception is to what we’re putting out to inform how we plan beyond those 6 months, but yes, we very firmly have an eye on those 6 months. We hear players loud and clear they want more DiRT Rally, with more content and we want to be able to provide that.”

It certainly seems as though the team have taken the feedback of the community and put it into building a title that goes above and beyond the original. While some fans cry out for VR support, it seems that with the team’s ears firmly pressed to the ground enough chatter could well be all it takes to bring the feature into the title post-launch, much like the first title.

A big thank you to Ross Gowing for sitting down with us to talk all things DiRT Rally 2.0 at a recent press event at the Phil Price Rally School. Intrigued as to what that entails? Well, you check below to see our video coverage of the event.

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DiRT Rally 2.0 is set for release on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC February 26.

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