Codemasters revives its Dirt off-roading franchise on June 6 (PS4, Xbox One, and PC) with Dirt 4, and recently we had some hands-on time with the game, not only checking out its racing gameplay but also finding out about its career mode and new rally stage creation feature. Here are a handful of details I uncovered about the title. Also, stick around as Codemasters' executive producer Clive Moody discusses the company's approach to its racing titles in the future.

Your Stage

  • This new feature generates rally stages based on two user-determined parameters: length and complexity. While these parameters look like they're adjusted via sliders, the sliders actually have fixed points. The length slider contains 10 points and the complexity slider four. The length slider changes the stage from about a mile to 10 miles, naturally changing the number of checkpoints along the way.
  • Once you hit the Generate Stage button you'll instantly see the stage. From here you can keep hitting the button until you see something you like. Each time you generate a new stage the terrain composition changes; sometimes you'll have more gravel or asphalt depending on the location.
  • Furthermore, while one stage may feature a town in the middle, for example, generating a new stage in the same location with the same perimeters may feature a town of a different size or skip it altogether. Similarly, environmental features like bridges, streams, log piles, and gates change every time you hit the button.
  • You can create up to 12 stages to constitute a single rally championship, and create four championships in total.
  • Time of day and weather conditions can be tweaked for your stage. Change the time of day from dawn until night (your headlights can be individually knocked out, so be careful after sunset!), and the weather includes varying degrees of precipitation from mist to heavy rain. The available weather depends on the location, as you can't make it snow in Australia, for example.
  • Tracks can be saved and set to friends. You can also sort through other players' stages via a track rating system, those curated by Codemasters, and other filters.
  • You can save any stage you generate locally on your system, and you also download stages you like from other people and play them – even if you're not online.
  • There will be asynchronous daily, weekly, and monthly challenges using the generated stages.
  • The co-driver directions in the generated stages are done well, naturally fitting in with the course. The timing can be adjusted from early to late.

Career Mode

  • You start out as a driver for hire, fielding different offers from teams.
  • As you increase your winnings and reputation, reputation is what unlocks racing licenses, which in turn let you enter more events.
  • Within the licenses for Rally, Landrush, RallyCross, and Historic Rally, you also have different classes of vehicles and events within these licenses.
  • Your ultimate goal is the triple crown, which incorporates the best of Rally, Landrush, and RallyCross into a single event.
  • Cash allows you to buy a car, customize it via team branding and sponsors (which give you money), and set up your team organization. A team consists of your team mechanic and engineers.
  • You also increase your facilities (which includes R&D, how many cars you can have, and keeping your staff happy). Personnel have contracts that have to be renewed with cash.
  • Despite the team aspect of the career mode, you won't have an actual teammate on or off the track.
  • If you use a loaner vehicle, it'll come out of your credits at the end.
  • Everything is repaired, and keeping all your equipment in good condition is a prime directive for your team. Upgrading your team and making it good isn't about adding horsepower per se, but ensuring your parts degrade less.
  • Senior executive producer Clive Moody estimates that the average player will unlock the triple crown at about 25 hours, but this estimate entails skipping some championships.

Gameplay, Locations, Cars & More

  • Rally locations are: Spain (all asphalt with lots of elevation changes), Sweden, Michigan (flatter and wider. Sort of an intro to the rally experience), Wales, and Australia. Landrush: California, Nevada, Baja. RallyCross: England, France, and Norway.
  • The vehicles you use in the difference disciplines (Rally, Historic Rally, LandRush, and RallyCross) include smaller ones like Landrush CrossKarts and rally kit cars.
  • Moody says Dirt 4's rally portion is like taking Dirt Rally and adding on post-release gameplay enhancements.
  • One example is how your car feels on tarmac and the game's surfaces, which should feel more consistent to drivers. What the tires do when they loose grip should be more consistent. Therefore, drivers should get better feedback once those tires lose grip and not be surprised as it happens.
  • The tight turning radius of the CrossKart takes getting used to, and makes it easy for you to spin out in corners.
  • Conversely, the trucks didn't feel lumbering. What set the Landrush stadium trucks apart in my mind was the tracks they raced on. One featured big drops and undulations that in my limited playtime distinguished it from some of the relatively more flat tracks.
  • I like the competition of the A.I., jostling as you enter corners and going into spontaneous spinouts. You can really feel this in RallyCross, with the joker path splitting cars off and joining the pack up again creating mayhem.
  • You have a limited number of restarts, but there isn't a rewind feature.
  • There are two handling models: Simulation (which is Dirt Rally with some enhancements included) and Gamer (which layers on some elements to make it easier for the average person). There are also traditional assists like ABS, traction control, and a brake assist.
  • Dirt Academy teaches players about basic and advance offroad techniques via interactive tutorials. There will be a large, open environment to teach and practice these in. Within the Academy there will also be block smashing and time attack challenges. Despite the Academy environment and block smashing, the game doesn't have any sort of Gymkhana-style game elements in the title due to licensing issues. However, Moody told me they probably wouldn't have included Gymkhana in Dirt 4 regardless.
  • There is no local, offline, splitscreen multiplayer for Dirt 4. Only online multiplayer

CODEMASTERS' CLIVE MOODY TALKS ABOUT THE RACING DEVS' FUTURE

Executive producer Clive Moody is an integral part of Codemasters' racing operation, serving in senior roles over the Dirt, Grid, and Pro Race Driver series for the company. I recently sat down with Moody to discuss where the company goes from here on many fronts. And, BTW, I did ask him about what the devs from the former Evolution Studios (Driveclub) are up to within Codemasters, but apart from saying they're working on an original racing IP, there are no updates...yet.

Will Dirt Rally and a regular, numbered Dirt entry be split into separate titles from now on?
We don't consciously have a strategy to split Dirt out in that way. I think what we do want to do, though, with Dirt as a franchise, is try and get it to be the definitive off-road experience in as many forms as that takes. There are so many forms of off-road out there we're not even touching at the moment with that franchise. There are a lot places we could go with it, and places we actually do want to go with it.

The Dirt series has changed from iteration to iteration, whether that's including or dropping aspects like gymkhana or destruction derbies. Do you want to keep Dirt's feature set malleable, or would you like to keep it consistent from year-to-year and build upon a foundation?
I actually could think Dirt 5 could be different again, but that's not to say that we want to be different again. Coming back to some of the stuff you've seen today with the Your Stage feature and technology, there's a huge amount we can do with that. Right now we know where we want to take it. We need to see how well it resonates with the audience once it's out there to form some of those decisions, but I'm really hopeful it's well received.

To your point about features coming and going, I do think Codemasters...we hate standing still. We kind of hate making the same game over and over, but we could do. We could milk it and keep going, but I think the audience is smarter than that, and that fatigue starts to set in if you don't innovate or bring something new to the mix. That's why you've always seen a lot of change... Sometimes we get a hit, sometimes a feature will miss, but you learn from misses.

Does the Grid series have a future at Codemasters?
Definitely got a future. I'd love to say more, but I can't! I love Grid – I worked on all the Grids, actually, and they were great games to work on. The first one clearly resonated massively with the audience, it shook up the racing market a little bit at the time trying to do some different stuff, trying to engender some personality and soul into racing, which I think has been sadly missing. So if we were to bring it back – I'm saying "if," right now – it has to have that soul. It has to do something that nobody else is doing. So, yeah, watch this space, I suppose.

The F1 franchise made its mark last year after underperforming before that. Can fans expect the team to build off of last year, because previously there have been stretches where the franchise was fallow.
You should have no fears of it going fallow, that's first thing I can say and do know about it. Those guys I'm sure recognize they kind of ticked a lot of boxes with the last one, they're not going to throw that away with the 2017 title. I know they're building on it rather than going back to the drawing board. I'm not close enough to know all of the details behind that, but it's an interesting license, shall we say. It comes with its own challenges. Obviously right now there's a change of ownership, so who know where it can go. I think right now there's more opportunities than ever for Formula One, both as a motorsport series and a game that represents that motorsport series.

Codemasters' online Racenet infrastructure is in Dirt 4, and do you have larger plans for Racenet in other titles and through the future?
We do, big plans, but not all to go public at the moment. What we want to do now with Racenet is make sure it can play a part in all of Codemasters' titles, whether that's common functionality or whether that's functionality that's unique to each of them. I'm really interested in how we can expand it out so that there is crossover between titles in some way shape or form. So guys that really engaged with Dirt, for example...something which can hook into Formula One or what Evolution [Studios] are doing, or something to reward your loyalty, I guess, more than anything. And maybe even some sort of universal meta-game or currency, or call it what you will that brings it all together. So, I'm talking sort of long-term plan here...yeah, Racenet is really important to Codemasters' plans.

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