The first DiRT Rally brought new levels of realism – and stress – to couch-based drivers the world over. Now the series is back to give us more in DiRT Rally 2.0, so STACK spoke with Codemasters chief game designer Ross Gowing to find out more about it.

What was the brief the studio was given before development began? What was the aim?
The aim was to build the most authentic off road racing game the studio has ever produced. DiRT Rally was a great success for us, but we always knew there was more we could do.

We’ve had the scope to add new locations, new vehicles and new features like tyre choice and surface degradation. We’ve also been working to evolve the handling and feel of the vehicles. On top of this we have raised the bar for graphical quality in DiRT.

When you work with real life rally drivers, how does their input work? Can you give us a detailed understanding of the process?
We’ve had the pleasure of working with many current and past drivers and champions from both rally and World RX who have been very generous with their time and expertise. This time around we also have a professional rally driver and a current esports world champion in the team – Jon Armstrong is embedded in the development team and works as our rally consultant. He validates a wide range of areas including, but not limited to, pace notes, audio and almost every area of the game.

How the process works is quite simple but effective. We have the ability to create something, have Jon live test it and give instant feedback on how it feels. It gives him the opportunity to give specific examples of how it relates to when he’s driven in those exact conditions, or on that kind of surface in real life.

We also have the pleasure of working closely with Ryan Champion, who has vast experience of how many of the vehicles should react and feel in game. All this feedback, as well as the highly-experienced and passionate team here, makes for a fantastic mix and results in an amazing gameplay experience.

Can you please run through the new features that you’re introducing?
We think players will be most excited about two features that are completely new to the DiRT franchise – tyre choice and stage degradation.

Stage degradation replicates the way surfaces evolve throughout the course of a rally event. If you start first on the road, you’re going to be sweeping a lot of loose material and suffering from a slight lack of grip as a result. The optimal starting position is probably around fifth-15th, and the further down the running order you are from there the more the surface is going to plough and rut. So, you need to adjust your driving style and even your vehicle setup to cope with the evolving track. Something worth pointing out is that these changes blend between one another rather than being in hard steps. Even though you can drive down the same stage a thousand times, these stages are going to present a different challenge every time.

Will you be introducing any new modes into the game?
Yes we’ve added a few new ways of playing DiRT Rally 2.0. We’ve added Historic Championships, which give you the ability to play through some of the most iconic eras in rally from the 1960s through to the present. It’s really nostalgic, and something we have really enjoyed working on.

We’ve also been able to add more content, including new tracks, to the World RX Championship, creating fantastic new elements and a whole new challenge to the multiplayer experience.

Time Trial now goes into more depth, having segmented leaderboards for varying conditions. This shows players who rise to the top in more challenging wet conditions.

DiRT Rally 2.0

Can you talk about the career mode?
Career ladders will be familiar to players of the first DiRT Rally, but they’ve been improved in DiRT Rally 2.0. We’ve added more locations from across the globe, new conditions and a larger degree of race lengths, which all add to the challenge.

Community challenges make a return, but with some tweaks and additions. We’ve also added AI challenges for short session gameplay, in case you haven’t quite got time to take on the world.

What vehicle introductions are you most excited about in DiRT Rally 2.0?
Seeing classics like the Group B Audi Sport Quattro S1 E2 or ’95 Subaru Impreza kicking up a trail of dirt is always fantastic, but we’ve also taken great pleasure adding in some fan favourites from across the last 50 years of rallying.

Within the multicar discipline of the World RX, instant icons such as Kristofferson’s 2018 championship-winning VW Polo R Supercar look great trading paint with the Megane RS RX and Audi S1.

The original game was known as the Dark Souls of racers. Will 2.0 be any different?
If anything, it goes to a whole new level of challenging. Stages like Argentina, with no run-off areas, solid rock faces and 100-foot cliff edges, mean you will really need your wits about you simply to survive the stage. Now add in wet conditions and run it in the dark and it will be possibly the hardest challenge ever seen in DiRT.

If the player wants an even more challenging experience, even closer to the real thing, then the game also features a Hardcore Damage setting. Turning this on means even the smallest of mistakes will be punished.

On a personal level, what is your pick of the locations to race in?
All the locations in DiRT Rally 2.0 hold a challenge to players for different reasons. Free flowing rural areas of Poland are tough, as many stages are taken at high speed and one small misjudgment can cause terminal damage. There are also tight, complex and slower sections which require a huge amount of focus and concentration, as a good time means taking a few risks. The World RX tracks are painstakingly recreated and look simply stunning capturing the celebration and sometimes chaos of multicar racing.

A lot of members of the team feel New England is going to be a fan favourite, as the autumnal foliage looks stunning – although it’s seen at 80mph most of the time…

DiRT Rally 2.0 is available now for PS4 and Xbox One.

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi