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Codemasters' Dirt Showdown Brings Dirt To The Masses

Codemasters hopes to introduce its Dirt series of racing games to a wider audience with a new, arcade-style spin-of that offers new features and is more accessible to series newcomers.
Codemasters revealed Dirt Showdown earlier this week, a spin-off, arcade-styled installment for the Dirt series that is looking to focus more on pulling off crazy stunts than sticking to the road. Due to be released for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Windows PC in May 2012, the game will feature Demolition Derby smash-em-up levels alongside the regular races. "Dirt Showdown offers us the opportunity to fully showcase fun styles of play without any limitations," Mike Chapman, senior games designer on the game, told Gamasutra. In this way, Chapman hopes that "Dirt Showdown will be a more accessible experience [than the rest of the series] in addition to offering a great amount of variety to players." While Dirt Showdown is a spin-off from the main series, the team is looking to drive as much polish as possible into the title, giving Showdown its own look and feel. "We feel it's important for Dirt Showdown to have its own personality," notes Chapman. "The content and how the game plays will be unique to Showdown and it's still going to be offering a compelling racing and driving experience that existing Dirt players will appreciate." "It's never been about straying from the heart of the Dirt franchise," he ensures us. "It's about widening the scope, building on our engine and offering players more ways to enjoy the series." With this in mind, Showdown associate producer Iain Smith explains exactly how the game will feel different to the main installments. "[The races] challenge the player to be a little more strategic, picking the best route to get ahead and being a little cunning in their overall approach," he says. "For example, do you shoot off to the front and become a target for other drivers, or evade, hang back and smash the leader out at a crossover or into a tire wall?" The Demolition Derby events are brand new to Dirt, with players smashing into each other to gain points and emerge from the wreckage victorious. "We have drop-in ramps, bowls and under stage areas which are all really conducive to action and collisions. Our aim is to deliver on the premise of ‘theaters of racing’ where players get a fresh, thrilling experience from event to event," notes Smith. Of course, tricks in Dirt games have been possible before Showdown -- however, Smith explains that the stunt system has been given a complete revamp for this particular release. "The actual mechanics of [the tricks] have been honed massively, there's a much more intuitive 'instant feedback' feel that our physics programmers have worked very hard to get right." He continues, "The gameplay itself is very much object and environment-oriented. You'll perform drifts, jumps, spins and donuts, but it's about how you interact with the environment itself that’s cool. Whether that’s drifting through a tiny gap between forklift trucks or doing a 360 degree spin mid-jump. Getting each of those tricks right in different surroundings really provides the challenge." While the team is excited about this spin-off move, Chapman is quick to stress that the main series will continue as it has been, and design decisions with regards to Showdown will not spill over into the next Dirt. "Dirt Showdown is a full boxed product in its own right and is the current focus of the team," he notes. "But that doesn't mean that we aren't carefully considering the direction of Dirt 4, or whatever we eventually call that game." "We absolutely don't want to confuse players into thinking that we're abandoning our previous work or aren't committed to building on it in the future," he continues. "Dirt Showdown offers us the chance to diversify and provide a unique new Dirt experience from a team who are committed to creating the best possible driving and racing games." "We will definitely be returning to some of the more traditional elements of the Dirt series with a renewed sense of focus and purpose in the future," he finishes.

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