The latest contender from racing champions Codemasters, DiRT Showdown, was revealed for the first time this weekend, with a 2012 release confirmed for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3.
Showdown is described as "an arcade-style spin-off" that takes the extreme-sports elements of Dirt 2, mixes in the Gymkhana events from Dirt 3, and then lobs in Destruction Derby action for good measure.
To help explain the new direction, and what it means for existing fans of the franchise, CVG quizzed associate producer Iain Smith and senior games designer Mike Chapman.
Why do you feel now's the right time to release a spin-off, rather than another full sequel?
Iain Smith: Make no mistake, DiRT Showdown is a fully-formed beast of its own. At the end of each project we try to digest as much as possible about the players' experiences. Through our game data analysis, as well as reading the game's critical reception, we found that DiRT 3 had been offering two experiences: the pure rally and gymkhana.
We've focussed on what those core experiences were - one a "hardcore", motorsports experience and one for thrill-seekers. We boiled down some of that thrill-seeking formula into what makes DiRT Showdown. However, this doesn't mean the more authentic rally content is disappearing from the DiRT series... that will return in a future game for sure.
What can you tell us about DiRT Showdown's new 'theatres of racing'?
Iain Smith: We really looked at the root of what appeals to a player about a racing game. Everyone likes the intensity of speed, the thrill of pulling off stylish moves and the aggression of crashing and destruction, so those play styles underpin the whole DiRT Showdown experience.
We're offering Race modes, Hoonigan modes and Demolition Derby modes. What binds these together is the idea that you're part of a show - an action sports spectacle competing in a festival of automotive chaos and out to impress the crowd.
The Hoonigan events sound interesting...
Mike Chapman: Sitting alongside DiRT Showdown's Race and Demolition modes are the 'Hoonigan', this extension of Gymkhana, involves pulling tricks and stunts within a vehicular playground, all in the name of putting on a show and wowing the crowds.
The gameplay experience at its heart is about creating a stylish spectacle so it's naturally one of the key components in creating the theatre of racing in DiRT Showdown. We're also keen to build on the work that was done with the Gymkhana mode in DiRT 3 and take it to the next level, all within a game where it can truly feel at home.
The emphasis seems to be on 'arcade, pick up and play' - can you explain how you've made DiRT Showdown more accessible than DiRT 3? What are the 'new accessible controls'?
Mike Chapman: We want to offer players the best possible gameplay experience in DiRT Showdown and part of realising this goal is delivering a handling and control system that compliments the core experience. DiRT Showdown is much more than just the player versus the track and so it's vital for the controls to immediately offer that sense of connection with the vehicles.
However, there's still a sense of challenge and need to master the game; it's a Codemasters Racing title after all and we'll be bringing the same sense of passion and attention to detail to each and every vehicle.