Dirt 5's Nolan North Talks Bringing Narrative to Racing

Codemasters didn't want to just deliver another stellar entry in their beloved Dirt racing franchise, so for Dirt 5, they decided to expand the scope a bit and inject the refined mechanics with some narrative. When players pick up the game they'll discover a cast of characters that change the races from competition against faceless drones to a back and forth battle against a rival that you genuinely love to hate, though there might be a bit more under the surface. Dirt 5 will feature a stellar cast that includes Nolan North, who will be playing your frequent and rough around the edges adversary Bruno Duran. We had a chance to talk to North all about the game and his role in it, and it was one that demanded much more improv than other projects.

"Codemasters has a great reputation and it's like narrative voices in a racing game, but the way they approached the execution of it, there's no script," North said. "They gave me basically, this dossier file on your character, study up on it, really get to know the character as much as possible, and then be put in a podcast situation, playing just that character, listening and responding as that character would, as I felt he would, and that's it. It's like, 'Oh wait, so this is all we're doing?' They're like, 'Yeah.'"

There will be podcast episodes after and before each of teh big events, and it's through these dialogues and interviews that fans will really get to know Bruno and the rest of the game's characters. Bruno is often battling you on the racetrack, though that doesn't make him a villain necessarily.

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(Photo: Codemasters)

"It's not like Bruno Duran is going to go and sabotage your car and then we're going to watch a big, long cutscene of him going in with a team and cutting your brake wires," North said. "No, he's a real racer and, he is the antagonist, but he's not a bad guy; he's not the villain, he's just the guy who's better than everybody else, and he's going to let you know it. He's not the charming, affable guy, like AJ that Troy Baker plays, that the media loves. He's the guy who wins a race, holds up the trophy, smiles to the cameras and goes home and trains and trains. Everything he eats, everything he drinks, everything he does is about winning the next race."

"And what happens is, hopefully, we created a character that you love to hate, but by the end, you hate that you kind of love him," North said. "There's an arc that he goes through, and for that to have been created through the idea of improv with these podcasters and this incredibly in-depth backstory of who he is and what he's all about, it was like nothing I've ever done, and I've done a lot of games as you know. So it's like, 'Wow, there's something unique and new. I want in. I want to try that.' And I think we got it right."

The same addictive mechanics the franchise is known for are all accounted for, so this side of the game is another layer to an already stellar experience. "First and foremost, it is a bitching racing game," North said. "Codemasters does it well. We all know that. It's a great game. And people who are like, 'Why would they put voices in?' Give it a shot, because it doesn't detract from the experience, it enhances it."

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(Photo: Codemasters)

As you get to know these characters, you'll take that additional narrative and your feelings towards these characters into the races themselves, giving them more weight and meaning.

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"And what I think it does, especially with a character like mine, is you as the player, are being mentored by AJ, and through these podcasts, you're putting a face and a voice and a personality to the guy you want to beat. So again, it's not just a lap time you're looking to beat, it's not just the number seven car or whatever, you're looking to beat, you want to beat Bruno because Bruno's the best, Bruno has won at every level, and now he's this one and it's just, this is the guy you want to beat," North said. "It makes it personal, that it's not just a machine you're trying to beat, it's not just a track, it's a personality. So I think it's a cool concept and just a different way of telling a story, which I mean, it was new to me, so it's going to be new to everybody else."

Dirt 5 hits stores on November 6th.