Codemasters wanted to go the extra mile with the latest entry in their hit Dirt franchise, so they decided to bring a fresh new narrative experience to Dirt 5 and did so with some A-list talent. That includes Troy Baker and Nolan North, and players will get to know their characters through a series of podcasts that occur before and after big events throughout the game, and that also brings new weight and stakes to the races themselves. Baker plays the role of Alex AJ Janicek in the game, who is more of a mentor to the player that will guide them in their rivalry against North's Bruno Duran. ComicBook.com recently had a chance to talk to Baker all about the character he portrays in the game, and he was excited about it from the very first pitch.
"First of all that they were including a narrative into a franchise and even a genre of gaming that historically hasn’t sought to include one," Baker said. "Once the team walked me through the character and how his story integrates with that of the player’s, I was hooked."
As for the role of AJ, the character won't just be guiding you through the story but also through all of the elements Dirt 5 has to offer, and there are a lot of things to see.
"The goal of story and characters, especially in gaming, is to contribute to the level of immersion of the player," Baker said. "DIRT 5 invites you to craft a career, to build your own track, literally and figuratively. In order to introduce you to that world and show you how to move around inside it, it becomes necessary to give you a guide, a mentor. So then it follows that we should craft a narrative to not only explain how AJ becomes a mentor but also to qualify why he should be YOUR mentor. So now when you’re making critical decisions about the race or your career, you’re not just hearing a disembodied voice; a talking HUD. You’re listening to your coach. You’re listening to experience. You’re listening to AJ."
AJ is someone who is at the top of his game but doesn't necessarily command the spotlight like others would in the same position, and you'll get to know him and his mentoring style throughout the game.
"AJ approaches life with level-headed pragmatism and humility," Baker said. "There is no sense of pomposity or ostentation. He’ll smile for the cameras but he won’t seek them out. He’s more comfortable in the seat than on the podium. He never projects that he’s the best. He just knows that he is. But this fact is devoid of hubris and instead complimented the awareness that someone else could take his place."
One of the coolest things about this narrative layer is how it's distributed, as you'll learn more about the characters and their personalities through podcast conversations, similar to what you would hear real stars do in the leadup or after a big event, lending it all a sense of authenticity.
"The freedom the team at Codemasters gave us to add layers of authenticity is the exact challenge any actor years for," Baker said. "To 'make it your own'. They provided us with so much material, both character and script, that we felt super comfortable to explore the extemporaneous and see what nuggets we could spontaneously stumble upon. When those are the conditions, you always find gold. The moments of contention, while certainly crafted and serving the narrative are wholly organic and authentic."
We're not sure what awaits AJ, but Baker is up for reprising the role if the opportunity presents itself. "Any day of the week and twice on Sunday," Baker said. "The only thing that excites me more about playing AJ is playing the game and seeing what crazy careers and tracks I can create."
Baker has played a variety of characters over the years, so we had to ask if AJ could interact with anyone he's voiced in the past, who would it be and why?
"Booker DeWitt comes to mind. If for no other reason that to see the facepalm and hear him mutter “Cars. SO much easier than sky hooks and airships," Baker said.0comments
You know, that Dirt 5 Bioshock crossover sounds pretty cool.
Dirt 5 hits stores on November 6th and will be available on Steam, PS4, and Xbox One.