Need for Speed Unbound: Codemasters team helped “increase quality”

Thomas Harrison-Lord
Criterion Games stalwart and Need for Speed Unbound Creative Director Kieran Crimmins has explained how the former DIRT 5 team helped the latest title’s latter stages of development.
Need for Speed Unbound Creative Director - Codemasters team helped increase quality

On the day Need for Speed Unbound launches, for those who purchase the premium Palace Edition, the title’s Creative Director has clarified its development process. 

Developer Criterion Games helped with the final stages of 2019’s Need for Speed Heat – the most recent all-new Need for Speed title before Unbound – before being drafted to help Battlefield 2042 for a year in 2021. 

Need for Speed Unbound style

It then went back to the next instalment of the beloved driving game franchise, and in the meantime, parent company Electronic Arts purchased Codemasters for $1.2 billion

Part of that deal included the Cheshire studio that had created OnRush in 2018 and then DIRT 5 in 2020. 

In May of this year, EA announced that the team had been subsumed by Criterion, creating one larger studio across two locations, both working to complete this year’s arcade driving title. 

“It’s been fantastic, there’s some real talent on that team,” said Kieran Crimmins to Traxion.GG when asked about the expansion. 

“It couldn’t have been nicer to have such a talented and enthusiastic team join as we’re shipping the game. They were here for the last year of the project,” continued the 14-year veteran of the Guildford studio. 

DIRT 5 Ford Bronco
A Ford Bronco, part of DIRT 5’s DLC roster

“Their opinion is slightly different to ours, they had a slightly different way of doing things. 

“But that, in general, is a really great thing, especially because they integrated themselves straight into the team and into all the different crafts and areas. 

“Their point of view was invaluable in increasing the quality of everything across the board.” 

DIRT 5, despite its numbered nomenclature, was in many ways a series spin-off, with a purely off-road circuit and user-generated content focus – jettisoning the rallying elements of the four prior mainline entries. 

Interestingly, it was made not using the Ego game engine of the DiRT Rally or Formula 1 games, but a variation of the OnRush technology, which the former Sony studio created. 

Its vibrant colour palette, slick menu integration, licenced cars and pumping soundtrack are befitting of a Need for Speed title, but the lack of car upgrades was not. 

Need for Speed Unbound night gameplay

“The perspective was absolutely fresh,” explained Crimmins. 

“I mean, they were making things in a completely different way [to us], but there was a load of merit to it as well. 

“So, you know, we took the best parts of that and rolled with it.” 

While, on the surface, it seemed like a shame to ‘lose’ a racing game studio, if the Chesire-based team now have a greater influence on the direction of Need for Speed, it will be able to work on something that should reach a far large audience than previously created projects. 

We’ll have a full review of Unbound later this week. The regular edition is available on 2nd December 2022.

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