Throw the long-running DiRT franchise into a collision course with the likes of Destruction Derby and the result – DiRT Showdown. The first title to sport the Codemasters Racing marque, DiRT Showdown is beyond a simple vehicular carnage knock-off, fusing together the visceral visual presentation of the DiRT series and the adrenaline fueled fun associated with the brand into a strangely alluring, action-packed driving playground for the gaming masses.
Developer: Codemasters Southam
Publisher: Codemasters Racing
Platform: Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PlayStation 3, Windows PC
Players: Single-Player, Multi-Player
Release: (EU) 25th May 2012, (NA) 12th June 2012
Taking elements derived from the mainstream DiRT titles, DiRT Showdown includes a colourful palette of three different racing events from your traditional first to finish style drives, the smash ’em up demolition arena modes, to the precision steering tests of DiRT‘s trademark Gymkhana ‘Hoonigan events‘. The aim here is for a racing experience where players can dive in for short periods without having to commit hours to, ie. Gran Turismo style. Think of it as the video game equivalent of a joy ride.
Departing from the unforgiving precision controls the series has become known for, DiRT Showdown caters to the less hardcore driving fans with its energized party vibe and ease of play. Participating in events are more or less quick spurts of high octane thrills where goals and targets are obtainable to even those unfamiliar with the ways of DiRT. Initial check points are simple enough to achieve however the learning curve in the campaign Showdown Tour does become more taxing towards the end game events and you will need to call on all your car handling prowess to earn those final cash rewards and medals.
The versatile inclusion of nitrous enables players to blitz past rivals, gain acceleration for boosting over ramps and obstacles, recovering after deceleration, or use it for sinister applications for plowing into opponent vehicles with bone-jarring impact. Nitrous regenerates over time but use with caution as I found myself crashing head first into immovable walls when mistiming intended collision with potential victims.
Racing playgrounds span iconic locations around the globe from the ‘Golden State’ of San Francisco to the orient of Tokyo, Japan. Events are depicted as unsanctioned meet-ups where the gruff competition and rowdy crowds combine to deliver an electric atmosphere. The announcer delivers snappy, yet at times cringe worthy lines as his voice booms atop an indie soundtrack. Driving conditions vary from blistering sunny days to snow covered tracks and rain soaked speedways as day converges to floodlight illuminated night time arcade drives.
Campaign mode comprises of 50 different events over four different championship challenges within the scope of the three various forms of racing. Racing events are more than just your straight circuit drives with obstacle courses and multiple routes to add that extra injection of adrenaline. Courses like the ‘8-Ball’ event in a figure eight design presents a hazard each time your vehicle crosses through the pivot point, making for tense moments while trying to hold pole position.
Hoonigan events are much more accessible compared with the likes of DiRT 3 as I found the tweak in handling easier to grasp and far less demanding towards precision perfect driving. Free-roaming through the stunt parks targeting markers whilst performing power slides and accelerated drifting is an enjoyable freestyle ride, even with the many obstacles standing in the way. Hoonigan style races are the only events in which the DiRT ‘Flashback’ rewind ability becomes available.
Arguable the biggest emphasis this time round is on the demolition events. Crashing, smashing, and all that car-nage doesn’t just take place on the ground, with events such as the platform arenas overhanging in the air and double-point countdowns adding an extra degree of extreme racing. Objectives cover the traditional maximum destruction, highest score, and even survival as the last car standing. Rather than the flashback feature, DiRT Showdown introduces ‘Crashback’ where large impacts can be watched via ‘kill cams’ from different angles for the full effect. If you like what you see, the option to upload to YouTube is also available.
On the multiplayer front, Codemasters have produced what they proclaim as the most connected game ever in the franchise and it certainly shows with the various game modes available. Whether you’re tearing up the circuit online or offline, DiRT Showdown allows for both localised split-screen multi-play, as well as online racing mode for up to eight players. Boast to your friends and the online community via the integrationed YouTube functionality where you can replay, edit and upload your most stylish maneuvers straight from the game itself. For those that feel particularly cocky, “Showdown Challenges” can be issued to friends for online and offline competitions to test your skills.
An included RaceNet code voucher is needed to unlock the online functionality, along with a few extras such as bonus cash, unique RaceNet livery and the ability to track and record your progression in DiRT Showdown. The code is included in all new copies of the game however can be purchased separately online should you pick up a second hand copy with a used voucher.
Plentiful selection of cars are on offer in DiRT Showdown, from your licensed vehicles such as the Ken Block Gymkhana 4 HFHV Ford Fiesta, to your more crash friendly mix of muscle cars, pick-up trucks, vans and saloons that handle as they look and race as they should. Licensed vehicles don’t get quite the harsh treatment here, excluded from participating in the demolition derby style events. Sponsors probably wouldn’t be too pleased to see their decal take a beating amidst all the scuffle.
Utilising the EGO Game Technology Platform, the same engine used to power Dirt 3 drives the same sharp presentation from the previous title where the environments come up stunning and the damage from light metal scraps to full frontal, panel-flying collisions are displayed with realism. The EGO engine also appears to prevent your vehicle toppling over from minor crashes, where only the most severe jolts result in your ride upside-down on its roof.
DiRT Showdown is an eclectic mix. At times its hard to define what direction DiRT Showdown is trying to take. It isn’t a dedicated endurance racer, real-life driving simulation, nor is it simply a smash-n-bash title. In essence, it’s a hybrid title that sits in its own little niche catering to those that don’t really know what they want. Is that a bad thing? Not exactly. I found it to be a fun playground escape of sorts, and even after completing the challenge series, I still fired it up for those moments when I wanted quick spurts of adrenaline without having to dedicate hours of game time. DiRT Showdown still remained rewarding as it tracked all my statistics which in turn kept me coming back for more. The DiRT alumni may not love it, however if you’re open-minded and appreciate DiRT Showdown isn’t trying to be DiRT 4 but rather a title with its own identity, it may very well grow on you too.
8.5 – Great. An enjoyable experience, fans and newcomers of the genre will be entertained. Any noticeable flaws are largely outweighed by the positives.