Back with a BANG
Codemasters newest release in the DiRT series, DiRT Showdown, is coming on to our screens with a huge crash, bang, and wallop. It’s obvious from the start that this game is aimed at the not-so-serious racing gamer. It’s a racing/demolition game, which, in some ways, is a bit of a let down, but it has some other goods to offer that other up-to-date racing games do not.
To start off, the graphics of the game are quite good. From in-game to the awesome menu transitions, this is what everyone has come to expect from the DiRT games in general. The tracks are beautiful, as always, and they definitely set the scene properly; whether it’s in Yokohama at night or Aspen in the snow, you feel the difference. The first disappointment arises when you discover that the game only provides 2 camera views. Racing inside the car gives the game more of a realistic edge, but it’s either a third-person camera or a hood camera and nothing else. The damage model is decent enough, though. Being able to have one of your wheels smashed off and still having the ability to race until your car is completely wrecked is an awful lot of unrealistic fun! Codemasters have hit the nail on the head as far as sound effects are concerned. From the revving of the engines to the devastating crashes to the surrounding crowds, this is what makes the DiRT series so much different from any other racing game, and it never fails to set the mood of a great racing game.
One hell of a ride
So lets say you’re not a great racer; well, with DiRT Showdown, it really doesn’t matter. The handling of the car is not realistic at all. Everything is simplified, so if you’re expecting anything like DiRT 3, then you’re in for a bit of a shock. There is no challenge at all when it comes to drifting around corners, and sometimes, you don’t even need to break. The computer AI will make you work for that 1st spot, though, trying every devious and dirty move in the book; ramming and spinning are just a few tactics that they use to keep the lead. So, though you might find it relatively easy to drive, you’ll have your hands full with your opponents, making this an enjoyable game to play.
The game modes are somewhat entertaining if you don’t take the game seriously. The three racing modes are: Race Off (a typical race), Domination (splits the track into sections and you’re rewarded points for how quickly you’re pacing through them), and Elimination (eliminates the guy in last place once the timer counts down and lasts until there is only one driver remaining). These three modes are the best, but they still get quite boring after a while. You just boost the straights and slam into the corners.
There are four Destruction game modes – Rampage (destruction derby with a new name and re-spawns), Knock Out (the best way to describe this is Car Sumo Wrestling; an elevated platform with ramps surround the cars, and the player gets points for bashing the opposition off), Hard Target (you’re placed in the center of an arena and have to survive as long as possible while cars keep trying to make you into scrap metal. The guy who survives the longest, wins), and 8-ball (a race where the track interlinks with itself, causing havoc for the drivers). These game modes are definitely more fun than the normal race modes, yet they can be one hell of a vein popper. For instance, you could be on 8-ball, miles ahead of the opposition, and BANG: some guy clips you as you’re coming to a cross-over part of the track and spins you out. Make sure that you have some extra controllers lying about for those moments.
Sticking with the “Hoonigan” theme from DiRT 3, the game has three game modes for “hooning” around – Trick Rush (basically Gymkhana adapted from DiRT 3; do as many tricks in a timed event, making sure you keep up your combo without crashing), Head 2 Head (two drivers competing around a track with a few jumps, donuts, drifts, and blocks to smash while trying to get the fastest time), and Smash Hunter (specific colored blocks get called out and you have to smash through them as quickly as possible).
Now, for the three party modes which are only accessible online – Smash and Grab (each team has to try and grab the loot from each other and protect the drivers carrying it for as long as possible), Transporter (DiRT’s own version of capture the flag; a flag appears, you grab it and take it to the drop off point, and the opposition tries to smash into you and steal the flag), and Speed Skirmish (a race to acquire all of the checkpoints in whatever order you’d like).
Some things just go too far
The game isn’t shy of different modes, but from the moment that you start the game, there are quite a few dialogue boxes popping up asking you to go online to set up your Youtube account and shout out to the world that you’re playing DiRT Showdown. This is annoying, and everybody who is playing offline will be constantly haunted by this.
This is, however, the first DiRT game to give the player the choice to upgrade cars with the prize money they have won. It’s a nice little touch to the game, and there are quite a few vehicles to select from, such as trucks, muscle cars, and even horses! So, in that sense, it’s one of a kind. The campaign/seasons are okay, but get a little repetitive.
Overall, this game is fun to play as long as you don’t take it as a serious racing game. If you want a serious racing/rally game, then this isn’t for you; however, if you want a game that you can play for fun contact races, then this is the game for you! For the best experience, get online! Though I have to admit, there was trouble with trying to play with friends. Hopefully that’s all updated and fixed now.
This review is based on a retail copy of the xbox360 version of Dirt: Showdown developed and distributed by Codemasters