It is safe to say that Codemasters has virtual rally racing down to a science. Each entry in the Dirt series seems to improve and/or expand on the previous game. DiRT: Showdown could be considered a departure from the series or an expansion on Dirt 3’s Gymkhana mode, stepping away . Let’s find out if DiRT: Showdown retains the high marks the series is known for.
There is no real story to follow here. The game includes a career mode consisting of Pro, All Star, Champion and Legend tournaments. Within the 4 levels of difficulty there are the sub categories of Racing, Demolition, Hoonigan and Party.
Racing is a pretty standard affair featuring the expected race mode, a domination race mode (where each each section awards points for best time) and elimination mode (where the last place racer is cut until there is a winner).
Demolition is all about dealing damage and avoiding it at the same time. The first mode of Demolition, Rampage, felt a lot like Destruction Derby for PlayStation which is one of my favorite games of all time, and the reason I was so eager to play this title. The second is a survival game called Hard Target where players are pitted against a bunch of enemies with the simple task of survival. 8 Ball features a race with multiple crossovers for maximum vehicular impact. The last mode is a variation of Rampage called Knock Out where all players are on a platform trying to destroy and knock each other off.
Hoonigan reminded me of Dirt 3’s Gymkhana mode which had me competing in different trick type races. Head to head had both the computer and I following a course as fast as we could all while doing donuts, getting air and drifting as required. Smash Hunter had me following on screen orders to smash different colored bricks as fast as possible.
Party mode carries three very arcade like races, speed skirmish, capture the flag type game and a keep away mode. This mode is exclusive to multi player only.
Last but not least is Joyride mode. The objective here is to complete tasks like doing a donut, jumping a crate or driving really fast in different areas of the map. Once I completed the required tasks a new area opened up and it’s time to do it all over again. This felt a lot like a free ride mode with some thin requirements tacked on for depth.
There are an ok amount of cars to choose from and some are tailored for specific types of races. You want to use the heavier ones for Demolition and the lighter quicker models for racing. The fact that only some vehicles are licensed kind of threw me for a loop. Every now and then you will get to use a Ford or Scion, but for the most part you are stuck with these no name rides that have very little character. The ability is there for upgrades to your hotrods, but I saw little use in that when I could just buy a new ride.
Compared to the main entires in the Dirt series, these races are all over pretty quickly and left me yearning for some longer tracks and events. Everything is bite sized, and I could tell this was meant for quick arcade play that is accessible by almost anyone who can wield a controller.
The controls are relaxed for Showdown, and players of the Dirt series will immediately notice the lazier, more arcade like feel. This is not to say they do not work, though. I just prefer the tighter, more responsive controls of the rally racer that is this title’s namesake.
I did have a massive issue with collision detection. It seemed that while racing, contact with other racers during the single player modes could cause a variety of things to happen. Sometimes I would dead stop when hit or rammed into something. Other times my car would seem to be glued to the racer who just “greeted me.” I even saw instances where my car would wildly fly off in a random direction following impact. I wish there had been more consistency with the impacts. Way too much time was spent restarting races because my car was stuck on a barrier or random object.
As I progressed through single player, tracks and races started to repeat all too soon. This is pretty common in racers of this sort, but here it almost seems like grinding. The AI can be so infuriating at times that I often just quit races and moved on without trying to nail that first place finish. Smash Hunter mode is where you have to hit colored blocks in succession to match what is on screen. For me, this mode is the most frustrating one in the game. If any colors are missed, it throws the entire set up out of whack leading to successive errors.
Multiplayer is what this title was meant for and rightfully so. The most fun you can have in DiRT: Showdown will come from playing this game against others. I found massive satisfaction in knowing there was another player cursing my name as I rammed him into submission. Have no fear, because you will too be destroyed at some point as a child half your age yells something inappropriate about your mom. Getting into races is quick and fun.
There is also a feature called Racenet, which allowed me to create an online account and connect my PSN gaming profile, an online tally is kept of all your racing stats. Racenet looks like something Codemasters will be using down the road as other games are released. I could see this being very popular among those who play a lot of racing titles because it is cumulative across Codemasters’ games.
The graphics in DiRT: Showdown are on par with the average racing title. Most of the levels are interesting enough but could use a little more variety and variation in track types. At about halfway through the single player campaign things start to repeat themselves all too often, and everything begins to look the same.
The audio is about average as you would expect. The constant on screen exclamation upon impact gets old pretty fast. The sound of twisting metal can be really satisfying but I wish there was more of it. Showdown’s soundtrack is a pretty rocking mix that kept my head bobbing as I smashed through event after event.
DiRT: Showdown is a fun game with plenty of appeal for the general racing audience. I cannot shake the feeling that this game should have been part of a bigger title (Dirt 4?) versus a separate retail release. This would have made an excellent downloadable budget title.
The campaign just seems to be lacking something. What is supposed to drive me to defeat the same computer opponents when I only unlock the same types of races over and over? Plainly put, it all starts to feel the same too early in the single player portion of the game. Why are some vehicles real life rides, but most are general knock offs of real life counterparts?
Multiplayer is the saving grace here and will be the go-to mode for some time to come. I do not see myself going back into the single player when I can go online and face my friends in some awesome modes. Initially I was worried this title would take the place of Dirt 4. I am happy to know part 4 is still in production, and this is more or less to tide us over until the game is released.
Here’s the Rundown:
+ Good solid racing controls with an arcade like feel.
+Easily accessible by any gamer regardless of racing capacity.
+Great online component.
-Seems like it should have been part of a game not a retail release.
-Wonky impacts lead to inconsistencies while racing.
-Dirt fans may be a little off put by the arcade attitude and feel.
7 and 7.5 represent a game that overall manages to be worth a playthrough, just not worth the full price at launch. These scores are for games that are relatively good or even really good, but generally worth waiting for a sale or picking up as a rental when possible.
DiRT: Showdown was developed and published by Codemasters for Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. The title was released on June 12th at an MSRP of $49.99. A copy was provided to RipTen for review purposes.