DiRT Showdown takes the series in a different direction from previous titles, leaving its roots in serious off-road racing for a more arcade style with an emphasis on destructions. It works too, providing a nice juxtaposition to DiRT 3.
DiRT Showdown provides you with 52 events across four tiers of multiple types of competition, defined by tricks, speed and destruction disciplines. Standard racing across a variety of surfaces is still available in the Race-off mode, as well as the Joy Ride free-roam events – allowing you to explore industrial complexes for tokens and complete a checklist of specific tricks – and the gymkhana events – where you perform tricks such as drifting, smashing barriers and skidding 360 degrees around poles – however, the focus has been shifted more towards the new events, which imitate mini games more than the traditional racing experience.
The new 8-ball races have you race against seven opponents on a figure eight track with the deadly intersection causing delightful mayhem. Domination grants you points based on which driver sets the fastest time on sections of a track rather than who finishes first. However, the main attraction are the three Destruction Derby style events, Rampage and Knock Out and Hard Target.
These Destruction Derby inspired events are by far the most enjoyable, and successfully recreate the same arcade, frantic smashing of other vehicles as it’s inspirer, although not to the same scale. Rampage pits up to eight opponents in a stadium, destroying each other for points granted for the severity of hits, complete with unlimited respawns until the timer runs out. Knock Out offers the same but on an elevated platform, granting additional points for knocking opponents off the edge of the platform. Finally, Hard Target is a last man standing event with no respawns. Additionally, visible damage to your car and some great sound effects truly immerse you and make you feel like you are in the driver’s seat, although you won’t be able to bring real cars into the arena. In fact it’s fictitious cars all round except for in the gymkhana. All sporting a rusted, ramshackle of welded parts aesthetic. Each car has real character, and can be personalised slightly with a choice of sponsor decals.
New cars can be unlocked, purchased and upgraded as you make your way through the career mode. Upgrading is rudimentary, allowing you to simply upgrade the stats of speed, strength and handling, making subtle changes to each car. However, the handling, including the trick controls, are less demanding than before and make for a highly accessible and smooth racing, smashing and trick driving experience. It’s wonderfully effortless to become an off-road racing master and overcome the disciplines of the incredibly varied events. Additionally an aggressive AI keeps the challenge for that first place finish going throughout. DiRT Showdown has been expertly crafted; Codemasters’ truly understand the racing genre and how to make it even more accessible and enjoyable.
Of course, DiRT Showdown become even more fun playing against human opponents. Online multiplayer allows up to eight players to duke it out on all events as well as partake in multiplayer specific events such as the endlessly fun capture the flag mode, which is a mad selection of chasing, smashing, flag stealing and scoring that’s guaranteed to cause a laugh. Meanwhile, speed skirmishes – where players dash around an area to a set of randomly generated checkpoints – also promotes the fun of chaos. You also have the option of two player split-screen for some classic local competition.
Indeed DiRT Showdown is a highly competent racer with excellent handling, racing disciplines, jaw droopingly gorgeous presentation and tremendous variety in events. It’s clear that DiRT Showdown burns bight initially but it unfortunately ebbs quickly, with this same strength in accessibility also causing a slight problem. Despite the variety, you get to see everything DiRT Showdown has to offer lightning fast, and with handling being so smooth and easy there’s no intricacies to master. Additionally the incredible visuals come with lengthy loading times.
DiRT Showdown is certainly a brilliant racer and it’s easy to fall in love with it, but it’s also likely to be a quick burner you play for a few week then move on from, remembering fondly for the rest of the year.
MLG Rating: 8/10 Platform: Xbox 360/ PS3 / PC Release Date: 25/05/2012
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a physical copy of DiRT Showdown by the promoter for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of two weeks on an Xbox 360. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.