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DiRT Showdown review

AT A GLANCE
  • Tyres and cars flying everywhere
  • Large variety of gameplay modes
  • Beating your mates by a tenth of a second
  • Unsatisfying car damage and collisions
  • Stripped-back feeling compared to peers
  • Being referred to as 'They'

If DiRT 3 is an off-road game for the hardcore racing fan, DiRT Showdown is for everyone else. Automatic gears, forgiving handling and demolition derby races on lethal-looking figure-8 tracks make this a distinctly arcade-styled spinoff entry in the series. There's undoubtedly a gap in the market for a cutting-edge arcade racer, but if that gap is round, this game is a little hexagonal. It still fits, just with a slightly cross-threaded feeling.

The presentation style is much more similar to the sunshine-filled DiRT 2 than last year's DiRT 3, complete with that festival air that seems to make your telly smell of freshly-cooked hotdogs mixed with burnt rubber. That said, the game undeniably feels more compact than previous DiRT games, with no faffing about between front menu and startline, offering you a smorgasbord of race and combat events from which to choose from.

Wait – did we say 'combat' events? Sure did. There's actually not that much racing going on here, at least not if you play through everything in the order provided in the main career mode. Much less of the game is based on track events like races, or the returning Domination events which see you trying to top the split times on four sections of track during a three lap dash.

Crash! Bang! Wallop! What a video (game)

That's the brilliant Alan Partridge reference in the Achievement for triggering the replay mode, and it's in there with good reason. The bulk of the game is all about vehicular carnage, which is highly reminiscent of PSone classic Destruction Derby, right down to the announcer shouting 'fender bender', which is surely a nod to Reflections' vintage racer. Some events are straight arena deathmatches, requiring you to score points with aggressive moves like barges, T-bones and 360 spins, without wrecking your own vehicle.

Others like Hard Target see you trying to survive in a closed arena with more and more cars added to the fray, all hell-bent on destroying you. That one works particularly well as you fight to postpone the inevitable.

Above: Hiding behind those pillars works sometimes. Not this time

Also new is the Sumo-style event which sees you trying to push rivals off an elevated platform. There's no denying the compulsive 'restart til I win' gameplay, but with the constant stream of inane DudeBro dialogue from the announcer (who can only ever be turned down to 50% volume, unlike the completely mutable music), this game type can feel oddly throwaway – something I would never have said of any of the content in DiRT 2.

Then there are the 'Hooniganism' show-off 'Trick Rush' events, which don't really seem to fit the ethos of either branch of the series, being too showy for the serious rallying of DiRT 3, yet too finesse-heavy for the arcade crowd who just want to hold accelerate and look at pretty crashes. They probably make the most sense here, especially with the simplification of the handling across the game which means performing donuts and drifts in tight spaces is much easier than it was in DiRT 3.

Above: Trick Rush is a bit like Stuntman, giving you a set route to complete

Trick Rush also makes a lot of sense online. Starting at the same time as your online friends and seeing ghost images of their cars just ahead of you as everyone tries to complete the trick course as quickly as possible is superbly competitive. And that's true of the whole online aspect in general. Multiplayer races are solid and smooth, while dashes to pass through every checkpoint using the route of your choice in Speed Skirmish is gleeful stuff – especially when your route turns out to be fastest.

More Info

Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PC, PS3
Genre: Racing
Published by: Codemasters

15 comments

  • killswitchzero7 - June 20, 2012 1:54 p.m.

    only worth a rent
  • IceBlueKirby - May 25, 2012 12:03 a.m.

    Despite the crashes being somewhat underwhelming (they still looked good in the video, just not what I was expecting) I'll have to check this out, probably when I can find it cheap. I used to love Destruction Derby 64, but it hasn't aged well at all, so this seems a good replacement.
  • avantguardian - May 24, 2012 5:17 p.m.

    i echo the desire for grid 2. the first one, plus forza, makes a delicious racer sandwich.
  • DickSingh666 - June 17, 2012 8:13 p.m.

    Win
  • DarkSynopsis - May 24, 2012 4:22 p.m.

    I've loved pretty much any Codemasters Racing game to hit Xbox 360 and I really enjoyed DiRT 3 but all this Gymkhana stuff is a pain! It will be awhile before I pick this one up since it does not seem to focus on the Racing as much and that is the best part of the DiRT Games! I really hated having to do Gymkhana in DiRT 3. I'm with most others also that GRiD was pretty awesome and for some reason we have yet to see it get a sequel! We have even had 2 F1 games since it came out! WHY IS NO ONE OVER THERE WORKING ON IT!?
  • GR_JustinTowell - May 25, 2012 1:35 a.m.

    Actually, Gymkhana is an even smaller part of the main game than racing, and it's all over in about a minute each time. The Joyride mode is more stunt-based, so you need your Gymkhana skills there, but it's totally peripheral to the main game.
  • usmovers_02 - May 24, 2012 11:03 a.m.

    Why is it that the one Sequel everybody is asking for is the one we're not getting? All the Dirts are fine, they don't appeal to me but they are quality games. But how is it that Dirt has 3 games AND a spinoff while GRID doesn't even have one sequel? They're not counting TOCA as part of the GRID series are they? I'd LOVE to see a TOCA sequel because they tried for a more serious approach but I'm certainly willing to settle for GRID 2.
  • Dadyo238 - May 24, 2012 8:26 a.m.

    Why is it only 720p on PS3 when it's 1080p on Xbox 360? The PS3 is the more powerful machine, so shouldn't it be the other way?
  • GR_JustinTowell - May 24, 2012 9:54 a.m.

    The EGO engine just doesn't seem to run as well on PS3 for whatever reason. Just look at F1 2011. If it helps, I don't think it's native 1080p on Xbox, it looks upscaled to me. But the retail packaging says 720p on PS3, and 720p, 1080i and 1080p on 360.
  • Imgema - May 24, 2012 5:42 a.m.

    I played the demo and... ok, another racing game that is too dark and uses too much orange. As if they try to look that it takes place on Mars. Also, it runs at 30 fps, which i find unacceptable for racing games in this generation. I'd rather play the XBLA Daytona USA, it runs at 60 fps and it takes place on Earth.
  • GR_JustinTowell - May 25, 2012 1:36 a.m.

    Perhaps your TV's picture settings aren't quite right? I definitely wouldn't call it dark. Or orange!
  • Imgema - May 25, 2012 2:46 a.m.

    Well, every other game i have is bright and, well, looks ok. Its not just this game, many racing games have this kind of lighting (for their most part) that's full of style (i guess) but looks unnatural. They don't look as natural and bright as older racing games like Colin Mcray 05 which i'm playing right now and looks awesome.
  • Imgema - May 25, 2012 2:49 a.m.

    Sorry, i forgot to mention that, yeah, maybe its just the demo.
  • GR_JustinTowell - May 25, 2012 8:02 a.m.

    The old Colin McRae games were great, yeah. I spent so much time on the PSone original. As for the lighting, yes, I see what you mean. I think the sunset over the Baja track in that race video up there is just for effect, but it's not present in the majority of races, but does look rather beautiful while you're playing. I can't really fault the graphics in Showdown (though I'm very keen to see what EGO looks like on next-gen), it's more how it plays. But if you don't like the sunshiney orange filter, I see where you're coming from. GRID actually had quite a bit of that too. Sometimes it makes it look like CG, which is great. Other times... just orange :D
  • MasterBhater - May 24, 2012 4:02 a.m.

    The only reason I would buy this game is if it lived up to the high standards GRiD set, with the driving physics and the cockpit view and the amazing destruction derby figure-8 that it had (A track that I still play every once and a while to this day). According to your review, this game hasn't lived up to that, and the moment I heard "unsatisfying collisions" I was convinced: This game isn't worth buying.

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