Review: DiRT Showdown

June 5, 2012 • Gadgets and Gaming

The DiRT franchise has kicked sand in the teeth of many gamers, as the three games that have been realised so far have taken players on an adrenaline-fueled joy ride through an amazing amount of stages and locations.

DiRT Showdown brings destruction to a new level (image: Codemasters Racing)

From the first game it was evident that the series of off-road titles was going be something special, and didn’t take kindly to competition – just getting better and better with every iteration.

While the first and second titles were purely based on rally driving through some of the world’s most famous locations, DiRT 3 took a bold step and moved slightly away from that by partnering with gymkhana legend Ken Block.

Emulating what Block does for a career, players had to slide, doughnut and drift their way across the finish line, doing it with as much class and panache as possible. The third title was a huge success among the many DiRT fans, and it was only natural for another title to be released using the same formula. While some die-hard rally fans weren’t too impressed with the overall presentation and ‘showiness’ of it, it managed to sell pretty well.

DiRT Showdown expands on the gymkhana experience, but gives fans a bit more in terms of causing carnage. The overall design and presentation has been retained from DiRT 3, so returning players will immediately feel at home. However, it also creates the feeling of a large expansion pack, instead of a new title.

The best way to sum up DiRT Showdown is to say that it’s a combination of the high thrills-and-spills from the previous DiRT, mixed in with a heavy dose of titles like Carmageddon and Demolition Derby.

The levels vary between racing Block for pole position in gymkhana-type events with high jumps, smashing boxes and creating doughnuts; while others will have only one objective – destroy the other cars as much as possible, or simply push them off the platform for maximum points.

When players fire up the title, they will have to go through the usual pageantry of choosing a name, audio name and singing into DiRT’s new RaceNet online server. From there, players will be thrown immediately into a race, which create the premise for the rest of the title, and also provides a bit of a backstory – not that there is really a plot of any kind.

As with any racing game, gamers will have a selection of cars to choose from, all with different strengths and weaknesses. The fastest cars aren’t necessarily the strongest, and vice versa. But players can be assured that they will be beaten up hand-me-downs. Which shouldn’t be of any worry, as their current state of disrepair doesn’t influence the way they drive – which would have been a disaster.

Players will also be able to upgrade their cars with the money they earn from completing and winning races, and can add to a vehicle’s strength, speed and power. It’s important to keep a vehicle upgraded, as some races require different cars with different attributes.

The general structure of the title has pretty much been retained throughout the franchise, where players start their racing career at the bottom of the pile, and work their way up to Legend status by winning and unlocking the next races.

While the controls are incredibly easy and the graphics are as fantastic as always, one of the best things about DiRT Showdown is the amazing soundtrack. While racing against other haphazard racers or bolting down a ramp to get ahead of Block, gamers will be able to enjoy the 46-song mix of dance and rock blasting in the background.

Players who enjoyed DiRT 3 will really find a lot of happiness from DiRT Showdown, but for the more traditional types, it might not be the best option. With great graphics, easy controls and a kick-ass soundtrack, the games is very enjoyable – there are a few hiccups here and there, but nothing that will serve as a deal-breaker.

The only other criticism that can be levelled against the title is that developer Codemasters has been moving the franchise away from the traditional rally from the first two games. While the new modes are fun, it would have been great to see at least some tracks take on a bit of a more open-road feel. It’s fine if they decide to stick to the gymkhana formula, but then they need to develop another title, taking the franchise back to it’s roots – because let’s face it, there are no rally games on par with the DiRT franchise.

But gamers should find the most excitement from the Demolition tracks, while the Hoonigan and Racing events are just as good. While the demolition races might seem a bit whimsical, the sections where players race against Ken Block brings the franchise together and shows just what can be done with a great gaming engine and fantastic in-game physics.

Our score: 8.1/10

Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor

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