The art of the racing game can be a tough act to follow, especially considering genre kings like Burnout, Need for Speed, and Forza. There is always that minimum line of content that needs to be drifted over and met to make the repetitive mechanic of driving a car a blast, and not bland as it would be at default. DiRT: Showdown is the latest entry in the Colin McRae Rally’s DiRT series. So does Showdown hold up against its three well received predecessors, or is it left caught in the dust?
Showdown is the fourth entry in the DiRT series, and while it widely remains similar in spirit, this title seems to be more in favor of destruction and demolition. Unless you’ve received extensive training, you won’t go a single race without making at least five sick crashes against your opponents or the environment. Of course, these are just the races. Have I mentioned the actual demolition modes? Yes, Showdown differs from its predecessors because it actually encourages wrecks, which isn’t a bad thing! The flashy, crazy arcade-style over substance is by no means a weakness, but should be noted for fans thinking of picking this one up.
"...for a game with the world’s worst commentator, it also has some of the most fun you’ll have wrecking a vehicle."
As always, Codemasters delivers the goods when it comes to presentation. Everything from the colors of your vehicle, to the blasts of confetti and the awesome fireworks that go off when you make a sweet jump off a ramp, is definitely a feast for the eyes to say the least. Even the title menus are visually stunning, and as slick as butter. Those looking for something cool to look at will definitely find it here. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said when it comes to audio. Yes, there’s a little bit of dubstep, drum n’ bass, and rock music here for everyone, and that isn’t the problem. What will drive gamers truly insane is the god-awful commentator. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze in Batman and Robin made better jokes than the commentator in DiRT: Showdown. The sad thing is this wouldn’t be so much of a problem if we were given a choice to mute him in the options, but we weren’t.
As I said before, the game encourages zany, all-out arcade-style destruction. Your main attraction will be tour events, which include the Racing, Demolition, and Hoonigan game types. These will be made up of events like Race-Off, your traditional gimmick-free race to the finish line, Rampage, which requires you and seven other cars to cause as much destruction to each other as possible, and Smash Hunter, where you must smash different colored foam obstacles at command. While Showdown sometimes does an alright job of offering thrilling races, gamers will feel a bit underwhelmed at least half of the time. Circuits are nothing special, crafted right out of the book of basics. The real saving grace of the racing types is Elimination mode, which gives you a constantly resetting timeframe to stay out of last place, and then punishes whoever fails to do so.
Since the racing is far less exciting, Demolition is what gamers will keep hoping is the next event type. Whether you’re desperately trying to remain king of the hill in Knock Out, attempting to escape the growing number of cars who seem to have a grudge against you in Hard Target, or dangerously crossing paths at intersections in 8-Ball, every crash is bound to keep you on the edge of your seat. However, Demolition is not without its flaws as well. While Rampage is a fun round of classic demolition derby, all tension is lost when you have an unlimited amount of respawns. Though the same problem applies to Knock Out, these modes are still fun, and much more of a thrill than the standard race types.
As if the game wasn’t "arcadey" enough, we’ve got Hoonigan events thrown in here as well. Trick Rush and Head 2 Head base your score off of how quickly you can pull off killer moves with your vehicle, the latter mode challenges you against one other driver. You may have fun driving through multi-colored foam pads in Smash Hunter, though there is an annoyingly required memorization of the map to actually get a great score in this event. These modes are by no means a bore, but with the absence of a handful of other drivers to collide and compete with, there just isn’t much here to be as excited for as both Demolition and Racing events.
Aside from your career, Joyride mode is present in Showdown, and is a sort of worthy time waster. In Joyride, you are given a number of areas to drive around and free roam in while knocking out mission after mission. These tasks include pulling off tricks like donuts, drifts, jumps, and more. After doing this, you are given the option to "challenge" your friend to beat your best time and score. It’s a nice addition, but something tells me your friends would rather t-bone your car in a Demolition event than attempt to see how much longer of a donut they can make. Yes, multiplayer is the real online attraction in Showdown. The game constantly throws screens at you telling you to upload your plays to youtube, or to join racenet. What gamers will really care about is the excitement of destroying your buddies in something like Rampage.
DiRT: Showdown is a simple, yet fun game with just a few things missing. The change of pace with the encouraged car-colliding is certainly welcomed, and well executed. There is more game here to be played, but there just isn’t enough of it. Joyride will be that mode you forget about because you would rather be slamming other cars instead of your own while trying to do tricks. Though there is a good number of event types in your tournament, Demolition is what will really hit that sweet spot. Showdown looks gorgeous, although the track paths themselves are bland and you will quickly feel like you’ve driven through them all even though you haven’t. Still, for a game with the world’s worst commentator, it also has some of the most fun you’ll have wrecking a vehicle.
Release date : 2012-05-29
Publisher : Codemasters
Developer : Codemasters
Gameplay : Racing
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