Published on May 25th, 2012 | by Ciaran Utting0
DiRT Showdown Review
So a few weeks ago, I previewed DiRT Showdown and came away with two main conclusions. Firstly that, although the game was fun, not enough had yet been evidenced to warrant buying into the franchise for an 11th time, and secondly that they were bound to not stray too far from their tried and trusted rally roots. On both these counts, I’m man enough to admit, I was wrong. Well, mostly. Here’s why.
Everything you love about the series is here; the finely tunable, highly destructible cars, the fast, intense races, and the brown, brown mud. But herein lies my mistake. When Codemasters said “arcade-style spin-off”, they were not joking. Gone are the epic, winding battles that took place between only your beloved car and mother nature, now instead replaced with multi-car destruction derby’s on tiny tarmac circuits.
These races, while enjoyable, are not nearly as engaging as they used to be. The slew of unlicensed cars are also surprisingly hard to care about, but perhaps that’s the point when all you’re going to be doing is purposely reducing them to scrap metal. The real thrills are to be found outside the races now, in the proper ‘drop-the-racing-pretence’ destruction derby and Hoonigan modes. During the former, you’ll be tearing opponents to shreds in ways much akin to an online shooter, wrecking them hard and fast for XP. Various sub modes include trying to shove them of a raised stage, surviving a last-man-standing scenario or engaging in “Rampage”, which is effectively a straight up deathmatch. It’s not hard to see what they’re going for here, and for the most part, it works nicely.
For me, Hoonigan now takes centre stage. This is were the technical displays are to be found, and anyone who has watched one of Ken Block’s gymkhanas on the internet will be instantly familiar with the concept. In essence, you are given a giant playground with which to perform as many daring and insane feats of driving as possible, with points being awarded for technical prowess. A dab of handbrake here, a flick of opposite lock there. To begin with you’ll be hitting more obstacles than you did in the destruction derby, but once it clicks and you’re in tune with your car, you’ll be pulling off moves that make Mr Block look like Maureen from Driving School. It’s skilfully reminiscent of those long-fought wilderness rallys from previous games, but with one of those “modern” twists that people are usually so fearful of.
The cars and arenas look as good as ever on EGO 2.0, and there are plenty of track-side pyrotechnics and particle effects to keep you staring at it throughout the races. The music too will pump you up with the typical high energy rock and electro combo that you’ve heard drowned out by engine noise a hundred times before, but the overall presentation is much better than the previous instalments.
Online, the options just keep coming. This is one of the most integrated games I’ve played in terms of connectivity. Every thing you do is stored and displayed for all to see online in Codemasters new community platform, RaceNet. It analyses your in-game accomplishments and performance, displaying your wins, times, unlocked cars, achievements and personal bests, all with very nicely laid out graphics. You can also create teams, enter weekly challenges, upload highlights of races (aka, massive collisions) straight to YouTube, and even link them to share on Twitter. Make no mistake, this is the future.
We’ve all been at that frustrating point in a race where you spin off, give up, and start driving round the track in the opposite direction – ignoring that “wrong way” sign that has made an unwelcome appearance in the more serious racers today – and seek to take revenge on the lead cars by smashing into them head-first. Well, what Codemasters have decided to do, brilliantly, is make a whole game out of that bit. It’s your catharsis for all those structured and patient laps they made you put in on F1 2012, and once you start playing it for what it is, it’s actually just as rewarding.
[box style="rounded" border="full"]It’s fast, fun and farcical, but its bright red stop sign to ‘true’ rallying may well leave fans divided.
Version Tested: Xbox 360