Lately we’ve seen many racing franchises drift off in bold new directions with the goal of galvanizing their brand. Codemasters’ Dirt is no exception with their latest offering Dirt: Showdown.
Loosely based on their ever popular Colin McRae Rally Dirt series, Codemasters ditched the rally-esque format of special stage routes for a rather electrifying fan-based entertainment spectacle.
Gameplay: Orchestrated Chaos
Crazy is a fitting word when describing Dirt Showdown, with a car line-up of battle-scarred-warriors, ready to take to the arena where points are awarded for ruthlessness and destruction.
Races are broken down into four Event Categories: Racing; Demolition; Hoonigan; and Party.
Racing is your typical format race with emphasis being placed on making pole position whilst competing on a very demanding race track. Race tracks feature ramps, intersections (where fellow competitors may smash into you) and obstacles scattered throughout.
Demolition is just that, where elaborate stages are hosted for insane car bashing. Balancing speed and accuracy pays off with “T-bones”, “Head-On!” collisions and much more.
Hoonigan is a Gymkhana style event where two drivers go head-to-head around a mirrored course featuring a variety of special objectives such as drifts, doughnuts, and jumps.
Party is an awesome multiplayer event which comprises of fun team-based antics such as Smash & Grab, Transporter (capture the flag) and Speed Skirmish.
Controls: Learner driver
Although all cars differ in handling characteristics – some licensed, others fictitious – the physics are easy to master and getting a front-wheel drive car to do a doughnut proves to be a piece-of-cake.
Track racing seems relatively easy as well, and having good racing lines benefits you tremendously, where just easing off the throttle is sufficient for making a corner.
Visuals: Oooooh, ahhhhhh!
Whether it’s smashing your opponents until they resemble a recycled tin can, or boosting your car up a ramp with a pyrotechnic display as your backdrop, there’s an element of excitement and graphically it translates superbly. Showdown’s graphics remain as good as its predecessor, Dirt 3, but a noticeable improvement has been made in the landscape and textures.
Cars are very detailed as well, showcasing sponsor decals or realistic “car wounds“, like dings, scraped paint, rust and even welded-on battle armour.
Audio – Born in the USA
There’s an extensive list of music tracks, with a mixture of familiar dance and rock-n-roll music – enough to bring that true Americano feeling to the sport.
Car engines sound brash, tyres screech, and metal-on-metal contact sounds are brutally awesome; all this with an added MC psyching up the roaring crowd of spectators in the background.
Online – International Mayhem
Dirt: Showdown is truly a multiplayer game, whether it’s split screen or online it’s much more fun and even more challenging destroying non-AI opponents across the host of events. The online component doesn’t deviate from the core features of the game, bringing all the same event categories from your “Showdown Tour” with in your Career mode.
Dirt: Showdown now features a brand new interactive social platform titled Racenet. There’s a sign up monetary bonus of 20,000 in-game dollars. Once an active member, drivers will have access to content such as liveries, special events and more. Racenet still lives in beta and once the final product is launched, more content should drift in.
Conclusion – Pole position
Many purists of Dirt argue that this could be a detrimental collapse of the franchise but I beg to differ. Dirt: Showdown may not be perfect but it delivers solid entertainment that sees minute’s turn to hours and hours to days.
It’s pure, simple fun which is something that’s lacking in many arcade racers today. Codemasters have nailed what Showdown set out to achieve; to be a no-frills, all fun spin off from Dirt.