DiRT Showdown review
One of the most enjoyable aspects of Race Driver: GRID was the Demolition Derby style races. The figure of8 tracks guaranteed collisions, and online they were frantic and a huge laugh. When GRID was first released each night of racing would always end the same way – in destruction. So after another well made racing game in the form of DiRT 3 which saw the series slightly move away from its rally driving heart and embrace a new motorsport spectacle with Gymkhana, Codemasters have gone a step further and taken the Destruction Derby theme from GRID as well as the Gymkhana style event from DiRT, and have made one hell of an entertaining arcade game with DiRT Showdown.
Immediately you get a good idea of what Showdown is all about with the loud and in your face music blasting out. With four tiers which are effectively difficulty levels containing thirteen events, there’s plenty to do in the single player side of the game while you rock out the games excellent soundtrack. There are three different styles of event; Destruction Derby style events, Race events which in all honesty might as well come under the Destruction Derby banner with the no holds barred gameplay, and for the Gymkhana lovers there are the Hoonigan events. You’ll need to earn at least a third place finish in nearly all of the events to move onto the next level.
There are bound to be events that you don’t enjoy or don’t do particularly well and for me it was the Hoonigan events. Trick Rush tasks you with smashing blocks and performing as many tricks as possible in a time frame, with the object being to score high with your points score. Smash Hunter is fun and fast paced but difficult. The objective is to smash coloured blocks in a required order. You’ll smash say 5 yellow blocks and once those have been smashed you’ll be told to smash 5 red. It’s about beating the clock here and there is a very specific path you need to take, but it’s the least bit obvious and requires fast thinking and cat-like reactions. It is fun but highly infuriating as well, and I can guarantee you will use most, if not all of your flashbacks which return in Showdown. Also under the Hoonigan banner is Head to Head. Here you are not only attempting to beat your opponent by reaching the finish line first, but you must complete specific tasks such as performing a drift or a jump at a specific place. Miss a point or mess it up and you’ll be hitting the Flashback button because you can’t finish if you miss one task.
Smashed with friends…
Without a doubt the most enjoyable aspect of the game is under the Demolition banner. Figure of 8 racing features here in the 8 Ball event, and the winner is the first over the finish line. With plenty of places where the track crosses over there is the guarantee of carnage. Winning is achieved by any means necessary, but be warned if you total your car the event is over. There’s also no mini-map so knowing exactly where your opponents are makes the event even more thrilling as you’re never sure whether a collision is just around the corner. This means falling from first to last is a frequent occurrence, as is moving from the back to the front. Just because you are first on the last lap with one corner to go does not mean you’ll finish there, which is what makes this event all the more enjoyable. One minor complaint is the game will reset you on the track if you’re going the wrong way – something which is easily achieved if you’re hit hard enough and spin enough times.
As fun as the single player game is the online gameplay where the real fun is to be had. As good as the AI is – they will harass and punish any mistake, often ramming your rear causing a spin, but they will also make mistakes themselves – there is nothing compared to racing online against others. All of the offline race events are available, as well as Party mode, 3 events that bring something a little different to the play.
The Objective of Speed Skirmish is to drive through the checkpoints as fast as you can before heading to the finish. Once you have finished you’re then free to cause a bit of mayhem and crash into the remaining drivers, although extra points are not available for this, sadly. The winner is the first to the final checkpoint. Smash and Grab is a Cat and Mouse style game where you’re required to grab some loot and avoid the other drivers. You’ll receive points while you hold the loot and the winner is the driver with the most points at the end of the timed round. The most enjoyable event in the Party mode, for me anyway, was Transporter. Capture the flag and deliver it to a marker with 100 points being earned each time you capture the flag and 1000 points earned when delivering it to the marker. Individually this is a lot of fun, but when playing as a part of a team it’s even better as it can really encourage tactical game play which creates some real intense battles. All of the online game modes can be played as an individual or as a team, although it does seem the individual modes are more populated.
Risky, but right?
Codemasters announcing that they would only develop racing games from now on under the name of Codemasters Racing was always going to be a risky decision, but with their first title the decision so far appears to be justified. DiRT Showdown is everything an Arcade racing game should be; easy to pick up and lots of fun to play. There are occasionally issues when playing such as quite large bubbles around cars, something Codemasters always seem to manage in wheel to wheel racing, but it shouldn’t dilute the experience for you because DiRT Showdown is damn good fun, especially online.