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Review

DiRT Showdown Review (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)

Not your average DiRT.

When looking up the word “rage” in the dictionary it mentions “angry fury” and “violent anger”, and whilst it might be an odd way to start a review, rage is certainly an emotion you’ll get used to in the latest entry to the DiRT franchise, titled “Showdown”. Thankfully the game can also be extremely enjoyable, but it’s this inconsistency that may put some people off as Showdown is the naughty child in the DiRT franchise.

Yes there is straight up racing to be found, but it is nestled in amongst events such as “Hoonigan” and “Rampage” – destruction is very much at the forefront.

The first thing you’ll notice (literally – the main screen offers an in-game reward of $20,000 for signing up) is Codemasters’ new feature, RaceNet. Becoming part of RaceNet means you’ll have access to the stat-tracking system, giving you the opportunity to keep tabs on wins, losses, best times etc. It’s more than that though, as RaceNet members will get to take part in exclusive challenges, which in turn unlock special rewards.

After the initial sign-up it’s an unobtrusive system that has the potential to vastly extend Showdown’s lifespan. Unless you have a hatred of the internet, it’s definitely worth becoming a member.


Car models are mostly original, rather than licensed, but there's plenty of variation.
The single-player campaign is split up into four championships, giving several hours worth of gameplay. Rather than just racing, Showdown has you compete in a number of themed events. For example the Demolition Derby events place you and several AI cars in an arena with the aim being to smash each other to bits for points.

The Hoonigan events, however, are all about performing trick-runs, stunts and challenges. Whatever the event, coming in first will earn the most money, but it’s not the key to progression as stages will unlock as long as you finish within the top three. Obviously getting as much money as possible is a good thing as it means better cars can be bought, or current cars can be upgraded for a performance, strength and handling boost (although the effect of these upgrades appear minimal).

The car handling is definitely geared towards an arcade experience, with power-slides easily accessible on tracks with nice, wide turns. Those familiar with games such as Burnout and MotorStorm will feel at home with Showdown. In fact, there’s quite a MotorStorm vibe about the entire thing. The different weather types are also a most welcome challenge.

Speaking of challenges, the game also has a mode that will chuck you into locations such as Battersea Power Station and let you just tear around the place, completing certain tasks at your leisure whilst looking for hidden packages.

It’s just a shame that some parts of the single-player campaign are much less entertaining. At its best the game is amazingly good fun, running at an insane pace as you weave between opponent vehicles before power-sliding through a bend and boosting over a ramp. Some of the head-to-head events are also extremely entertaining, pitting you against a series of drifts and challenges.

Unfortunately it can get very, very frustrating. The randomness of events like 8-Ball means you’ll be hitting the restart option often as your vehicle gets t-boned without you having any way to avoid it. Yes, I know that’s the nature of the race but I found it anything but enjoyable.

There also seems to be a few inconsistencies in the Demolition Derby events. Points are based on how hard you crash into your opponents, and at what angle. However, there were numerous times where a full head-on crash was given a “light collision” award, and a small tap was given a “heavy collision”. The game also couldn’t seem to keep up with what points to award to whom, and I have been frequently not awarded anything despite a collision clearly occurring.

The cars also seem to be made out of superglue. Often an opponent’s vehicle would hit me and I would then be stuck to their car, unable to dislodge myself as I get pushed along the track and into a wall. Hitting the track sides occasionally produced the same results, and instead of being able to get back into the race quickly I found my vehicle almost coming to a complete stop as it hit some invisible treacle.


Lots of wonderful crashing!
I also came across a number of glitches. The worst one would freeze the game for a second every time I used the boost, and would last for up to 30 seconds before returning to normal. Pieces of track debris would sometimes get stuck to the front wheels of the vehicle, slowing it down and allowing everyone else to pass.

In contrast, the online modes run without any problems at all, and are extremely entertaining. For starters, every time you finish an event you have the option to challenge a Showdown owning friend to come and beat it. It’s a good feature to have, adding some longevity to things. The events from the single-player can be played online with up to eight people, and become much less frustrating with friends. In fact, to get the most from the game you really need to take it online. Smashing head-first into a friend’s vehicle whilst taunting them down the mic never fails to raise a smile.

Visually, Showdown is very nice indeed, with nicely detailed vehicles, lots of particle effects as well as different weather conditions. It’s the soundtrack that really deserves the biggest mention though, with a myriad of licensed tracks causing much nodding of heads. The commentator is painfully bad though, and should never have been included.

Pros:

  • Looks and sounds great.
  • Vehicle handling is accessible.
  • Some very good events.
  • Brilliant online mode that appears to have no problems.
  • RaceNet has a lot of potential.

Cons:

  • Can be infuriating.
  • A number of glitches.
  • Scoring problems in Destruction Derby events.
  • Terrible commentary.

DiRT Showdown is very much a game of two halves. The single-player is enjoyable and frustrating in equal measure, but it’s the online mode that swoops in and saves the day with the combination of RaceNet, Showdown Challenges and lag-free mayhem.

Score: 7/10

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25 Comments
  1. cc_star
    Team TSA: Writer
    Since: Forever

    Loved online in the demo can’t wait to pick this up.

    Comment posted on 24/05/2012 at 10:03.
  2. Jambo
    Member
    Since: Jul 2009

    Wasn’t a fan of the demo to be honest, handling for me wasn’t fun.

    Comment posted on 24/05/2012 at 10:05.
  3. Youles
    Member
    Since: Feb 2011

    I was tempted by this but I’m more of a Rally fan and this appears to be more Destruction Derby (which isn’t a bad thing) so will probably give it a miss. Knowing me I’d also rage if/when I’m winning then some back-marker takes me out. It’s probably safer for my Dualshocks if I don’t get this ;)

    I’m hoping there will be a DiRT 4. I played the Monte Carlo DLC last night and it’s fantastic!

    Comment posted on 24/05/2012 at 10:06.
    • 3shirts
      Member
      Since: Aug 2008

      Woah, weird.
      Typing our replies at the same time and said almost the same thing!

      Comment posted on 24/05/2012 at 10:08.
      • Youles
        Member
        Since: Feb 2011

        Indeed, although you seem to have more self control with your rage ;)

        Comment posted on 24/05/2012 at 10:49.
    • maneorix
      Member
      Since: Oct 2008

      I’ll be getting this as I did enjoy MotorStorm and it’ll be fun to take on the TSA’ers, even though I’ll probably end up raging!

      That being said I agree with you on DiRT4, though I’m hoping that since they’ve released Showdown with an eye for arcade gameplay – that means that the next DiRT(4?) will focus more on the racing, with more Rally in particular. Codies do know how to make fantastic Rallying.

      Comment posted on 24/05/2012 at 11:02.
      • Youles
        Member
        Since: Feb 2011

        I agree, they may well be splitting like NFS (although that’s now in about 10 different directions) and seeing 2 revenue streams – Destruction and Rallying, especially as the official WRC game didn’t do too well in the reviews. I’d love Codies to get the official licencing for WRC like they have with F1.

        Comment posted on 24/05/2012 at 12:50.
  4. 3shirts
    Member
    Since: Aug 2008

    I hope this remains a spin off and not the direction they go with DiRT. I enjoyed Dirt3 for it’s ‘proper’ rallying and even in that I found the Gymkhana stuff a bit cheesy and unrealistic. The time I floated, cartwheeling no less that 8 times, into an invisible wall spoiled it for me a bit.

    This sounds like a competent attempt at a kind of updated Destruction Derby but I don’t think it’s for me.

    Comment posted on 24/05/2012 at 10:08.
    • maneorix
      Member
      Since: Oct 2008

      I DON’T hope this becomes a spin-off, like I’ve written in the comment above, I’d prefer that they split the game in two. An arcade DiRT and a Rally/Racing DiRT. That would make me very happy!

      Comment posted on 24/05/2012 at 11:08.
  5. Forrest_01
    Member
    Since: Jun 2009

    Yep, sounds like the game for me – Clarified with just one statement;

    “Those familiar with games such as Burnout and MotorStorm will feel at home with Showdown”

    Sold.

    Comment posted on 24/05/2012 at 10:15.
  6. JoshHood
    Small briefcase w*nker
    Since: Forever

    I enjoyed the more Party stuff in Dirt 3, so was hoping this would be for me, but it doesn’t really seem that way :/

    Comment posted on 24/05/2012 at 10:16.
  7. OneShotWook
    Member
    Since: Jun 2010

    As a non racing racing game fan this sounds right up my street,good stuff.

    Comment posted on 24/05/2012 at 10:16.
  8. Dom El
    Member
    Since: Mar 2012

    I’ve loved the Dirt series so far but I’m not sure about Showdown – may wait for a price drop before picking it up as the Gymkhana events have never been my favourite part and this seems like nearly a whole game of it!

    Comment posted on 24/05/2012 at 10:16.
  9. Bilbo_bobbins
    Member
    Since: Jun 2009

    loved the demo, might get in the future when its slightly cheaper. The cheapo I am.

    Comment posted on 24/05/2012 at 10:31.
  10. PoisonedMonkey
    Member
    Since: Jun 2009

    Which version was this? I’ve had a few days with the PS3 version and never had the boost lag you mention. Also, the ‘glitches’ you mention are a bit harsh. Debris under your wheels slowing you down? Isn’t that what should happen? Also the 8Ball races are meant to be a lottery surely, that’s the whole point.

    I agree with much of what you’ve said, but I do feel you’re being overly critical about some stuff. Not saying you’re WRONG in your opinions, but I don’t agree.

    Comment posted on 24/05/2012 at 10:37.
    • james_m2603
      Member
      Since: Jan 2010

      I also have the PS3 version and haven’t experienced the “boost lag” glitch.

      Comment posted on 24/05/2012 at 10:43.

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