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 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!
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.
- 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.
- 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.