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DiRT Showdown Review

Posted on June 19, 2012 AT 09:23am

Dirt Showdown unfortunately exposes Codemasters Racing as a one-trick pony – tragically unable to craft an entertaining and solid game model outside of their forté, rally racing, left to desperately fight against the tide of relevance in a quest to finance their next true Dirt game. Dirt Showdown takes an arcade style breakdown of the game to get its point across, a point blanketed in bad music, juvenile announcers, and a bombastic contemporary “style” that evokes a feeling of escape–whether to escape the world they present or for others to mindlessly drive in a figure-8 pattern that ultimately goes nowhere.

The figure-8 layout describes this game perfectly, reflecting the unfortunate journey of repetition you will encounter throughout Dirt Showdown. There are multiple game modes presented throughout the regrettably shallow “tour” mode, which is simply a bland list of events spread across three different tracks, depending on difficulty, set at different times of day and with different objectives to try to mask the sparse course selection. Ultimately, this method fails, as early on in the game I had already suffered from fatigue from the first three tracks. Whether I was driving in endless figure-8s, or trying to wreck other cars or push them off of a platform, or doing another elimination-style race, I was rarely challenged by the design of the game, set to naturally bring me to the front of the competitors on easier difficulties. Unfortunately, on higher difficulties, the races rely more on luck, and having someone in front of the pack make a mistake as the focus instead of your own driving skill. However, there are other challenges involved–Hoonigan and Gymkhana events are implemented in this game and offers little true creativity when it comes to the races themselves, despite giving the illusion of more free-form driving. To assist with the flow of these events, the developers have removed any semblance of freedom by punishing you with failure if you deviate from the outlined path, which is frustrating when these events make you feel like your clever ideas and creativity is on exhibition when ultimately, it is just another predictable racing line. The only point of true creativity in Dirt Showdown is the Joyride mode, where you have an open area on one of two courses, and tasks you with completing small missions and collecting emblems. When stuck on an event you cannot complete, Joyride mode is an ideal distraction from the main Tour mode, and is a welcome addition. Car upgrades are available as well, however truly customizing these cars in any meaningful way is simply not in this game unless your concept of customizing a car is adding to its health meter or changing its livery.

Fortunately, the car selection is inspired, using some real-life cars for races and creative ideas for fictional cars in demolition-focused events. The real star of the car list is the hearse, providing a much-needed humorous alternative to the irritatingly “extreme” commentary and overall feel to the game. One could argue that it is an extreme selection in and of itself, but I found the demolition events and cars far more entertaining than the racing itself, which was uninspired and bland.

Interestingly, the demolition events are some of the most fun I’ve had with the game, but with one caveat–the events have only been fun online. The frenetic racing in circles, trying to pin down an opponent that could easily scoot out of the way at the last second is a thrill, and with the newly unveiled RaceNet from Codemasters Racing, you can participate in events like these with rewards for winners. RaceNet is Codemasters Racing’s crown jewel to show off in Dirt Showdown, offering the aforementioned events but also keeping a lot of content in a central location that allows you to send challenges, respond to them, and compete on a larger scale. Furthermore, RaceNet will be a part of many upcoming Codemasters Racing games, such as F1 2012 and more, able to track progress and distribute rewards not unlike Halo: Waypoint and other portals. YouTube integration makes its return from Dirt 3 in Dirt Showdown as well, making it as easy as tapping your right bumper to record your most inspired performances or most tragic wrecks and upload them online in hi-def.

SUMMARY: Ultimately, if you are looking for Dirt 4, you need to come to terms with the fact that Dirt Showdown is not even close to being what Dirt 4 will be – it is a side story, so to speak, focused on arcade racing without a lot of longevity or variety. Despite the different event types, the recycled assets and tricks done to eliminate gamer fatigue on some of the courses you have raced multiple times previous weigh down this title, especially when faced with $59.99 MSRP. However, if you are looking for the second coming of Destruction Derby, you can’t find a much better game than Dirt Showdown to sink your time into, due to its demolition events being a load of fun online. However, if you are looking for a more traditional racer, like I was, you may want to look elsewhere.

  • THE GOOD: Demolition events are this game’s ace in the hole
  • THE BAD: Attempted masking of limited courses
  • THE UGLY: Winning a demolition event in a hearse

SCORE: 4.0

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