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DiRT: Showdown Review

by Diogo Miguel June 13, 2012

DiRT is considered one of the top racing video-games of the current generation. Which is why it was surprising to see the direction that Codemasters took with DiRT: Showdown. It’s a bold move but will it be worth the gamble?

One of the major changes in Showdown is the inclusion of a boost feature. Using the boost makes it easier to cause more damage, when colliding with other vehicles. It’s also handy for increasing speed quickly. A bar on the left side lets the player see how much boost power is left. It’s possible to recharge it by crashing into other vehicles and performing tricks. This obviously encourages players to drive recklessly, so the boost bar gets recharged quickly.

The problem is that the vehicle can get trapped behind props on a few occasions. There is an option to reset the vehicle’s position, which is a live saver, but it still most likely means being left behind. Another small issue is the total number of camera views. Showdown makes use of a back close up and cockpit camera views. It would have benefited from a third camera view, that made it easier to see far ahead. But otherwise, racing controls are very easy to adjust to. This is one of the easiest racing video-games for any beginners to get into. Its fun mechanics ensure that anyone will enjoy it as well.

The aptly titled Showdown Tour is where players will spend most of their time. In here, it’s possible to participate in a variety of events. There are four tiers with a set of events to complete. There is a limited number of different event types, but it doesn’t matter because of the locations they are set in. Exotic locations like Miami provide exciting backdrops, that compliment the driving experience. Each event also has a different racing layout, which means that the player is always faced with a new challenge.

It’s still compelling to continue playing – even after completing the Pro tier – because each event offers something new to experience. The more traditional racing event is “Race Off”. It’s a basic race with a few twists, such as the fact the racing course contains a few obstacles. One of the highlight is the excellent “Rampage” event, where the player must collide with other cars. Another one is “8 Ball”, where the player must pay close attention to the location of other vehicles. Just about every event type manages to make the player want to play more.

The event that doesn’t seem to work so well is “Head 2 Head”. This event requires that the player completes certain stunts, such as a donut(where the car races in a circle). The issue is that racing controls in Showdown aren’t as precise as in previous DiRT video-games. This makes it rather difficult to perform the stunts, while also trying to do them as quickly as possible. But otherwise each event is a joy to experience. The different locations helps to ensure that it never gets repetitive either.

There’s a lot of vehicles to choose from in DiRT: Showdown. What is important though is that each feels different when used. It’s possible to upgrade each of them, so that for example they become more robust or have better handling. Money is required to buy upgrades and also unlock new vehicles. It’s the perfect excuse to continue playing Showdown, in order to earn more money.

The Joyride section offers a welcome break from all the competitive events within Showdown Tour. This offline playground includes two large areas to explore. It’s reminiscent of the Gymkhana events from DiRT 3, and it’s just as addictive. Each area contains a set of objectives to complete, and collectibles to find. It’s a bit harder to fulfil objectives due to racing mechanics, but it’s still enjoyable, since players are not being timed. What makes Joyride so appealing, is the fact that players can complete objectives at their own pace.

Showdown performs exceedingly well when it comes to online features. One of these features is the ability to send challenges to friends. It’s difficult to find anything quite as satisfying, as finally being able to beat a friend’s challenge. The online multiplayer allows the player to either create or join play-lists. What is so special is that these play-lists can either consist of specific events or a random selection. Some events like “Rampage” turn into absolute mayhem, when played online. It’s a lot of fun to crash into other players. The boost feature also means that it’s always possible to catch up in online racing events. Upgraded vehicles are also usable online, so that is another incentive to continue earning cash for upgrades. Showdown is such a fantastic experience online, that it almost feels as if it was developed with multiplayer racing in mind.

It’s refreshing to see a racing video-game that doesn’t rely solely on traditional racing. Events like “Rampage” were a huge gamble, but they paid off. It’s a shame that small issues sometimes slightly ruin the experience. DiRT: Showdown might not feel like a traditional racing experience, but it’s one that fans should definitely try, and a worthy new entry in the DiRT series.

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