Published on June 17th, 2012 | by Shawn Long, Features Editor
DiRT Showdown Review
Platform: Xbox 360 [Reviewed], PlayStation 3
Release Date: June 12th, 2012
Review Notes: A copy of the game was received for review purposes.
DiRT Showdown is not a normal sequel. In fact, I don’t even know if I would call it one. More of an offspring of the DiRT series, DiRT Showdown tries to encompass more facets of racing while giving a true arcade style and feel to the series. Codemasters has incorporated an arcade feel with the DiRT series, however at times it feels like this game has a real identity crisis.
DiRT 3, the last entry of the series, was based on rally events and a form of freestyle driving called Gymkhana. This style of driving meant that you perform drifts, donuts, and other forms of freestyle driving on a trick course. Then you had the standard rally events, consisting of various terrains to conquer with the fastest time.
DiRT Showdown has these same type of events, but does however remove prevsiouly included features, such as Hardcore mode. Showdown adds standard races, and demolition derby style events into the mix. The variety is a welcome addition to the series, but is also introduces some problems.
The events are varied, which is great, but as mentioned before, it leads to a severe identity crisis. DiRT fans are used to a grueling and tough racing game. DiRT Showdown on the other hand is more based on high action and the thrills of the race. Only two modes sport real cars, while others have fictional Twisted Metal-like vehicles to choose from.
You can choose from different graphical styles for all vehicles, but there is no true customization feature–which is a bit disappointing. You can also for the first time upgrade your vehicles, but once again, it’s based on simple “upgrades” and not fully tweaked vehicles with swappable parts. Maybe it looks to stand as a testament to arcade racers of old, but in this generation of racing games it feels a bit dated.
Another new addition to the game is a boost feature. This is essentially the nitrous or turbo-boost for you vehicle. A simple hit of the button and you are blasting through time and road with the highest of speeds.
The best new addition to the game is the destruction derby modes, which are a lot of fun. Smash up cars either in a King of the Hill style game, or perform dangerous races around figure-eight tracks while smashing opponents. Hitting them with varied collisions will deliver higher point values and may put you in the right spot to take first.
The online mode has been revamped as well, giving it a step-up from previous entries. Up to eight people can compete in various modes, from Gymkhana to destruction derby, all with little or no lag. You also level up while playing online, which is done through signing into the RacerNet. Unlock items such as new cars, horns and various other things for use in single player or online.
Speaking of the Gymkhana events, in DiRT 3 this was a heavily featured mode. The on-screen indications made it very clear what you had to do and where you had to do it. Taking a step backwards, DiRT Showdown has changed the icons and made everything nondescript, which I found to be annoying. Gymkhana events are heavily based on time and precision. With the lack of direction, these events became it more difficult and unnecessary.
DiRT Showdown features the same graphics engine from Dirt 3, with some minor upgrades as far as colors and lighting goes. Car damage is nicely done, and the game is a real treat for the eyes. Everything looks very crisp and polished, and moves along at a brisk frame rate.
To carry along the visual feast, the licensed soundtrack includes popular rock from artists like Rise Against and Turbowolf. While the music is great, I did notice that most vehicles in Gymkhana, which features real vehicles, sounded similar to one another. While a turbo’d car may sound like another turbo’d car, there is still some variety between them, something which the game doesn’t seem to account for.
The control scheme is pretty close to its predecessor, with the noticeable addition of the boost being mapped to the ‘A’ button. Like other racers, the ‘RT’ is your gas, and ‘B’ your handbrake. The drifting does feel slightly tighter than it did it DiRT 3, with a noticeable tweak to how you drift and how far you manage to go.
DiRT Showdown is a solid arcade racer with a bit of an identity crisis. Long time DiRT fans will love the new Gymkhana events, but I don’t see them being as thrilled about the new arcade modes that have been added.
From the fireworks to the explosions, everything feels a bit more over the top and overdone. Newcomers to the DiRT series will find a fun entry level racer filled with thrills that might drive them to check out previous DiRT titles. The revamped online and modes are fun, and the game is beautifully designed and quickly becomes enjoyable. At the very least, it’s worth a Gamefly rental to see if the new additions are right for you.
+ Beautiful graphics
+ New modes are fun
+ Online revamped and much smoother
– Gymkhana events made a bit more confusing
– DiRT series fans will be offset by the more arcade feel