Review: DiRT Showdown
DiRT Showdown isa departure from the series' MO of rally simulation with the focus on arcade-style racing and demolition derby's. Is it a smash-hit or a write-off?
- Worth The Time?No
- Things LovedHard Target and Domination events, solid and eye-catching visuals, vibrant environments and Racenet.
- Things HatedHideous commentary, impatient online multiplayer, arena demolition events are an empty experience, game becomes very repetative and redundant, simplified and shallow gameplay makes it rather dull.
- RecommendationThis will not appeal to DiRT fans and it doesn't do enough to stand out for arcade racer fans. This is a game that's not really meant for anyone in particular unless you're looking for a forgettable but somewhat fun arcade racer.
- Name: DiRT Showdown
- Genre: Racing
- Players: 1-2
- Multiplayer: 2-8
- Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
- Developer: Codemasters Racing
- Publisher: Namco Bandai
- Price: R515 (PS3, Xbox 360), R345 (PC)
- Reviewed On: PS3
DiRT Showdown is not like other DiRT titles. It steers away from the rally simulator image in favour of a far more fun, easy-going arcade racer. However, it still borrows a good deal from its more serious brothers while still keeping that arcade fun-factor but there’s just something missing and it doesn’t all come together quite as nicely as you might like.
Showdown was initially rumoured to be a downloadable title for PSN and XBL and I’ll explain why that isn’t too far off the mark a but later but this game certainly isn’t lacking in quality. The menus are slick as a lubricated car salesman and nicely designed too. That’s the first thing you notice, besides the game’s desperate need for you to be playing online which I’ll get to later as well. The visuals are not exactly photo-realistic but the game does look good with that trademark Codemasters visual style going for it. Collisions are satisfying to look at because of the way cars crumple and they’ll even accumulate dirt and dust as you race around a course.
The environments themselves are vibrant and full of spectacle with plenty of colour. There are even destructible elements in these environments. However, the visuals are not as great to look at when you see the same scenery all the time and not to mention staring at the same few cars race after race. You see there are only a few environments in the game and many of the courses in each environment share sections or scenery. There are also very few cars in the game with most events limiting you to one of eight pieces of scrap designed by Codemasters ready to be thrashed around a track. Only the Gymkhana-esque Hoonigan events give you access to licensed vehicles such as the Ford Fiesta or Mustang.
There’s a number of different events or modes to choose from but they are all effectively variations of straight and simple circuit races or arena-based demolition events. The standouts are perhaps Hard Target in which you have to avoid collisions with opponents. There’s also Domination which splits the track up into four sections and you have be the best in each timed section to come out on top. Besides Hard Target, the other arena-based events seem to be ineffectively done. They would have been far more compelling if the winner was the last man standing but instead the events are timed so if you’re totalled before full-time then you simply respawn because the only way to appeal to the kids these days is to make every game more in-line with your average FPS. They are cool enough with Rampage being a basic demolition derby where 8 cars are pitted against each other and points are awarded for colliding with opponents. Then there’s Knock-out which takes place on a raised platform with points being earned for staying on and also for knocking others off. However, the destruction has no meaning because everyone just respawns when their car gets wrecked so the whole experience feels a bit empty.
It was always expected that Showdown would be far more arcadey than any DiRT that had come before it but the extent to which this title takes it is sure to alienate DiRT fans, I played DiRT 3 and it was certainly a jarring experience when trying to control the cars in the same manner as I did in that game. The handling is shallow, perhaps as simplified as you’d find in something such as Need for Speed. The physics have also been simplified in the pursuit of more fun. What this does though is make the game feel unfulfilling because everything is rather too easy and where you felt a genuine sense of accomplishment when you could perform a trick in Gymkhana events in DiRT 3, doing anything from drifting to spin-cycles in Showdown’s Hoonigan events may as well be a quick-time event because they are really that easy. The gameplay is superficial and provides just about no challenge unless you play on the highest difficulty and even then it’s only because the AI is a bit smarter.
Compared to previous DiRT titles and even other arcade racers, this feels scaled down like it’s somewhere between a demo and a full boxed-release. One nice thing is Joyride which allows you to dart around the Battersea power station or Yokohama docks while doing various tricks and stunts to complete around 75 challenges. It’s fun enough but the too-simple gameplay makes completing most of these achievements a piece of cake. While the tracks for the events are found at various locales from Tokyo to Baja, Miami and LA the tracks all feel rather similar and even a bit boring with simple and unimaginative courses. Suffice to say, before long you’ll have seen all there is to see in the game and after that everything just seems redundant and repetitive. Don’t fear though because the game doesn’t take all that long to get through in its entirety.
That doesn’t stop the awful soundtrack from driving you crazy with possibly the worst collection of songs I’ve ever heard in a racing title. However, you can turn the music down but what you can’t mute is the godawful commentary which adds nothing to the game and massacres the English language worse than a rogue employee rampaging the factory where the Oxford dictionary is printed with a machete and then burning the whole place down. Then again, maybe you’d enjoy such linguistic masterpieces as “perpendicular awesomeness” or “they’re taking this course with such speed and skill… skeed, that’s a new word I just made up.”
What is kind of scary is how desperate the game is for you to get online. From the get-go it’s urging you to tell your friends about this game on Twitter or upload something to YouTube or challenge a friend via Racenet – Codemaster’s own version of NFS’s Autolog. It allows you to directly challenge friends and compare/ track stats. This neediness for you to find some friends to race with will eventually force you to go online, even if it’s just to shut the damn game up. The online multiplayer certainly isn’t bad but I wouldn’t be begging people to go try it. Arena demolition events are a little rough around the edges when you introduce a live internet connection as opponents’ cars will flicker and teleport across the screen after taking big knocks. Suffice to say, it’s not as polished as the rest of the game.
The game also suddenly becomes ADD when you go online as it wants you in and out of events with no delay and will constantly throw events at you. You obviously get a few extra modes with multiplayer such as a bespoke version of capture the flag but the multiplayer ultimately suffers from the same problem as the singleplayer in that after not very long at all, you’ll have seen and done everything there is to do and there’s no real reason to stick around online or offline for that matter. You can opt to race in teams rather than every man for himself but all that eventually happens is that you’ll still ram into your teammates so you may as well be playing against them.
DiRT Showdown does have one plus point to its multiplayer which I consider pretty important and rare these days – that being split-screen. Not nearly enough racers have it and it’s something I sorely miss when I want to absolutely dominate my brothers in a good contest of speed and skill.
At the end of it all, DiRT Showdown is not a bad game. It’s nicely polished, as you’d expect from Codemasters, and it’s good fun. The problem is that the fun doesn’t last and after a while it become repetitive. The game doesn’t offer a fulfilling enough experience to be more than a brief, not very satisfying flash in the pan. It’s certainly not worth the price of a full-sized boxed game. This could’ve been something special, taking all the fun of gymkhana and demolition derby’s with the challenge and off-road simulator pedigree that the DiRT series brings with it. Instead, it holds no appeal to DiRT fans and doesn’t have enough to distinguish itself from other arcade racers.