Dirt Showdown Review
Like Dirt 3, sort of.
Have you ever been playing Dirt 3 and said to yourself, “I really wish I could take a break from all this realistic rally racing and have a Demolition Derby instead?” Me either, but Codemasters are betting that you have so they’ve applied the Dirt name to their new action racer, Dirt Showdown. Instead of being about precision racing in chaotic environments like the other Dirt games, Showdown is all about crashing into the competition.
To those of you who have played Dirt 3, Dirt Showdown will initially look very familiar. The menu interface and general setup are very similar and the first place most of you will go is the ‘Showdown Tour’. This is your career mode, where you will spend the majority of your time competing in events in one of the few larger competitions. Showdown does add a bit to the series by allowing you to purchase and upgrade cars here as well.
The upgrades available are very simple, rather than fine tuning parts you’ll be adding an arbitrary amount of money to upgrade one of three stats; handling, strength and speed.You may be wondering what strength is, since that is a word with broad meaning, this simply refers to how much of a beating your car can take when crashing into other cars and how much your car will affect the cars you crash into.
The types of events you’ll be competing in are varied but are far from the the rally events of Dirt 3. Many of the races involve tight, short tracks that are designed to bunch you up with your fellow racers to cause crashes, bumps and other forms of mayhem. The problem I ran into with most of these is that, even on higher difficulties and with the starting vehicles, I was soon out of harms way and cruising to an easy victory.
The demolition events, some in an enclosed arena, some on a raised platform, offered a completely different experience that was no less imbalanced than the racing events. These events are all about racking up points for collisions, knockouts and disabling cars. The part I really didn’t understand is that when your car was disabled by the other racers, you simply respawned with a fresh car. There was no consequence to completely wrecking your car in an attempt to wreck your opponent’s and this took away any need for strategy.
Gymkhana also makes a return to the series but not in a the way you might be thinking. Showdown events are meant to take the place of the head to head, X Games style races from Dirt 3. These events are set up in the same manner, two racers on different but parallel tracks, but you’ll have to complete a series of tricks to reach the finish line. Instead of racking up points with clever tricks you’ll just have to smash a couple of barriers and do a donut or two on your way to the finish line.
Joyride mode takes you back to the warehouse, free ride, type area that was your Gymkhana practice area in Dirt 3 so if you enjoy hunting around a large open area for stunts to pull off you may enjoy this mode. I, however, felt like most of the time Codemasters were thinking “if we put him in a Ken Block car he’ll think he’s doing Gymkhana.”
Dirt Showdown has the spectacular racing mechanics of Dirt 3 under its hood but the exterior of this one left a lot to be desired. There are enjoyable moments, but they usually come when you’ve left the pack behind and it’s just you and the track.
You can jump into most of the game modes available in the Tour with up to seven other players online, but there are a few online specific modes that can be played in Party Mode, much like in Dirt 3. Capture the flag and checkpoint modes can be fun if you have a few friends to play with. My only complaint, and what might be a big problem for some, is that you can’t select specific events in matchmaking, you’re at the mercy of the other players in the lobby to veto if a game mode you don’t like comes up.
I’m not sure where Dirt Showdown was supposed to fit in. Though it uses the same underlying system as Dirt 3 it doesn’t deliver a precision racing experience of that caliber. As an action racing game, it doesn’t really live up to explosive action you get from others in that genre. Dirt Showdown has fun moments but ultimately suffers from an identity crisis.