Developer Codemasters feels the DiRT racing franchise has "outgrown a single game" over the last few years, hence its recent decision to split the franchise into two different flavours, one of which is a realistic simulation racer and the other a too-cool-for-school arcade one. While the two styles have arguably co-existed perfectly well in previous releases, the studio thought it better that each got more attention going forward.
So while DiRT 4 will offer pure rally gameplay when it releases, most likely some time in 2013, DiRT Showdown represents the first off-road, arcade-style spin-off for the series, offering everything from regular races to thrill-seeking demolition derbies and high-score chasing challenges, all presented in striking vibrant hues and blinding neon.
The game keeps the pedal-to-the-metal across a range of frenzied, unsanctioned race events set in famous locations like Miami, San Francisco, London and Tokyo, exposing players to a variety of conditions including sun, snow and rain, both at day and night.
Mixing It Up
No-holds-barred racing events see players go head-to-head on courses littered with obstacles, pinch points, multiple-routes and ramps, while destruction derby ones see players crashing, smashing and bashing their way through arenas, racking up points for causing mayhem that pushes the game's damage model to its spectacular limits. Hoonigan events let you run wild in free-roaming, freestyle stunt parks, performing trick runs and exploration objectives that are a great way to hone your skills.
Although it's quite easy to progress through most of Showdown's events, some are fairly tricky due to the weighty feel of the vehicles. The tracks often require cars to turn on a dime, but rarely does a vehicle feel capable of doing so without some serious trial and error practice, something that can be both satisfying and frustrating.
For the most part, racing alongside computer controlled drivers feels exciting and realistic because the game does an excellent job of keeping opponents on your bumper, forcing you to be at the top of your driving game. At the same time it also takes the shackles off and encourages you to trade paint by bumping and grinding with rival cars.
In fact, most of Showdown's fun comes from the satisfying clash of metal as cars collide; it's often just as entertaining attempting to stop others racing as it is to spend your time battling to finish ahead of the chasing pack.
Showdown offers a generous connected playing experience featuring split-screen multiplayer and eight player online racing. It also boasts on and offline quick-fire party games, and provides players with weekly challenges rewarding hotshot racers who score high on the leaderboards with in-game prizes.
Overall, DiRT Showdown is a thrilling package for those who prefer the adrenaline of off-road racing and destruction derby action over more realistic, pure rally simulations, and especially for those who like to play against friends and online rivals.
- Thrilling arcade racing, particularly online.
- Satisfying range of events.
- Brash, colourful and unapologetic.
- Single player options could be deeper.
- More tracks and arenas would be welcome.
- Simulation fans might want to wait for DiRT 4.