– Scott Ellison
Our Score: 5 / 5 – Incredible
DiRT 2, which was heavily criticized for having an extreme, Mountain Dew-fueled focused game that broke away from the rally feel was then toned back down for DiRT 3. In DiRT Showdown, we’re seeing a departure in the traditional Colin McRae/DiRT series, going for a festival theme focused on fun, mayhem, and destruction. This isn’t all bad. Codemasters isn’t making a rally game this time, with the lack of a number in the title, it implies this is an experiment for the franchise and potentially it’s own series.
Included in DiRT Showdown, as you’ll be immediately presented with, is RaceNet – a system developed by Codemasters to track data about your racing on their website. By joining this, you unlock special liveries and can take part in special events that help earn you XP, as well. It’s not required, but I’d suggest signing up anyhow.
The career structure is similar to the games of the past, starting on the lowest tier and working your way up as you level up. There are four tiers: PRO, ALL-STAR, CHAMPION, and LEGEND. In each area, twelve events await you capped off by a thirteenth final event that moves you onto the next tier. This time though, unlike DiRT 3, you are earning money to spend on cars and upgrades. Cars can be upgraded along 3 types: Strength, Power, and Handling. Each section has its own cost and quickly adds up, so you’ll often have to choosen between buying a new car or upgrading a car. The line-up of cars is a mix of man-made cars and real-life cars.
Perhaps you’ll want to try Joyride, the new name of the Gymkhana mode in which you performed specific stunts on specific objects and search for hidden items. It is an optional, side area if you want to hoon around with some rally cars without restrictions. The game features the original Gymkhana location, the DC Compound in Battersea from DiRT 3 but is updated with new visuals/time of day and new objectives – but will feel eerily similar to the last game. Luckily, there’s a new, larger location to find hidden items and perform stunts, Yokohama Docks. Which is actually lifted from GRiD as one of the drift areas.
In place of a tachometer and speedometer, is now Health and Boost meters. The speed in which you’re going is not needed to be known during the event types of DiRT Showdown. Health is broken up into 3 bars and in any situation, a completely destroyed car does not mean the end of a race. You simply respawn onto the track with some time impediments. Boost is at full when you start a race and can be burned pretty quickly. It can be recharged by speeding, slamming vehicles, incapacitating vehicles and taking large jumps. It doesn’t recharge all on its own, but by navigating the track it’ll fill up quicker than you think. For some reason, cockpits are completely removed from the game, only a hood cam and a chase camera are included into the game, a mild disappointment but helps accentuate that this game is more about arcade fun than simulation.
Multiplayer, as with past games is a huge part of the experience. This time, is a lot more exciting as now you’re encourage to smash and crash your way to victory. Modes and playlists include Demolition, Hoonigan, Racing, and Party. There’s a separate levelling system in place, as with prior DiRTs. A new addition to multiplayer is the ability to run Challenges, where you can take your times and challenge your friends to beat them, should they fail you earn some cash and begin a tally of who’s bested who.
Unfortunately some of the areas you visit during the campaign are repurposed tracks from DiRT 3: Michigan, Battersea, Colorado, and Los Angeles. New locales go to Nevada, Yokohama, Miami, and San Francisco and bring something fresh. A great amount of lighting sets the time of day for most of these races at sunset, which is highly unlikely but is the most visually pleasing. Colors in DiRT Showdown absolutely pop and visually dazzle you at every turn. If playing on PC, graphics all maxed out running on DX11 is stunning on even mid-level rigs.
A Codemasters game wouldn’t be anything if we didn’t talk about soundtrack. The musical selection is a mix between rock and dubstep, which perfectly compliments the atmosphere and feel of the game without feeling like a mismatch. Sounds are heavy and have a crunch to them as you bend metal from one car to the next.
Codemasters experimented with a new type of DiRT game, while it mostly succeeded – there are some issues with using the DiRT name when it doesn’t resemble much of the authentic racing of rally and rallycross events of the past. Now opting for a more exciting, and crash-heavy racing game that is tons of fun solo or with your friends in a party and strangers alike.
Retails for: $49.99, recommended purchase price: $49.99
A Steam (PC) code for the game was provided by Codemasters for Review purposes