DiRT Showdown Review (Xbox 360)
The DiRT franchise gets better with each iteration. But with DiRT Showdown, Codemasters is taking the series in a way more arcade-like direction. Carnage is the name of the game now. While we miss the rally races, what's included here, is yet another fine game from one of the best developers around.
When compared to other games in the series, racing takes a backseat in DiRT Showdown; destruction actually takes the driving seat. First off, the racing line that lets you know when to hit the brake, is now gone. With what the game is mainly revolved around, that being absent makes sense.
Racing still plays a part in the game with Race Off, 8 Ball and other events, but it's not as vital to the core gameplay. Even in 8 ball, it's a car bloodbath with drivers hitting each other coming out of turns. Speaking of the core gameplay, now there are only three difficulties to choose from: casual, intermediate and hardcore. These difficulties do not affect assists. In fact, there are no more driving assists. The difficulty is to simply tell the game how difficult and aggressive you want the A.I. to be.
Your car's health plays a much bigger factor this time around, with it even getting it's own health bar in the lower right corner (replacing the speedometer). If you're health meter happens to run out during the course of a race, you are wrecked and it will immediately end. If you are in the destruction derby events, though, you will respawn. Cars' handling feel a lot more stable now, but that might be due to the fact that you can now upgrade that on each individual car. Sliding around corners seems a lot less likely now, and you can definitely tell the game was made for a more casual audience.
Just like with past games in the series, the A.I. are both brutal and sometimes annoying. They are not as overly aggressive as they were in previous games, but there are times they will simply try to drive through you during race events. In rampage and knock out events, it seems as though the A.I. will make a beeline towards you instead of going after the other A.I. opponents. There are also occasions where you get stuck to the side of a wall or an A.I. driver for a few seconds, which can become irritating. That irritating feeling can suddenly come to a screeching hault due to the fact that you can spin out the A.I. easily; almost a little too easy. Being able to deliver a payback pit maneuver can not only end your frustration towards the sometimes annoying A.I., but it an also help you win the race.
Just like the racing line, rewinds are also gone in every event type but Trick Rush. While rewinds are gone in pure race events, you can view some of the insane, over-the-top crashes that occur with the new Crashback replay. Hitting "RB" or "R1" allows you to do this, and it makes those collisions a lot more brutal.
Baja, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Miami and San Francisco are just a few of the locales you'll be visiting throughout your time with the game. Baja is a series favorite and easily recognizable for almost everyone who has played a game in the franchise. Some of the other locations have been included before, but there are new tracks associated with each new city, not just arenas for the new modes. It does seem like you're driving more on asphalt this time around. You obviously drive on dirt throughout the game, but not as often as some DiRT fans might like. New cities and track are great, but most areas will have you race on a track and then the very next race it will be the same path, just in reverse. It would have been nice to have a few more options instead of the same track in the opposite direction. The upside, however, is that the new rampage and knock out modes feature brand new arenas. From dust bowls, to raised platforms, each arena is unique and makes for some chaotic fun. Licensed cars from Mitsubishi, Ford, and other manufacturers are still included, but they are not used in the destruction events. Instead fictional cars are used, which means more damage can be dealt to each car in said events. This also makes it so there are more car choices to choose from, and that's never a bad thing.
Showdown Tour: The main single player mode where you will be spending the majority of your time is very similar to the single player in DiRT 3, albeit with different race types. Instead of rally races you have more arcade modes like 8 ball, Knock Out, Hard Target and Rampage. All of these modes require you to take out your opponent instead of beating them to the finish line, with the exception of hard target, which just requires you to survive for as long as you can. These new modes add some variety to the franchise, and head-to-head, eliminator and domination modes all make a return.
Pro, All-Star, Champion and Legend are the four tiers in the Showdown Tour; with each taking more time to complete than the last. Each tier has 13 events, but the difficulty and amount of rounds per event ramps up the higher you go up the ladder.
Gymkhana returns, but it is now called Trick Rush. That event is rare in the Showdown Tour, although it's still just as fun to play online. Smash hunter has you driving around trying to hit different colored foam smash gates. Being that it is the most simple event to play, it is also the least fun, as it takes away from the outright from the rest of the game.
You can also send and receive challenges from friends. You can try to beat their score in rampage mode, or their time in a head-2-head event. This is nothing new in the racing genre, but it's always nice to be able to have a 1UP on your friend(s). These challenges can help you, as beating a friend will help you earn money. This money can be used to help purchase new cars or upgrade cars already in your garage. Joyride also returns, which allows you to drive around the Battersea Compound and Yokohama Docks while drifting, performing donuts, collecting DiRT badges, and landing some insane jumps. For fans of DiRT 3, joyride won't be anything new.
Every mode that you play in single player can be played online against friends or random opponents. Even with the not-so-difficult single player, the new destruction modes are made for online play. Being able to T-Bone your friend in an online rampage event, or knocking said friend off the platform in a knock out event, will always brings a smile to your face. Smash and Grab is the one mode that is not featured in single player but can be played online. The goal is to obtain the "loot" and not get hit. The person who keeps the loot the longest wins. It's essentially keep away with cars. It's a frantic, enjoyable game mode, but not as enjoyable as rampage or knock out.
The aforementioned Rampage mode is the mode most people will enjoy the most online, but in the team based playlists, it can get frustrating with you having to avoid your teammates when you've gotten used to hitting every car you see.
Besides the new game modes, the online is almost the same as DiRT 3. You can party up with people, rank up, go into Joyride mode or go into solo/team modes. Even though the wrapper behind the online multiplayer stays the same, the new event types are enough of an addition to make the multiplayer that much better.
Codemasters has a list of solid racing titles, and DiRT Showdown absolutely adds its name to said list. Racing is still included, but as previously mentioned, it's not as important as it was in the past. Although it's not the same game most of us are used to, it's nice that Codemasters can step out of their rally racing shoes and make a competent, pleasurable destruction derby game.
Learning Curve: Unlike past DiRT games, there is little to no learning curve. Even with the absence of the racing line, it should be easy for a casual gamer of the genre to pick up and enjoy the game.
Control Scheme: The only main difference this time around is the ability to boost, which can be done by pressing "X" on the PS3 controller and "A" on the 360 controller. Besides that, it's just your typical racing control scheme.
Visuals: DiRT 3 was a damn good looking game — and although DiRT Showdown looks very similar in some aspects — it is a lot more vibrant in some areas. Each city backdrop looks improved, and driving through Tokyo at night is amazing to look at. Dirt, snow, and mud all stick to the car when driving, and although nasty, looks great. The ESPN branding returns, but it is a lot more subtle this time around (no more X Games). Not to forget the car damage model is definitely improved due to the new destruction game modes.
Audio: Cars ramming into each other sound great, and the sounds of the car engines sound equally as good. The soundtrack can get on your nerves at times, though, with some European pop and dubstep that does not sound all that great. The announcer, who has been in the past three games, is still a nuisance.
Customization: Dozens upon dozens of liveries (paint schemes) to add to each car, not to mention you can upgrade each vehicle's power, strength, and handling now.
Value: This makes for the second DiRT game to release in the last two years, and although some might be skeptical of what is included, it is worth the price of admission. Even with a shorter career mode when compared to 2 or 3, it will still take around 9-11 hours to complete every event — even longer if you want to come in first place in every one.
Score: 7 (Good)