For some reason people think that the soon to be released (in fact, released today in the UK) DiRT: Showdown is a downloadable title. It isn’t. You get the game, for the time being at least, by parting cold hard cash with your retailer of choice. In return you’re presented with a box containing a disc. You put this in your console or PC and play the game. Could I be any clearer? This is definitely not DLC or an XBLA or PSN title. Also it’s pretty bloody great.
“Presentation, presentation, presentation”; this was the opening gambit of the development meeting over at Codemasters that I just made up in my head. Well, Codemasters have taken this mantra, and boy have they delivered. From the moment you switch on your console you’re presented with what is fundamentally a polished product. Everything from the soundtrack to the social media inspired menu system feels carefully considered and pleases as a result.
“Fun, but the modes have to be varied too”, was the second statement in this imaginary development kick off. Once again this imagined mantra has been pretty much fully realised. The sheer amount of different modes means that as you play through the single player campaign – or tour, as it is affectionately known – there’s not even a hint of monotony. Game modes are split across three distinct styles; racing, destruction and Hoonigan, each with variations in terms of location, vehicle type and even the mode itself, available as you progress.
Despite this massive amount of variation, sitting down to a session of DiRT: Showdown is about as intuitive as it can get. With the slight exception of a survival mode that I briefly mistook to be the same as general destruction, you can get the gist of what is needed in each race within a few seconds of the track loading. This is a major feather in Codemaster’s cap as they’ve managed this without laboured tutorials or condescending voiceovers.
As an arcade racer, you can expect car handling to be somewhat forgiving. That’s certainly the case here, as you can fairly easily throw vehicles around corners with a satisfying drift and slide. Different vehicle types handle differently (duh), which adds a tactical element as you consider which car in your repertoire would be most effective on any given track.
There are a few modes missing from the single player offering when you move online. It’s clear that these omissions have been carefully considered (see my interview with Mike Chapman – racers would’ve had to have waited far too long in lobbies if they’d included elimination mode for example), and doesn’t really impact the variation of modes available.
As with any online game (and I’m not sure whether this is a personal preference – for the sake of brevity I will state it as fact), the online offering of the game is best enjoyed with a group of friends. Get together for a lengthy session and there’s enough here to have you screaming over chat as you’re pipped at the post by that friend you never really liked anyway. Yes, he managed to make you spin out at the finish line. Yes, it was frustrating as hell. But my word, as soon as the next track loads you shall have your revenge.
If you’re more of a solitary type, preferring your racers to not even include opponents, there is a mode for you too! Joyride allows you to race around Battersea Powerstation, made famous by yours truly jumping from the top for a marketing video, and Yokohama Docks. There are 75 driving challenges for each, with a number of hidden packages to collect whilst you do it. One minor gripe with this is in terms of the announcer: he gleefully told me the unlock upon completion would be worth it. What I ended up with (admittedly I haven’t quite finished Yokohama), is an extra livery. A new car would have been nice, that’s all I’m saying…
Advancement in the game is achieved through the earning of money in order to upgrade your vehicles or even buy new ones. With three upgradable stats to choose from (Power, Strength and Handling) and a number of different upgrades available that escalate in price as you advance, this is a great way to aid your progression. One minor flaw in the monetary system is that there is a maximum earning potential for each event in single player (once you’ve achieved first, replaying will not earn you any more money). Winning online also earns a disproportionately high amount of cash, especially when compared to the first few sections of the single player.
Similar to Need for Speed’s Autolog, DiRT: Showdown encourages friendly competition against your friends. This ‘friendly’ competitive element has had me continually racing the same few tracks as I work to smash the times of a fellow reviewer (hello Lee from thegamejar if you’re reading ). If you’re the kind of person that will take glee in besting the times set by your friends, this will have you coming back time and again.
Review Round Up
Graphics: 4.5/5 - Lively scenery, believable yet outlandish destruction of vehicles, generally beautiful.
Sound: 4/5 - Works well with the festival feel of the presentation. As with any soundtrack, if the genre isn’t your particular cup of tea, knock a point off.
Gameplay: 4/5 - Handling larger vehicles can feel a little like steering a tank rather than a car. Serious brownie points for the level of variation.
Longevity: 3/5 - There’s plenty here to keep you entertained, my only concern is that the gameplay isn’t compelling enough to keep people playing in a month or two’s time.
Overall: 4 smashed up ol’ bangers out of 5.
Take a few friends with you to the shop and each buy a copy. This is a truly worthy achievement in a genre that was in danger of becoming a one horse race. Need for Speed will have to up its game to compete with Showdown!
- Tom Wallis