"Solid, pure and simple."
Platform(s): PS3 [reviewed], X360, PC
Release Date: May 25, 2012 (EU)
If there’s one thing a serious racing game needs, it’s to relax a bit more. DiRT Showdown is that chill frat party guy; always ready for a party, but oddly adept when needed. He’s not always just as welcome and some of his ideas are half-baked, but darn it, would you ever miss every second of him if he weren’t around.
This actually sums it up nicely.
Showdown is all about the party vibe, across several locales. Still, everywhere the caravan halts there are bright lights, fireworks and even sideline camera riggings to represent an authentic glamor event. Along with a hip announcer and equally trendy tunes, this game is for the young go-hards that are sick of snowboarding and want to add burned rubber and gasoline to their need for speed. Speaking of which, these environments can differ from just pavements to snowy hillsides or scorching deserts and muddy tracks, each with their own adapted feel and meteorological differences. As cars speed and slid through muddy fields, a hailstorm pounds directly into the screen or a blizzard fragments and obscures all but the nearest of sights and that adds a ton to the atmosphere. While this can pose a challenge, this is exactly how racing feels to the driver. There is no such thing as static rainfall; a car’s momentum drives this wall of liquid matter straight into view.
This makes driving such a joy as well, not because of a quirky fun factor per se, but more so because the added severity makes a victory all the more gratifying. In Showdown, a win is earned through finding the correct groove and making risky but calculated decisions. As an added bonus, the underground and attached vibration for controllers is probably the first ever to adequately portray the exact difference between soils. Seriously, turn up the vibration to maximum then switch between mud, snow and dirt; not one will feel similar. That is Showdown’s magnum opus: Driving now feels like actual driving in a peppy arcade game that doesn’t even need to go to that distance. The difference between tapping a direction, releasing gas momentarily, using breaks and so forth are instantly felt and that is commendable to say the least.
Snow is so much stupid fun. It shouldn't be, but it is.
Luckily, it shows its lighter side in its game modes. A standard race gets paired with bumping and grinding in classic destruction derby style. More so, other game modes include such a pit of death, where the goal is just to cause as much carnage as possible or knock people off the designated area. Not all modes are equally compelling, but those that are have high doses of adrenaline laced throughout them, given that any bump can derail the car’s rickety footing. In particular, lacking modes can be found in a confusing Domination mode that grants scores to arbitrary but intangible sections and a survival round where it’s not quite certain how or if success is possible. More so, some of these modes teeter between gripping challenge and frustrating trial and error, such as surviving an onslaught. One of these modes is the Hoonigan section that requires the franchise’s pinpoint precision along with speed and agility. Yes, it’s extremely satisfying to progress through these epitomes of racing bragging rights, but it also feels like a one-off shot given most require endless retries.
In order to alleviate the pain, players can use money earned from decent driving to purchase new unlocked vehicles or upgrade attained ones. Showdown has an extensive line of lesser and better cars, each with the appropriate change felt while driving. Any car is divided between strength, power and handling and that even feels enhanced by the car’s overall build. Additionally, progress towards bigger and better vehicles throughout the Showdown Tour has a steady and fair pace, leaving each car with a decent lifespan. Looking down on Showdown for its bumper car element would be foolish, as underneath roars the machine of a juiced up muscle car and that with massive content to boot.
Beyond just a campaign in different tiers filled with gnarly jumps, multiple events and altering gameplay, players can also enjoy some of the side attractions in this game. First off, a Challenge mode offers up a few open fields where the boasting elite of fast drifting cars can try their luck at completing all objectives and finding hidden packages.
More importantly though, DiRT Showdown has a sensible multiplayer mode for both local and online fun. If sending singleplayer challenges to friends that play the game isn’t possible, there’s a wide world of online players bumping it up. Additionally, competing also adds to a leveling system, unlocks more money and more items. Therefore, participating in an online event is already half the fun, but crushing opponents is even better. It even has team events where two colors take on each other and tally scores to determine a winner. Multiplayer also adds more party to the game with Capture the Flag locations and more to complete its good, clean fun.
It would be a grave error for racing fans to look down on DiRT Showdown because of a perhaps not ideal focus or a miniscule tarnish here or there. This game is solid, pure and simple, with tons of content, top of the line controls, alternating gameplay and a good multiplayer set to last for ages.