last few racing games, Codemasters have found a happy medium between
realism and accessibility. The recent Dirt and F1 titles
were easy to pick up, but were still authentic enough to make you feel
like a professional lead-foot.
Be wary of
Dirt: Showdown then, if you like your racers with a simulation
bent; This time the focus is squarely on arcade racing, with a strong
emphasis on multiplayer.
practically begs you to connect to Xbox live and redeem the special code
that comes with the game. Activating the code allows you to compete in
online multiplayer events, post race videos to YouTube and send
challenges to people on your friends list, daring them to match your
the slew of multiplayer options, there is a
mode which lets you tear around in one of the Gymkhana cars so that you
can hone your skills and hunt for collectibles. But the real meat and
bones of the experience is the
which is the games
in Dirt 3, the campaign is divided into progressively harder
Getting through each one means choosing individual events to compete in.
These events are divided into three main disciplines: Races, destruction
derby/stock car racing, and Hoonigan, which is basically the Gymkhana
mode from Dirt 3.
discipline has its own roster of cars, which you can purchase or upgrade
using your winnings. To spice things up, disciplines are further divided
into sub-types that will add extra rules, or otherwise change the
dynamic of an event. For example,
alters a vanilla race meet so that the car in last place is knocked out
after every 20 seconds.
is a destruction derby in which everyone is gunning for you, and the
object is to survive for as long as possible. Youve
likely played most of these scenarios before in games like Burnout
or (if youre
old enough to remember it) Destruction Derby, but they do a good
job at keeping the racing fresh and interesting.
Gymkhana bits seem like an odd inclusion, because theyre
all about precise, finicky driving while the rest of the game is about
bashing and boosting your way to victory. It almost feels as if the
developers have run out of ideas for content, and have thrown in some
old stuff from Dirt 3 to pad things out. Gymkhana is also the
only place youll
see any licensed vehicles, as the rest are imitations of real-world
talk about the racing itself: The controls are as simple as they are
satisfying. In addition to the standard controls youve
got a boost meter, which can be replenished by pummelling other
vehicles. A good boosting strategy is crucial to success in this game.
Braking, however, is optional. Enemy traffic actually boosts around
tight corners, and youll
learn to as well. As an elderly green alien once said to a whiny farm
boy from Tattooine, you must unlearn what you
as far as rally game experience goes.
from Dirt 3 has been stripped down and simplified. Youre
restricted to a choice of 2 cameras: over-the-bonnet or chase cam. Chase
cam is the only viable option here; otherwise youll
continually be pole-axed and you wont
ever know who hit you.
modular damage system from Codemasters
other games is gone, having been replaced by a health bar. Its
a very simple mechanic, and it feels archaic for a game in 2012.
physical damage model is still fantastic. The shell of your car will
deform realistically from every kind of impact; doors and bonnets will
fly off, and after a long race wreckage will litter the track. As well
as falling to pieces, cars will become caked in mud or snow. Tyres leave
deep ruts in the mud after a power slide, just one example of the
attention to detail weve
come to expect from the series.
is best enjoyed on higher difficulty settings, where the AI will give
you a decent run for your money. The other cars tend to stick together
in packs, meaning that one slip-up will likely dump you from 1st
to 8th in a heartbeat.
department is something of a mixed bag. Engines have that perfect angry
twang to them, but collisions are unsatisfying, and lack the
in the guts
quality that they need. The games
soundtrack gets really old, really quick, and so does the commentators
thing about this game, by far, is the stock car/destruction derby
discipline. Jumping in a POS sedan and sliding around a figure-8 track,
causing complete chaos, is up there with some of the most fun things the
series has let us do. With your health bar flashing red, youll
boost through every intersection with your knuckles white on your
controller. When playing with friends, opportunities abound to act like
a complete jerk- which, lets
face it, is what multiplayer racing is all about.
things fall down when youre
playing in the other disciplines. The pure racing sections are hindered
by boring track design. And whats
Gymkhana all about? Driving a Ford Fiesta through some Styrofoam
hardly the pinnacle of console gaming.
best, Showdown evokes some of the greater moments from games like
Destruction Derby or Flat Out. At its
worst, it feels like an imitation of one of the lesser Need For Speed
a decent arcade racer that could have been made great with a tighter
focus on the good stuff.