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Dirt Showdown 360 Review - -
Dirt Showdown
Reviewed by
Andrew Proverbs
Dirt Showdown 360 Review. At it’s best, Showdown evokes some of the greater moments from games like Destruction Derby or Flat Out.

Gameplay 7.5
Graphics 8.0
Sound 7.5
Value 7.0
Distributor: Namco Bandai
Review Date:
May 2012
Andrew Proverbs


DiRT Showdown 

With their 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.

Showdown 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 achievements.

Apart from the slew of multiplayer options, there is a ‘Joyride’ 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 ‘Showdown tour,’ which is the game’s career mode. 

Just like in Dirt 3, the campaign is divided into progressively harder ‘seasons.’ 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

Each 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, ‘Eliminator’ alters a vanilla race meet so that the car in last place is knocked out after every 20 seconds. ‘Hard target’ is a destruction derby in which everyone is gunning for you, and the object is to survive for as long as possible. You’ve likely played most of these scenarios before in games like Burnout or (if you’re old enough to remember it) Destruction Derby, but they do a good job at keeping the racing fresh and interesting. 

The Gymkhana bits seem like an odd inclusion, because they’re 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 you’ll see any licensed vehicles, as the rest are imitations of real-world cars. 

But let’s talk about the racing itself: The controls are as simple as they are satisfying. In addition to the standard controls you’ve 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 you’ll learn to as well. As an elderly green alien once said to a whiny farm boy from Tattooine, ‘you must unlearn what you have learned’ as far as rally game experience goes.

Everything from Dirt 3 has been stripped down and simplified. You’re restricted to a choice of 2 cameras: over-the-bonnet or chase cam. Chase cam is the only viable option here; otherwise you’ll continually be pole-axed and you won’t ever know who hit you. 

The modular damage system from Codemasters’ other games is gone, having been replaced by a health bar. It’s a very simple mechanic, and it feels archaic for a game in 2012. 

But the 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 we’ve come to expect from the series. 

The game 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.

The sound department is something of a mixed bag. Engines have that perfect angry twang to them, but collisions are unsatisfying, and lack the ’punch in the guts’ quality that they need. The game’s soundtrack gets really old, really quick, and so does the commentator’s oh-so-annoying voice. 

The best 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, you’ll boost through every intersection with your knuckles white on your controller. When playing with friends, opportunities abound to act like a complete jerk- which, let’s face it, is what multiplayer racing is all about. 

Sadly, things fall down when you’re playing in the other disciplines. The pure racing sections are hindered by boring track design. And what‘s Gymkhana all about? Driving a Ford Fiesta through some Styrofoam… hardly the pinnacle of console gaming. 

Closing comments: 

At it’s best, Showdown evokes some of the greater moments from games like Destruction Derby or Flat Out. At it’s worst, it feels like an imitation of one of the lesser Need For Speed titles. It’s a decent arcade racer that could have been made great with a tighter focus on the good stuff.


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