DiRT Showdown PC Review

Peter Donnell / 8 years ago

This week I’ve been playing through DiRT Showdown, the latest racing gaming in the DiRT franchise from Codemasters.  Codemasters are well known for their racing games, with many great racing titles already firmly under their belt over many formats and several console generations, from the legendary TOCA series, Grid, F1, Colin McRae and of course DiRT, so I had really high hopes for this game from the start.

DiRT Showdown is a massive departure from the previous titles in the DiRT series and is a far cry from the simulated rally action of their last game; DiRT 3, a game which got a lot of love and praise from racing fans around the world.

This time around Codemasters are favouring a very basic arcade style handling system, gone are the technically challenging uses of brakes, gears and weight distribution through corners, in fact the game doesn’t even have a speedometer! signifying just how departed this title is from the simulation aspect of their previous titles.

If I’m honest their new handing system makes the game feel like you’re racing on rails, almost every aspect of the driving experience is dumbed down to a very simple set of steering and racing physics.

Thats not to say the racing is not enjoyable, far from it, but since I’m a fan of technically challenging racing simulations I was somewhat disappointed to realise there really isn’t much in the way of skill required to master the driving in this title, but that also means that just about anyone with a  pair of hands can pick up the game and get straight into the action, pros and cons in the boldest definition right there.  The handing of the cars is not unlike that from most arcade racers, falling somewhere between the Need for Speed and Burnout games.

The first thing you really notice about DiRT showdown though has to be its graphics, this game has so much polish on it that it litterally shines out at you. There are more lighting features and reflections going on in this game than there are polygons and textures, with full DirectX 11 support, great use of lighting (see excessive), stunning backdrops and well detailed cars really help to make this game stand out.

I’m running the game on a GTX 460 and even though the game recommends a GTX 560, I was able to max out every aspect of the game without the frame rate dropping below 30-35fps, which I’ll take as an indication that the game is running on a really solid engine, which it should be since Codemasters have been making racing titles since before half of their fan base were even born.

Even with all the spectacular light and graphics features, it a shame that the races tend to feel a bit similar, while there are a few great locations in the game they serve as little more than a backdrop to some fairly basic track layouts.  While the games tracks are littered extensively with ramps, obsticles, pyrotechnics and for reasons I can’t quite figure out stacks of tires that cross the track for you to smash through, none of it really makes any difference to the actual gameplay.

Unlike DiRT 3, Showdown doesn’t focus on your typical timed section point-to-point rallying, in fact there is none of that what so ever, instead the game focuses on three main disciplines, Racing, Demolition and Gymkhana.

Each of the disciplines has 3 sub disciplines, for example with racing you have race off, a simple 8 car circuit race, 8 ball which is the same but the track features cross over points that set you up for some devastating crashes and dominator, the best of the three in my opinion and the only nod towards time rallying you’ll find in the game, sill an 8 car curcuit race, but you earn points by clocking the fastest times over 4 sections of the track, set the best times for each section over the course of a race to win.

Demolition is a lot of fun, yet still manages to be a big disappointment, while its arenas are well designed and offer up a lot of carnage, its let down by the scoring system.  In Destruction made races having your car destroyed just means you re-spawn and keep going, with all the events going on points alone rather than last man standing you don’t feel compelled in any way to stay competitive, meaning you may as well just go for head-on collisions every time, you essentially can’t fail this event.

Gymkhana is by far the most fun mode in the games career, with modes like trick rush, head 2 head and gate hunter offering some real action, but again let down by the dumbed down controls, with technical manoeuvres like drifting and doughnuts requiring little more than full throttle and holding the stick 100% left or right and the game seems to take care of the rest, like I said, it feels like your racing on rails some times.

While the game does feature an online multiplayer mode, it lacks original content, featuring the same courses, events and handling as the main events, so while it does offer a way to play against your friends or extend your gameplay you just feel like your retracing your steps.

Music is a great feature in this game, with a stunning sound track from a whole host of rock bands and even the default dub step tracks that have started a love affair with games developers, this is only let down by the games announcer, an illiterate “dude” who sounds like a cheap imitation of something you’ll hear at any X-Games event, with Codemasters letting you control all the separate volume levels in the game it baffles me why you can only turn this idiots voice down to 50% meaning you’re forced to listen to him butcher the English language, over and over again.

The last thing I want to talk about is the Joyride mode, which offers up a mix of challenges from the various modes in a more open environment.  Joyride is an absolute blast and is not unlike the famous YouTube practice runs done by Ken Block, giving you chance to drive around a few warehouses at crazy speeds performing things like drifts, jumps, breaking obstacles and more, this is what the game should have focused on more in my opinion, open environment technical driving, but instead it feels like Codemasters have tagged it onto the game as an after thought, which is such a shame as the mode has a lot of pottential.

So overall then I sound fairly disapointed about this game, which in a way I am, but this is mostly in part to my high expectations for this title, it could have been so much more and a real contender after DiRT 3, but they have distanced it so far from the previous titles that it shouldn’t really have the word “DiRT” in its title.

They have on the other hand, created one of the most fun and most accessible arcade racers available today, not to mention one of the best looking racing games currently available.  I have enjoyed playing the game and it can be a lot of fun, but because of its shallow control scheme and repetitive tracks it just misses out on an eTeknix award, but if accessible and fast paced arcade racing is your thing and you couldn’t wrap your head around DiRT 3, then you won’t be disappointed by Showdown.

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