Release Date: 5/23/2012
Rating: Everyone 10+
For Fans Of: Demolition Derbies, Car Accidents, Pretty Looking Dirt
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The Good: Fast, fun, great visuals, satisfying feeling from smashing cars, lots of events
The Bad: Lag issues online, poor design choices, voice chat has issues, someone shut that announcer up!
Back in the golden age of the PS2, my brother and I would often go to our local games store to see what they had, and very rarely we would see something that simply by looking at the back of the case, we would go and buy it. One of these games was Driven to Destruction or Test Drive: Eve of Destruction in the US. This game was practically my childhood, whenever friends came over, this is the first thing we would play and was often the highlight of the night as we are all screaming as a bus comes out of nowhere and into the side of us. This was the last time that a decent derby game has existed, so when I saw that there was going to be a DiRT game built around this concept, let’s just say I was one excited little Australian. In reality, I had a lot of fun with this spinoff but was left a bit disappointed in the end.
First things first, The destruction races are intense. At first I thought that the unlicensed cars would ruin the game, but in reality, they made the game. Codemasters were able to do so much more with the destruction of these cars than they ever could with licensed cars, every hit felt like it counted and that you are really dishing out damage. The contact racers are fast paced and off the walls and crazy with a decent amount of catch up in place so the entire time you are crashing and smashing your way through your opponents and not just leaving them behind.
The visuals in DiRT Showdown are amazing with lights and colors everywhere, fireworks and pyrotechnics going off all around you while you race and a great sound track pumping in the background. The announcer also helps to set the mood for the game with his many corny one liners, but this gets tiring and you will hear them over and over again. This wouldn’t be so bad if you could just turn it off, but you can’t. Cars are now upgradable so once you buy a car you can then spend money on upping its power or handling and it is a nice touch that adds plenty of replayability.
Gymkhana events are back along with the Battersea complex and the new Yokohama Docks joyride area, and this time around there is way more to do in the joyride than before with much clearer goals. Another welcome addition is the Hoonigan Head 2 Head races, this is where two or more people compete in a small sprint tracks littered with tricks that need to be completed in a certain order. These events are frantic and are some of the better events in DiRTShowdown. Codemasters made Gymkhana events much easier in this spinoff, but that takes some of the fun out of it. In DiRT 3 I felt like I was some kind of god chaining together tricks but in this, it was too easy, all I needed to do was turn into a donut and hold down the accelerator, that’s it, no adjusting needed.
This isn’t the end of DiRT Showdown’s problems either. There is no speedometer, this may not seem like much, but it disguises the fact that cars have extremely fast acceleration and a very low top speed when in the first place, but due to the catch up you can sling past everyone if you spin out. The demolition events such as Knock Off and Rampage are fun, but they don’t have that same thrill that it did in Driven to Destruction. If you fall out or get too damaged, you just drive back in or respawn. Once you buy a car you instantly have all the liveries, this could have been a perfect chance to put in some kind of achievement system by wearing certain liveries would be like a trophy that you show your friends, like having gold guns in Call of Duty. Later I realized that there are no other single player races other than the ones found in the campaign, so you can’t set up large fifty lap races or one hour-long derby, and then there is multiplayer.
Multiplayer is forced down your throat the moment you start-up the game trying to get you to challenge friends or compete in the Racenet challenges, and these are fun for the most part. Sending challenges are as easy as completing a race and thinking, “‘Gee, I bet this guy isn’t quite as good as I am”, and clicking the send button. The Racenet challenges are also entertaining, but not to the same degree. Here is the issue with multiplayer, it is where all the fun is, but it is broken. You see, it has some serious connection issues. Codemasters are bad at fixing lag sync, so often they won’t let you connect to people outside your country. On top of this if you do get into a game with someone outside of our country, hitting them is like a brick wall, and you get no points for it, then at other random times, it will say that you scored a T-bone, when there was no one in sight. This only happens when you are in a game with someone, more often than not, it will put you into an empty lobby instead of connecting to someone else, and so you end up with 20 people in their own lobby and they assume no one is playing the game and the community dies off. On top of all this, the voice chat is awful, it will pick up some things well and other times during the same sentence have poor quality.
Overall, DiRT Showdown has done a lot of things wrong, but I am hoping that they learn from their mistakes and in a sequel make it much better and fix everything that was bad about this first title in this spinoff series. You will have a lot of fun smashing cars in this high-octane derby racer but expect some online issues.
The fourth DiRT game to come from Codemasters was out of left field. A rally racing simulator turned arcade demolition derby? The truth of the matter is that the game is solid and is a lot of fun with friends. The single player AI is frustrating and annoying, but after you finish these events for achievements you won’t come back to it. Mr. Axlevest seems to be pretty harsh on the game, so let me stamp out a few fires here. It’s the AI that makes it feel like you have low top speed. The game has a very fast sense of speed, but Codemasters chose to use the much hated “rubber-band AI”.
There are several events you can play such as 8-Ball which reminded me of Hot Wheels’ Criss-Cross-Crash track set from when I was a kid. There’s good ol’ demolition derbies and regular race-offs. There are no real-world cars available for these events, only in Gymkhana. I’m kind of torn with this event because I found it too difficult in DiRT 3 even with all the assists on. I find it much easier this time around, but the only event I really liked was an event where you how to smash down colored blocks in a certain order.
Other than that the game is standard DiRT affair. Beat the main event, play online, rinse and repeat until you race yourself to boredom. I found playing online a ton of fun, but after a while the novelty wears off and you get sick of the game after a while. If Codemasters put some other gameplay elements in here to deter that it wouldn’t be this way. From what we have DiRT: Showdown is an extremely fun arcade racer with gorgeous visuals, but don’t expect to stay for too long.