|System: PC, PS3, Xbox 360*|
|Dev: Codemasters Southam|
|Release: June 12, 2012|
|Players: 1-8 (Online)|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Mild Lyrics, Mild Violence|
by Adam Dodd
DiRT Showdown is a dramatic departure from what fans have come to expect from the series. It's turned away from a focus on racing other cars in a frantic dash for the finish line to instead focus on destruction, and lots of it. It's a change that takes the series more in the direction of the Burnout games rather than the more simulation-focused titles like Forza and Gran Turismo. This series has never been afraid to try new things to mix up the formula a bit, but there's a very good chance this new direction will alienate some gamers.
For starters, this is more of a derby-style racer than anything else. Where most racers focus on populating their arsenal with the most luxurious and exotic cars in the world, Showdown offers a decent selection of licensed cars, but the majority of its garage consists of vehicles created for this game. With spectacle and destruction taking the spotlight and a group of unreal cars, it almost sounds as if Showdown is aiming for full-on over-the-top derby destruction. If that was the game's goal, it failed, more or less.
This game sits in the middle of sim racing and arcadey racing, with Forza and Gran Turismo on one end and Blur and Split/Second on the other. Obviously, you don't have guns or any other offensive capabilities on your car; instead you'll have to defeat your opponents by ramming them repeatedly with your vehicle, slamming them into other cars or into objects on the track.
This keeps the races from being as exciting as they could've been. The derby style is something that could've worked, but not in the modes that are available here. Instead of a King of the Hill mode you'd expect from a game like this, you're relegated to some modes that feel as if they were taken out of another game and modified a little to fit in here.
The available modes are divided into four categories: Racing, Demolition, Hoonigan, and Party. Racing is what it sounds like and includes the Race-Off mode, where eight cars race in a circuit peppered with jumps, barricades, and assorted other obstacles. Domination is arguably the most entertaining mode in this category, as it divides the map into four areas with players winning points depending on how they perform in each sector. The third mode is Elimination, and it's like Race-Off only with a timer that's on a cycle. Every time the timer reaches zero the car that's in last place gets eliminated. If you absolutely have to get your racing fix, these are totally an option, but they certainly aren't the reason to get this game. However, the next two categories are.
Demolition has four modes: Rampage, Knock Out, Hard Target, and 8-Ball. This is where things get a little more creative. In Rampage, eight cars duke it out in an arena with each player getting points for crashing into and/or destroying other cars. Knock Out tweaks Rampage a bit by raising the arena and rewarding bonus points for those who push their opponents off the platform. Hard Target pits all against a single car where the driver who survives the longest wins. The final mode, 8-Ball, is like Race-Off, only the circuits are littered with crossovers and intersections that give you the chance to get up close and personal with your opponents.
These modes certainly aren't as creative as they could've been, and there are minor quips to be had with each one, but overall they're pretty fun. My only major gripe with the Demolition modes, specifically the ones that have you crashing into other cars in an arena, is that there just aren't enough players in the games. Eight cars isn't enough to keep these modes interesting, especially since a startling majority of the time I invested in the two modes was spent searching for a target.
Hoonigan is a little different, and it really just feels like a challenge mode. In it are the Trick Rush, Head 2 Head, and Smash Hunter modes. Trick Rush has you completing tricks for points, Head 2 Head pits two drivers against each other as they try to out-trick each other, and Smash Hunter has you running down colored bricks as quickly as possible. None of these are very likely to add much to the overall experience unless you feel you need to hone your skills in a 1-on-1 match or test your reaction speed in the Smash Hunter mode. Special tracks with extra destructible objects, obstacles, ramps, and whatnot would've been a welcome addition to the trick-centric modes.
There's a bevy of racing modes that can be played online with up to eight players in the final category. Party is made up of three modes and is only available online: Smash & Grab, Transporter, and Speed Skirmish. These might also be my favorites. Smash & Grab has two teams racing to nab the other's loot and the only way to get the loot back is by ramming the opponent that has it. Transporter is a glorified Capture the Flag mode that's easily the weakest mode of the bunch, and Speed Skirmish has you driving through six checkpoints (in any order) to win. The multiplayer modes are a little more chaotic, and for the most part the modes offered here are immensely entertaining.