Putting the ‘Car’ in ‘Kinda Carnage-ish’
In this era of videogames, it seems that the lines between ‘Car love’ and ‘Car hate’ are blurring title by title. Yes, vehicles are usually encouraged to meet head on in an act of sexually frustrated bonnet to bonnet snogging, but it usually ends up with both romantically entangled together with a couple of newly deceased gooseberry’s tagging along awkwardly inside one another. DiRT Showdown focuses less on the bonking and bumping foreplay of races sneaky players might have utilised in previous titles, and turns its attentions more to full on contact with total strangers. Those who have destroyed the DiRT series with blistering velocity and ragtag shenanigans rather than patience and actual skill will probably find Showdown right up your street. Straight from the offset, cars smash, bash and kapow into each other even in the main menu screens. This time around, you won’t simply be battering opponents to the side of the road in a bid to cross the finish line first, but be pitched in several head-to-head deathmatches where the overall objective is to simply pummel vehicles to a horrid mechanical pulp. Everything Showdown throws your way is sheer mindless fun, but it only takes a few minutes to realise that the game has sacrificed a lot of intelligence to achieve what it has done. Naturally races make a return, but car stats have weirdly stripped away top speed and acceleration, emphasising power, endurance and rather inefficient handling aspects instead. You’re encouraged to switch cars for each event you take part in, but should you be driving a standard rally car or a jeep, it doesn’t feel like it matters as every car feels like it drives the same way. The addition of boost sounds like it would give you a competitive edge over everything, but only really comes in handy if you need to give the opposition a little more oomph into a brick wall. I never actually found myself using it to advance in a race, and even if I tried to use it to further my lead, it never actually seemed to matter. The heavy emphasis on close quarters bonnet bonking means that you’re never too far from an opponent. Yes, it’s tense to think that a foe can spin you out suddenly, but no matter how well you drive, a human centipede of cars always develops, and this will only really effect you if you screw up in a huge way. I never truly felt that I was in any danger, and every time I tried to use some dirty tactics like hindering someone by smashing into their rear, I was often punished by unexpectedly spinning out and left to stagnate alongside them.
Dipped its toes into a more varied set of events for the inevitable Dirt 4
When destruction events pipe up and make themselves heard, they’re a barrel of laughs to start off with. ‘Rampages’ are sheer destructive blitzes, forcing you to wreck opponents by hurtling yourself into them. It’s fun, but it soon grates when you realise it has all been done before in more manic and entertaining ways. ‘Knock Out’ matches act as car sumo, forcing you to knock opponents out of a ring, and have a greater sense of danger about them as flooring it straight into an opponent will usually cause you to fly over them yourself. Alas, these aren’t as heavily focused on as the all out deathmatches, and that’s a shame as these focus on a point and time system rather than ‘last man standing’ rules. Showdown screams a heavy emphasis on demolishing your opponents that never really completely satisfies your psychotic oil-lust, and the clunkiness of getting into a ho-down with opponents plus no major consequence should you get demolished yourself makes each wreckathon a rather dull free-for-all. Games like this thrive on unpredictability, and some events do cater to this. ‘8-Ball’ race-tracks are pure beasts to traverse, tiny battlegrounds that are practically nothing but sickening turns and deadly crossroads that flirt with danger at each corner, begging unwelcome side bashes and infuriatingly fair off-track pummelling. Occasionally you’ll be separated from friends and enemies and forced to play by yourself as DiRT 3’s ‘Gymkhana’ tracks return, and it’s still as fun as ever to drift through point building blocks and bake some skid-mark donuts. The issue I have with these is, as you progress further and further into the career, these events become few and far between, and towards the end it feels like all the races merge together into one big car conga marathon. DiRT Showdown is determined to make me feel like an idiot for even daring to mention single player. It’s rather difficult to leap into the game with the sheer amount of pop-ups and reminders you receive at the beginning. Firing it up leads to you having to relinquish details like you’re going through an electronic strip-search. Got a Youtube account and it’ll plead for your details in exchange for showing off your greatest wins over the interwebz. Pass that hurdle of paperwork and you’ll be persuaded to join Codemaster’s take on EA’s Autolog system, ‘Racenet’, a feature that seems more dependent on Codie’s collective of racing titles rather than Showdown by itself. These aren’t all necessary to participate in online events, but you will be reminded EVERY time you start the game that these options are available in a bid to make you cave in. Tear through it all and dip into online and you’ll find what you’re looking for from DiRT Showdown. The pandering A.I. is obviously extinct and you find that players take no prisoners in both destructive events and races. It doesn’t eradicate the core flaws of the game, but if the simplicity doesn’t bother you, the real meat of DiRT Showdown is found online. It’s certainly the better way to play, and although there isn’t a phenomenal community now, hopefully Codie’s collective game ranking ‘Racenet’ system will be able to attract a strong collection of racing fans when new titles come out. DiRT: Showdown isn’t a massively comprehensive racer, but one of those sequels that feels more like a 0.5 addition to the series. Its vehicle vandalising gameplay is simple and fun enough to get stuck into, but doesn’t hit it entirely out of the park compared to other smash-’em-ups that have blitzed all arcade competition in recent years. The whole game acts as a double edged sword onto itself, retaining enough peppy charms to not stray far away from the formula, but dulls down so many elements that there’s barely any satisfaction in succeeding. It’s successfully dipped its toes into a more varied set of events for the inevitable Dirt 4 but that certainly doesn’t warrant a full retail release. Happy-go-lucky fans of the franchise’s peppy attitude and gritty polish will certainly see this an alright diversion for the series. The dedicated will find DiRT Showdown a fun package from the outset, but will open it up to find there really isn’t much under the hood. And those who haven’t played any DiRT game will probably be better off shelling out on a copy of DiRT 3 and rooting around the attic for a dust encrusted copy of Destruction Derby.
The Bad: Career mode is a predictable trundle w
ith little to no remarkable moments, Dumbed down controls mean there’s little satisfaction in winning races, Car destruction has been done before in more entertaining ways