Dirt Showdown Review
There are of course a couple of exceptions to the smash-em-up style of the majority of the game. The Trick Rush and Head 2 Head events for example are very different, ditching the destruction derby style racing for more controlled, trick based events. You’ll be up against Ken Block here(much like in Dirt 3), and you’ll be using real licensed cars too, unlike in the rest of the game.
As a result these events stick out a like a broken roll bar, sitting slightly at odds with the bombast and speed of the rest of the game. We’re not complaining per se - the change of pace is welcome after the sensorial assault of the other event types - but it does feel a little like a slightly cynical way to shoehorn Ken Block into a game that otherwise wouldn’t feature him. We can help but think that Codemasters have him on some sort of retainer, and are simply trying to get as much mileage out of his patronage as they can.
Yay, we did a side swipe...now let us see we're going
It’s not the only niggle we have with the game either - its excitable shouty nature can often overwhelm for a start; playing the game can be a thoroughly tiring experience. We could also have a little moan about the simplicity of the handling and the fact that pretty much all of the cars in a given class feel the same. This fits perfectly with the arcadey experience on offer, naturally, but means that there is little point in saving for and buying any of the cars that unlock as you work through the game.
Some would also point to the irritating commentator, and the fact that the game can be so eager to tell you that you just successfully rammed an opponent that it blocks off your view to the next corner with the graphic congratulating you. This’d all be slightly missing the point though, as Showdown isn’t meant to be taken that seriously.
Just fire the game up in multiplayer mode and indulge in some split screen action (either via a game pad or second keyboard) to see what we mean. The idiotic shouts of the commentator simply don’t matter anymore as they’re drowned out by your own idiotic shouts, squeals and curse words. It’s multiplayer mode that makes the best of the otherwise relatively predictable Rampage and Knock Out events too, both of which involve causing as much damage as possible and which are essentially channelling the ghost of Destruction Derby 2.
You'll only be able to trash made up cars, not the licensed models
Potentially the biggest boon to multiplayer action is the fact that Games For Windows Live is no more (praise be to The Lord of Gaming), ditched in favour of proper Steam integration. This allows the game to automatically pull across times and scores from your friends, and lets you issue instant challenges for them to see when they next log in.
In a way, the smooth integration of Steam friends is a good analogy for the rest of the game. It’s all polished to a mirror finish, and executed with a level of class that speaks of endless hours of play testing. Even the menus look slick and exciting. It may not be able to do anything quietly, and it may have more glory shots in it than your average adult store, but we couldn’t help but enjoy ourselves when playing Showdown. As with any large personality, it’s better dealt with in small doses or with friends to soften the blow, but either way, it’s damn good fun.