The Average Gamer

DiRT: Showdown Hands-on Preview

Allow me to be blunt: I love breaking stuff. I love throwing stuff into a skip to see if I can smash it upon impact, recycling bottles just to hear the mighty shattering sound echo inside the bin, and even that God awful Limp Bizkit song holds a small place in my heart (which was sadly overlooked in Showdown’s soundtrack). That’s why when Codemasters offered me the opportunity to come and play DiRT: Showdown for myself I leapt at the opportunity like a 15 year old who was handed a baseball bat in a China shop and told to “go nuts”.

First off, and I want to make this as clear as possible to the whole of the Internet, this is NOT DiRT 4. This is an entirely new series that carries the DiRT name only because the team behind DiRT are the same team of developers who are behind Showdown – that’s it. DiRT 4 is coming in the future and is almost completely unconnected with Showdown. Okay? Awesome. Glad we cleared things up there.

I love this game! I’ve wanted a new ‘Destruction Derby’ game since the Playstation 1 era and after a mere fifteen years of patience, a worthy successor to it has come.

DiRT: Showdown is very much based around the franchise’s legendary handling controls and damage physics, a fact which I remain eternally grateful for. When combined with a plethora of different modes and events, it truly left me in wanting by the end of the day. The career is almost identical to the traditional DiRT games, only instead of races and time trials you have a selection of destruction derby modes with a sprinkling of races in between. The core of the franchise is still very visible here with the upgradable cars, wide section of various decals and liveries, and the event trophy system building to the final event in each tier.

To top it all off there’s even an optional ‘killcam’ style replay system called ‘Crashback’. Whenever you help to create a particularly devastating crash, a quick slap of the ‘RB’ button will bring you straight into the replay mode that, not only shows your crash with a sequence of fancy angles, allows you to edit the clip together and upload it straight to YouTube. Of course if you don’t want to spam your Twitter feed with bits of bonnet flying across your screen you can just watch your historic smash and get right back into the action with another single button tap.

Every single player mode is also available in multiplayer so you can finally drive full speed into a screechy twelve year old without the police getting involved. What are the modes available in single player, you ask? Well, please permit me to enlighten you with a nice and concise list of the ones on show from the day:

  • Race-Off: a race – first across the finish line wins.
  • Ram Page: a destruction derby – cause as much damage in the arena within a set time.
  • Knock Out: king of the hill – knock as many opponents off a raised platform in a set time.
  • 8 Ball: a race – only on tracks in the figure of eight style.
  • Head 2 Head: time trial – one-on-one obstacle course to see who can be the fastest.
  • Eliminator: elimination – player in last is eliminated every 30 seconds; last one driving wins.
  • Hard Target: survival – you are the target in the arena against all other drivers.
  • Domination: time trial – complete sections of the track fastest and score the most for victory.

The Stig takes no prisoners.

That list comes straight from the career mode, and are all playable in multiplayer, but there are EVEN MORE modes available as multiplayer exclusive ones. As if that all wasn’t enough, there’s a Joyride mode where it is just you, your car, a location of your choosing and a series of challenges you are free to complete or ignore to death. I found Joyride enjoyably Zen because getting to speed, skid, and slide my way around the arena at my own pace really helped to give me a feel for the controls and just kick back with some relaxing doughnut and ramp-jumping challenges. The chaos of the other modes is a thing of beauty, don’t get me wrong, but there is absolutely something to be said for being let off the leash like a fawn stepping out into the wild for the first time. To destroy every single cardboard box within a 5 mile radius. [They keep fawns on a leash where you come from? o.0 – Ed]

Racenet – more numbers than your accountant can handle

Codemasters is also debuting their brand new service ‘Racenet’ with DiRT: Showdown. This is essentially a hub for all the players statistics, achievements, video clips, screenshots, and challenges. The overall goal is to include this with all future Codemasters racing games so you would have a one-stop shop for all your statistic desires.

Tragically, there is currently no backwards compatibility planned but Racenet will feature in all future Codemasters game as an optional extra. I personally wasn’t hot on the idea until they announced it as optional. All the basic stuff is free, you can get on perfectly without it, and it’s only for the hardcore stat fans or if you’re a massive fan of the company and want to be informed as soon as possible about upcoming news and features. This may not be my kind of thing, but I know for a fact there are going to be some racing game fans nursing a semi over this right now.

I am cursed to forever see that as 'The Ghostbusters Car'.

Another sweet feature in the game is the ability to send challenges to your friends with a single press of a button when you get a highscore on a certain event or track – therefore breeding that horrid Trials competition style of multiplayer which I love to hate.

The soundtrack is amazing as well. In an arcade-style game like this, a rocking soundtrack is a true selling point – just have a glance at almost any Tony Hawk game. Showdown pulls out all the stops with a terrific blend of rock, punk, metal, pop punk, dubstep, and hip-hop that’s sure to please almost everyone. I will give the soundtrack a totally made up score of: one head-bang away from a concussion.

Don't make immature joke... Don't make an immature joke...

DiRT: Showdown has been a long time coming. Even the developers admit that this is a spin-off they’ve wanted to make ever since they finished DiRT 2 and believed they had mastered the controls and destruction physics of the series. However, the long wait has definitely been worth it. Showdown is quite possibly the most fun I’ve had with a ‘racing’ game in a very long time. I got so ridiculously passionate about it in just one afternoon that I had to put the controller down and step back at one point because I lost an event by 10 points (TEN BLOODY POINTS!) in the final 2 seconds of Ram Page. It’s been a long time since I’ve become so intense competitive in a game before while still thoroughly loving every second of gameplay. Codemasters have done a truly superb job and have already secured my pre-order with a big, fat grin upon my face.


DiRT: Showdown will be out on 25th May for Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and PC. If you’re not already excited about it then you damn well should be. Why are you still here reading this? Go. Go now and pre-order to get those sweet Monster Energy liveries… GO!