DiRT: Showdown is an enigma, or an anomaly. It's a re-imagining of a franchise that is already a branch from another franchise. The original being Colin McRae (RIP) Rally
That much-loved game was expanded, with the 2007 release of Colin McRae: DiRT
, to include more driving styles than the straight ahead rally of the Colin McRae's Rally
series. I was always a little confounded by the DiRT series
. They were fun to play, but felt poorly realised. Additional celebrities (and DC Shoes sponsored athletes) such as Travis Pastrana and Ken Block were grafted onto the series to expand its appeal to the all-important US market.
has taken a u-turn, or more likely drifted around a corner to take a new direction. Tuned to appeal to arcade drivers, DiRT Showdown
emphasises the online and local split-screen aspects of the game, and introduces exciting new demolition derby style game modes. The result is? surprisingly good.
It's also surprisingly reminiscent of Motorstorm
, at least in terms of certain aspects of the presentation. The logo - and the initial shots of the DiRT
Festival - are dead ringers for the matching aspects of Motorstorm
. But the similarity is only superficial, and once you get racing, DiRT
is enough of its own game to carve out a niche for itself in the hotly contested arena of arcade racing games.
The main aspects of the game are split into three areas. First, we'll tackle the Showdown Tour mode that represents the meat of the one-player game. In this you select a skill level, and then race through a number of events to progress through the game. The events fall into three types: races, demolition derby style events and Gymkhana events. But each has its own variations, and as a result there is an actually bewildering array of race styles to compete in. Some of them you will like, and some of them you may not.
As well as the straight ahead race-style games, there are also two-leg events where you have to 'dominate' each section of the track in order to score points. The winner is the player with most points after both legs. I personally found this confusing and frustrating, since I could never work out what was required to win a section and often found myself feeling as if I was winning but discovering, once the smoke settled, that I was not.
Demolition Derby style events also fall into several sub categories. Our firm favourite in the office is the Knockout where you play good old fashioned bump-and-grind style Demolition Derby, but on a raised platform. A few points are scored for the obvious head-on, side swipe and T-bone collisions, but maximum points are scored by knocking your opponent clean off the platform.
Extra points bonuses are scored by being the first player in a bout to do so, or for knocking the current leader of the platform. Cars can take only a certain amount of damage before they are destroyed - if you are destroyed there is an implicit time penalty while you are re-spawned, during which your opponents continue to amass points. But there is also a health meter above all of the opposing players' vehicles - and if you manage to inflict the damage that destroys their car, you get a points bonus for that too.
A variation on this is the survival style game, in which ALL opposing cars are after you. Victory is gained by surviving longer than any other player. If you are playing in single player mode, some fictitious rival scores - appropriate to the selected difficulty level - are displayed for you to compete against.
As usual, my least favourite game mode is the Gyhmkhana. These events require you to pull off spins, donuts and drifts, and to crash through obstacles placed around a tight track. You race head-to-head against an opponent and the clock. This is the trickiest game mode, where a single cock-up ensures failure. The tracks are tight, and it takes a few goes just to learn the order and placement of the obstacles and challenges. Then a few more to nail them. I found it extremely frustrating at first.