There is no i in PARTY!
The DiRT series of off-road racing titles has been veering further and further away from traditional rally driving since the game took on the DiRT title. However, I can’t help but think that DiRT Showdown should have been called “The Crazy Driving Games That Rally Drivers Enjoy After Racing With Precision Across Gravel At 90MPH”. The again, maybe DiRT Showdown sounds better. Whatever the title, fear not DiRTY racers, Showdown is a spin-off from the standard DiRT racing franchise and normal service will no doubt be resumed in the inevitable DiRT 4. Until then, Hoonigans, petrol-heads and all-round party animals can indulge in some four-wheeled lunacy. Sumo wrestling in cars, anyone?
For those who arrive early to the party and find themselves playing alone, DiRT Showdown has plenty to keep you busy and get you in the party mood. The main campaign is fairly chunky in size and, whilst not really having any cohesion between events, will introduce the player to all the different types of events. As already mentioned, it is all about the party atmosphere and alongside the interesting vehicles and the uptempo soundtrack, the events themselves emphasise fun at its most basic.
There is basic racing to be had, but the focus is more on crashing and smashing other cars, whilst avoiding being crashed and smashed yourself – if that makes sense. Circuit races will involve knocking other cars out of the way, and avoiding the burnt out wrecks that will litter the track towards the end. Figure of eight tracks will have players driving blind through the cross sections, hoping that nothing is coming the other way. Massive demolition bowls will see all of the vehicles racing towards an enormous pile up in the centre before splintering off to score points for the most impressive take-downs. Then there are the events that take place on a raised platform with points scored for damage, but massive points for pushing your opponents off.
It is an absolute blast, although there is a level of randomness to the events that will occasionally leave the player out of the top three due to seemingly unfair cheap shots from the AI. The racing especially is prone to a nudge early in the game leaving the player at the back of the pack. But success results in cash to unlock new vehicles, of which there are a wide variety including the likes of trucks and hearses, and upgrades for their vehilces, to make tham that little bit more dangerous.
There are also the gymkhana events that players will be familiar with from the previous DiRT titles. These are much more about precision driving, with drifting and impressive jumps all playing a central role. The handling of the vehicles has been toned down somewhat, making it much easier to drive like a pro, and there is even a sandbox mode in the form of Battersea Power Station and Yokohama Docks upon which there are plenty of ramps, cones and other obstacles for practicing on.
The single-player content is great, but only serves as preparation for when friends come online and the party starts for real. Multiplayer packs in all of the events from single-player and will keep players coming back by letting them level up as they gather fans for their destructive achievements. Then there are the Party events which offer a whole new level of four-wheeled madness with events that are designed to get the players laughing. It is in multiplayer that the game really shines and DiRT Showdown will no doubt become a staple party game for anyone who likes the idea of crashing cars.
The entire package is wrapped up with the gorgeous looking visuals of Codemasters’ EGO Engine and a suitably party enducing soundtrack. There is also Codemasters’ recently launched answer to EA’s Autolog, Racenet, which will track your achievements and challenge your friends to beat your best scores. Finally, there is the chance to upload any particularly impressive smashes directly to YouTube.
DiRT Showdown is not a rally driving game. What it is though, is a crazy celebration of mad things you can do with motor vehicles. If that sounds like your kind of celebration, then pick up a copy and join the party!