Ever played a driving game and cursed aloud as the AI cut you up on a bend, knowing full well that you would revenge suicide ram them if you thought it would just so much as scratch their fender? If you have, then DiRT: Showdown might just be the game for you.
The game has 4 different play modes; Showdown Tour, Joyride, Multiplayer and Challenges. Showdown Tour is a singleplayer mode with no story but who needs one in a racing game anyway? The Tour has 82 races in total, divided in 4 different categories; Pro, Allstar, Champion and Legend. Each category has different types of races to complete; there is Race Off, Rampage, Knock Out, 8 Ball, Head 2 Head, Eliminator, Hard Target, Domination, Smash Hunter and Trick Rush. Winning a race earns you cash which can be used to purchase new cars unlocked during the main game or to upgrade the statistics of the old ones. There are 3 main statistics on each car; Power, Strength and Handling. Power represents how powerful the car is and how fast it goes, Strength shows how tough the car is and how much beating it takes and Handling shows how good the car behaves and turns. There are a bunch of cars to unlock; dirt cars with steel rollcages, heavy-hitting vans and even some real-life licensed cars, like Subaru Impreza and Ford Mustang. The cars are divided into three categories: Demolition, Race and Hoonigan. Demolition cars are meant for smashing other drivers, Race cars are just that; race cars and Hoonigan is a special class which has real licensed cars from few manufacturers. Too bad these licensed cars can only be used on certain types of races. All cars are also divided into four different power classes; D, C, B and A with A being the most powerful one. Each car has different amount of boost and health. Health decreases when you take hits and (usually) the game is over when you run out. Boost can be used to gain a short increase in speed and it replenishes over time. The main game is over in about 8 hours, depending on the difficulty setting and the amount of retries.
Race Off is a basic race from start to finish, just be the first to cross the finish line. Rampage is a game mode where you have to do as much damage to the other drivers as possible. You get extra points for destroying an enemy car and during the last minute of Rampage, you get double points for everything you do. The highest score after the time has run out wins. Knock Out is just like Rampage, but it's held on a raised platform and points are only gained when on the platform. This game mode reminded me of Super Mario Party, with players pushing each other off the edges of the platform. 8 Ball is the grain and salt of DiRT: Showdown, the game even begins with a 8 Ball race. In 8 Ball, you race against your opponents and try to be the first to cross the finish line. What makes 8 Ball special, are the tracks. Each 8 Ball track has intersections which means you're more than likely to t-bone another driver. Or get t-boned by one. Head 2 Head is a special race type that pits you against another driver on a short course where you have to do different types of stunts before crossing the finish line. These stunts vary from drifting a corner to making donuts around a light pole. Eliminator is much like Race Off but with a twist; every 15 seconds the last driver in the race is dropped out and the last one to survive is the winner. Hard Target is a race type that's only available in singleplayer. Hard Target is like Rampage but instead of trying to damage the other drivers, you just have to survive their attacks for a set amount of time. This proved to be the most boring race type and fortunately there aren't many races of this type. Domination is basically Race Off with sectors. You have to set the best time on most of the sectors to win Domination. Smash Hunter is a game type where you have to destroy certain colored signs. The required color chances between each destroyed set making this game mode a great way to learn the basics of driving in DiRT: Showdown. Finally, Trick Rush requires you to collect points by making stunts in a set amount of time. The stunts are marked on your HUD but making the same stunt over and over again costs you valuable points.
Multiplayer has the same race types (excluding Hard Target) and a few more; Transporter, Smash & Grab and Speed Skirmish. In Transporter, a random flag is spawned on the ground and you have to capture it. Once you've captured it, you have to deliver it to the goal area to score. The team with the most score wins. Smash & Grab is like tag; again there's a random flag on the ground which you have to grab. As long as your team has the flag, you get points. If you get hit by the enemy, you lose the flag. Speed Skirmish is a checkpoint race with players fighting over the best times. Pretty boring and not worth it. The game can also be played with a friend in split-screen which is a huge plus. Not many games these days offer the ability.
Joyride is a special singleplayer game mode where you're set free on two different areas. Both of these areas have different missions to complete; making donuts, drifting, getting huge air and others. There are also Hidden Packages to be found but really they aren't hidden. Once you've completed one area's missions, another gets unlocked.
There are 10 different locations to race in with different variations on each; Miami, San Francisco, Yokohama, Nevada, Colorado, Michigan, Los Angeles, Battersea, Tokyo and Baja California. Each location looks unique and you never get the feeling of driving the same race over and over again. Each track looks great with bystanders waving, blimps flying in the sky and lots of other stuff happening in the background. There are even some snow and rain tracks.
After each race, you can send a Challenge to a friend. These challenges can be accessed from the main menu, under 'Challenges'. These are a great way to show off to friends with your best lap times or your best scores. Another great feature of DiRT: Showdown is the Crashback. You can register your YouTube account with DiRT and when you make a huge hit on an unexpecting driver, you can immediately upload the replay to YouTube.
Technically, the game is a masterpiece. The controls are very good and even when played with a keyboard, you immediately feel in control of the car. Sure, this is no driving simulator but the arcade controls fit the game spot on. I tried the game with my old Logitech Driving Force Pro and it worked liked a charm even with no drivers. The only downside was that I didn't get 900 degrees steering. It even worked on my cheap dreamGEAR gamepad. The technical marvels don't stop with the controls since the game is a pleasure to watch, especially the reflections are beautiful. There are enough settings to get the game working on an older rig but when you switch everything to it's highest it really shows how good driving games should look these days. The textures are very sharp but the cars look a bit dull; they lack the glitter and splatter the tracks have. And talk about the tracks: there's flames and sparkles flying everywhere as you race past hills and bumps on the road. Especially if you have DirectX 11 GPU, the advanced lighting looks awesome. I've never seen so great lighting on any any game I've ever played. There's also a special EQAA anti-aliasing for all HD6000 series users but it really needs a Crossfired graphics cards to take advantage since it choked my trusty HD6970. Without EQAA, the game ran very well with MSAA and Vsync on with all settings at their highest @1080p. It never dropped below 60 FPS even when there was a lot of debris and car parts flying around.
Overall, the game is an awesome arcade racer and especially the fans of Destruction Derby should feel right at home. It has great controls combined with awesome graphics and gameplay, which makes it a must buy for each racing fan.