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DiRT Showdown Review

Dirt Showdown – the very first racing title to come from Codemasters new Racing label takes a somewhat different approach with the Dirt franchise and turns it into one of the most fun car smash-up’s of this console generation. Unlike previous Codemasters racing games which are mostly centred around realism, precision, speed, dynamics and straight-up competitive racing to win, Showdown is an arcade style alternative to the realistic approach where the more damage you cause the better. It’s not so much about winning, as it is smashing and slamming your way into your rivals. Win or lose, it has a purpose either way given as a series of challenges in which you will race, destroy and unleash some fancy stunts and tricks across a broad selection of awesome tracks.

From the main menu options there are five selections to choose from, Showdown Tour, Joyride, Multiplayer, Challenges, and Options & Extra’s. Any of the racing modes will put you directly into the action – no qualifying, no fussing about with endless customisations, if this game could speak it would be a hard-faced-cow that gets straight to the point… Dirt Showdown is a quick pick up and play title that you could easily use to kill a few hours with a music track list that’s a combination of rock and club anthems. You could skip the gameplay and just dance instead?

Showdown Tour  is the main portion of the racing madness as you embark upon a career tour that will have you rally around in both licensed and unlicensed cars on unlicensed tracks that plays out more like a sophisticated game of hardcore ‘Bumper Cars’ for the rich and famous. It’s over the top presentation style brings the action to your screen in a tv-show sports event theme where you complete different challenges across the tracks and must obtain the required 1st, 2nd or 3rd Winning Trophies before being able to participate in the next event. Completing all the events will unlock a grand-finale challenge in which you will then be able to unlock the next part of your Showdown Tour.

The challenges that you are faced with across the Tour include a simple Race Off mode where you competitively reach for one of the three winning positions as you aim to overtake your rivals on tracks laden with obstacles – or use a time-limited nitrous boost to blast past them in blazing speeds of glory! Rampage will have you in a ‘car wars’ scenario where the objective is to smash and wreck your opponent’s vehicles to earn score. All cars have a health bar and the tracks have been designed as huge rinks to smash, dodge, knock out and wreak havoc freestyle. Knock-Out is very similar to Rampage, only you earn additional points by standing your ground and remaining in the centre of huge platforms, unlike Rampage you are free to Knock-Out your rival off of the platforms to inflict further damage. A rather fun 8-Ball challenge will put you into a specially designed track with lots of cross-over points used to inflict road rage and carnage. Smashing opponents will recharge your nitrous boost that you can use to race ahead that may edge you closer to that all important 1st position.

As you progress into the Showdown Tour you begin to face tougher challenges; Head 2 Head will have you in a frantic race off in a sprint filled route against another racer. You need to complete a series of tricks in sequence which awards you points, but it is your total time that decides if you have won or not where any tricks missed rack up penalty points. Eliminator Challenges are very similar to the Race Off, but with a twist – by the name you may have already guessed that it’s about survival on the tracks? You need to do whatever it takes to stay ahead of the pack and when a countdown time reaches zero, the car in last position is eliminated. Smashing your opponents will award you nitrous boost, but only the last man standing (of woman) is the winner! Hard Target is one of the most difficult challenges  because you are the target to be smashed as you encounter a wave of enemy vehicles who work together to take you out – this is a time based survival game where you must use the arena to your advantage. Next-up, Domination – sadly not about planting or defending bombs, but it’s another Race Off variant that instead of being in 1st position near the end of the lap, it is about setting the fastest times through different sectors of the tracks. Smashing opponents still earns nitrous boost and your finishing position will net you extra points.

These were just some of the challenges on offer as you progress through the Tour mode as extra challenges unlock through progression. All of the tracks that you race on have been designed to look like various world-wide locations that include: Colorado, Los Angeles, Baja, Nevada, Miami, Yokohama, Michigan, Tokyo, London and San Francisco, with every backdrop and detail imitating an impression of elements from each city – and some even have weather effects that make driving a little more difficult such as snow and rain that can affect speed and handling.

For gamers who are really into the customisation aspect of your own vehicle, you would be disappointed with Dirt Showdown as if offers very little on that front. Once you have confirmed your challenge, you get to select some of the vehicles on offer – the limited range of licensed vehicles include Ford Fiesta’s, Subaru Impreza’s Mitsubishi Lancer’s, Ford Escort’s and Ford Mustang’s with all other vechicles being unlicensed but in a vast range. Once you have selected a vehicle you can then further choose a pre-set skin, or with the use of cash that you earn from challenges, buy even more cars or upgrade the Power, Weight and Handling of your selection.  Since the game doesn’t use the cars as a showpiece and almost all challenges will see your vehicle totally smashed, it’s appearance is not all that important to the game as is the Power and Handling – so cash should ideally be spend on upgrades rather than new cars.

Joyride Mode – one of the most awful inclusions within Dirt Showdown that features two whopping great car park area’s where you can freestyle, perform tricks, participate in mini-missions and hunt out hidden packages using skill, and great control of your car. It doesn’t offer much replay value, but unless you get really bored you’ll take a ganders at what’s on offer which is pretty much – Nothing! Just roaming about…

Multiplayer – quite literally the only reason you need to pick up Dirt Showdown as this offers one of the most fun, FUN racing experiences around where you can aim to smash up the cars of others over Xbox LIVE or participate in Race Off’s – or even community events from Codemasters Racing Racenet service. Each and every challenge and track from the Showdown Tour is available online as either a Solo or Team based Playlist. As well as the option to just play ‘Everything’ – you can break down your online experience into Demolition, Hoonigan (skill) or Racing based challenges. Although you cannot pick your preferred starting track, you are instead placed into an online session where you await to start a race or challenge with up to 8 players online, or even host your own Xbox LIVE Party race. For a local game you can alternatively play in two-player split-screen mode if you’re not feeling rather sociable or do not have the power of an Xbox LIVE Gold subscription. Unfortunately this is one of those games that also requires a VIP Pass (included when the game is purchased new) to be able to access Online Multiplayer as well as Youtube Video Sharing features within the end of race options. For gamers who might pick this up used, the option to purchase a VIP Pass from the Xbox LIVE Marketplace is presented upon first play.

Dirt Showdown is truly a fantastic alternative racer for the not-so-serious and casual gamer with great features from the Racenet service constantly keeping you hooked up to your friends’ actions, your own racing stats and Racenet exclusive liveries. You can additionally send your friends list challenges that can be completed at a later date, perfect for those leaderboard hoggers who like to gloat about their perfect timings and skill. The game is modern, funky, and a pleasure to play albeit non-realistic, but offers so much fun and replay value.

It’s a great entry title for a new direction with the DiRT branding and newly formed Codemasters Racing label, most definitely one to own.

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Founder of ThisisXbox.com (owner from 2010 - 2014), now writer and reviewer with an interest in writing thriller fiction. Two addictions; Diet Coke and Call of Duty. All views expressed everywhere are my own and not that of my employer!
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