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Game Review: Dirt Showdown (PS3)

I’ve purposely let a bit of time slip over from my initial reaction to Dirt Showdown in order to review this properly. The title itself really appears to have divided the Dirt franchise fans. I think the easiest way to deal with it is pretend it’s not a Dirt game and that it just borrows heavily from some of its influences. Initially I found this and Showdown as a whole to be a fantastic product. I was raving about it. The longer I’ve spent with it though, the sheen has very quickly worn off and now I feel like it’s a bit of a half way house.

Marketed as an absolute smashfest, I was expecting Destruction Derby. Instead we get a game that feels like the heaviest Dirt 3 vehicles left to ram each other with a boost button round several bland circuits. We have normal races which infuriate due to the fact that the rubber banding on the AI means no matter how good or bad a job you’re doing, you’ll get rammed regardless. It eventually means that you get no real rewards for doing a great job and on single player, just rev it like mad at the end and ta-daaa – 1st place. The same goes for 8-Ball events which are tracks with tons of cross over sections. These are more interesting and infuriating in equal measure depending on your view on luck. Domination (winning points on getting the fastest sector) is hampered by the rubber banding. Do really well, they’ll suddenly boost and catch up and you’ll be last! Also marvel at the bland circuits that you race forwards, backwards and between day and night. The track choice is¬†decidedly¬†uninspiring and limited. We then move onto the crashing events which form about a 20% section of the game. Getting in a bowl and smashing into each other is great fun, however the collision detection for scoring appears to not register quite often and sometimes a massive hit gets little points and the smallest tap gets a huge points haul.

Taking the game online with friends does iron out some of the kinks as effectively the rubber banding is effectively gone and the crash detection is the same for everyone. There’s also some great party games including the return of transporter and some great checkpoint finding modes or holding onto the parcel games. In this area Showdown absolutely excels and I’ve nothing but praise for it. As soon as it comes back to the core racing however, because it doesn’t commit to its smash-up vision properly and feels like a clunky sim – the two elements don’t mix particularly well. I felt like it needed to go completely arcade in driving physics and style.

Positives

~Fantastic online modes which run perfectly smoothly

~Good presentation

~Can be genuinely fun if it clicks

Negatives

~Collision detection is slightly off

~Rubber banding is so bad it ruins the single player experience

~Dull and uninspired cars and tracks

~The most cheesiest, annoying voice over commentary committed to this gen

Conclusion

I’ve spent the vast majority of the review pointing out my misgivings with Showdown. It is still fun to play. It’s got the usual Codemaster’s sheen all over it. It just feels a bit of an empty experience unless you’re with friends online and it also feels like it’s not fully committed to what it’s trying to be either.

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