Okay, let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way first - Dirt Showdown is a big, brash, and occasionally ridiculous slab of game. It puts us in mind of a spoilt six year old, screaming his head off and running around the family dinner party trying to show everyone his, er, pride and joy. LOOK WHAT I’VE GOT, ISN’T IT BRILLIANT, GIVE ME ATTENTION!
Of course, for some people this will all be too much, the fanfare, the bombast - none of it is conducive to a relaxing gaming session after all. It is, however, very much par for the course for the Dirt games, even if Codemasters have dialled it up to eleven when it comes to Showdown.
It’s difficult to bash the game for it too much though as it wears its loud, brightly coloured, exploding personality on its sleeve - it doesn’t apologise for it, nor does it ever intend to. Right from the very off you’re shouted at by the perpetually enthusiastic Christian Stevenson, welcoming you to the fold and encouraging you to get your ass into gear and star racing your way through the four tiered campaign mode.
Unfortunately it’s enthusiasm to the point of obstruction to begin with, as you’re launched straight into the first few races with next to no explanation of what on earth is going on - you’ll do your learning on the track. In truth this all adds to the rough and ready styling of the game, but it can be a little overbearing, especially given that there are so many styles of races to be getting on with.
Thankfully it doesn’t take all that long to get acquainted with the multitude of different play styles, as most are simple smash and grab affairs involving just getting to the line first or causing the most damage. If in doubt, just drive fast. If that doesn’t work, drive fast and at people. On the face of it this sounds like a criticism, but it’s testament to the polish and presentation of Showdown that the game rarely feels like it’s just recycling the same set of race types over and over again.
The events themselves are a canny blend of old and new - those that have played previous Dirt games should be familiar with the Domination mode that sees racers compete for the fastest sector times. Likewise with the Elimination races, which eliminates the last placed player every 15 seconds until only one car remains.
The gymkhana events can be tricky
New to the series though are the destruction derby style events that give Showdown it’s backbone of wanton vehicular violence. Of these it’s the Hard Target and 8-Ball events that prove the most satisfying in single player mode. The former pits you against an arena of opposing players with a brief simply to last as long as you can. It sounds simple, but extra cars get added as time goes on, meaning you’re never far away from a door wrenching impact.
8-Ball races on the other hand are normal races, with the twist that the track crosses it’s self numerous times each lap. As you’d guess, this can often lead to hugely satisfyingly multi-vehicle pile-ups and serves up some of the most heart stopping moments as you cross the intersections. Getting side swiped by a back marker when you’re cruising for a victory can induce keyboard smashing levels of frustration, but there are few things as satisfying as watching the same thing happen to gift yourself a victory.