- Publisher: Codemasters
- Developer: Codemasters
- ESRB Rating: “E10" for Everyone 10 and Up
- Genre: Driving
- Pros: Nice presentation; mostly fun event types; nice damage model; 8-Ball races are awesome; solid gameplay
- Cons: Goofy announcer; 1-3 second freezes once a race; not a ton of content
DiRT Showdown is not the same DiRT as the first three games in the series. The first three games were simulation-style games focused on real rally racing. DiRT Showdown leans more toward the arcade end of the spectrum with a variety of demolition derby-style events mixed with some over-the-top race events full of huge jumps and fireworks and more destruction. If you go into Showdown expecting DiRT 4, you'll be disappointed. On the other hand, if you go into Showdown expecting a faster and simpler game full of dented sheet metal and the satisfyingly smoking heaps of destroyed cars you leave in your wake, you'll have a great time. It is easy and accessible racing and is a lot of fun and without a doubt the best demo derby-style game on Xbox 360 (not too hard when your only competition is Mayhem 3D but DiRT Showdown is actually quite good).
Perhaps the most fun events in the whole game are the 8-Ball races where 8 cars cram onto a track full of crossovers and figure eights and you have to try to win while avoiding getting t-boned in the intersections. The 8-Ball races are really intense and fun and full of close calls and also have some really, really great track designs. It isn't all just simple figure eight tracks and there are some really complex and twisting tracks full of multiple crossovers (including one awesome track that features a cloverleaf design where four different jumps all land basically in the same place) which makes for really exciting races.
The other events - that actually use licensed cars - are things like a trick mode where you do Gymkhana tricks for points, Head 2 Head where you have to not only complete a course as fast as possible, but do specific tricks at certain points, and Smash Hunter where you smash through blocks placed around the course.
This all sounds like a lot, but you can beat all of the events in the Showdown Tour and even earn gold medals on everything on about 5 hours. The Joyride missions will take a little longer, but you'll probably have seen everything the single-player has to offer in under 10 hours unless you get hooked on chasing leaderboard scores and times. Multiplayer adds some replay value - and a handful of new event types - as well, and some of the events get really crazy and competitive and fun when you play against human opponents. Still, there is a distinct lack of content here that makes it hard to fully recommend for a full MSRP purchase.
The presentation, always a high point of Codemasters' racing games, is a treat in DiRT Showdown as well. The cars are nicely detailed and have a great level of destructibility as metal will crumple and bend and parts will break off. The tracks also all look really nice with detailed crowds and stuff outside of the track. All of the special effects for the fireworks and lighting and other crazy stuff looks great as well. Our only complaint is that the game freezes for a couple seconds pretty much once per race. The rest of the race will run with a smooth framerate, but for whatever reason everything just stops for a few seconds before moving again. It is weird, but doesn't really affect gameplay, so you get used to it.
The sound is also good for the most part. Engine sounds are really nice, as are all of the sound effects during crashes. The soundtrack is all rock and metal, but we liked it. The only bad thing about the sound is the race commentator who repeats the same things over and over.
All in all, DiRT Showdown is a great playing arcade-style racing and destruction derby game that fans who enjoyed the lighter side of DiRT 2 and 3 will really enjoy. Lets make this clear - it isn't a rally game - so if you didn't like the X-Games and Gymkhana stuff in past games you won't like this. It is pure arcade-style smashing and banging and destruction and is a lot of fun if you're in the right mindset to embrace it. It doesn't have a ton of content to offer, unfortunately, so unless you get it for below MSRP (Amazon had it on sale for $40 before release, which is about the right price we feel) it will probably be better as a rental. DiRT Showdown is a fun game while it lasts, though, and is definitely worth playing.