previews\ Dec 25, 2011 at 9:00 am

DiRT Showdown Preview


Every once in a while, it’s cool to see a spin-off in a popular series, just to see where the developers can take it.  Case in point – Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One, while diversified from other entries in the series, carried on the tradition of wanton galactic destruction while involving a sweet new multiplayer angle.

And now it appears that Codemasters is following a similar pattern with its DiRT series.  After the release of its immensely popular DiRT 3 earlier this year, we were certain that the publisher would be sticking to the blueprint it’s been perfecting for years, particularly with the addition of the new Gymkhana stunt events and the return of a somewhat simulation feel.  But no, for its next game, it’s opted to go off the beaten path and instead deal with over-the-top racing shenanigans.  Nothing wrong with that, really.

DiRT Showdown isn’t DiRT 4 by any means, but rather a sidestep in the ongoing racing series where players will be able to perform stunts while maintaining their speed.  The game combines the thrill-a-minute aspect of extreme racing events from DiRT 2, the Gymkhana trick racing that was introduced in DiRT 3, and a whole new event that hasn’t been explored since Psygnosis touched on it back on the PS One – demolition derby.

Now, in case you’re unfamiliar with demolition derby, here’s the lowdown.  Think of it as a deathmatch event, but instead of players running around with guns, they’re in cars.  They bash the living bejesus out of each other’s vehicles (without actually doing harm to themselves – they’re well padded), until one is pretty much left standing.  DiRT Showdown will carry a lot of these aspects in the demolition derby events, though style is just as important as staying in one piece.  No one likes a runaway sissy.  Get in there and fight.

The game features plenty of events for the single player to conquer.  Of course, like any good racing game, it’s better with friends.  A two-player local split screen option is available, as well as the chance to race against up to seven other players online through Xbox Live or PlayStation Network.  Though Codemasters hasn’t discussed the finer specifics of multiplayer, such as awards or possible rally leagues, we’re sure that they’ll be plentiful.

Now, let’s talk about the venue where all these events are taking place.  You’re sitting in the middle of what’s known as a “theater of racing,” where folks are cheering for you from the stands and fireworks explode all around you, to add adrenaline for the battles to come.  Though we’ve only seen bits and pieces of this festive atmosphere from the all-too-brief teaser trailer, it does give you an idea of the fun-loving spirit that Codemasters has in mind for this game.  No “yawn, another meadow” racing event here.

Let’s talk about the event types real quick.  Smash Hunters has you run your way through various obstacles in a time frame, like blocks from DiRT 2 or, better yet, alien standees from DiRT 3; Head 2 Head is where you compete directly with an opponent for the highest score possible in real time; Trick Rush challenges you to complete the most Gymkhana-inspired moves in a minimal amount of seconds.  Demolition events are also included, including Rampage, a winner-take-all battle royale; Hard Target, where escape is vitally important to winning (forget that wimp comment I made earlier, here it’s vital to run); and King of the Ring, where everyone gets into the center of a ring for a huge crash orgy.  Standard events are also included, if you feel like just plain racing.  These include Lap Attack, Eliminator (where last place on each lap loses) and Domination.  All of these can be played solo or with buddies, so the more the merrier.

Vehicles range across three class types, including cars, trucks and buggies.  Some are licensed, while others have been specifically designed by Codemasters to get the most out of the arcade-y approach.  They all perform admirably, to the developer’s standard, so you’ll have no problem executing expert turns and performing stunts.  In fact, the team’s actually tweaked the game so donuts and drifts are far easier to perform.  Though we have yet to road test it, it sounds promising.  Furthermore, you can customize the rides with new parts, as well as decals and specialty items.

And of course, you know how good DiRT 3 looked, so chances are DiRT Showdown will follow this same type of course.  That’s not to say it won’t look fantastic, though.  The real-time damage to cars should be a sight to see, especially with bunches of them falling apart at once.  Plus, you can expect plenty of replay options and, for those who love to show off, YouTube clip sharing.  It worked so well the last time around…so why not?

We’ll have a more extensive hands-on report with DiRT Showdown soon.  But for now, you should be excited for this game’s May 2012 release.  It really is bringing something new to the table, and chances are you’ll love it.  You know, unless you actually like driving carefully.  (And here’s where the wimp comment comes back into play.)

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