by Matt Porter
previewed on PC
Codemasters has long been at the top of its game when it comes to developing racing games, with Grid for road racing, F1 for open-wheel track racing, and DiRT for rallying. Building upon the success of the Colin McRae Rally series, Codemasters released three games under the new DiRT name. DiRT Showdown, the first non-numbered game in the series, is scheduled for release on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.
Although the fourth game in the series, this is not DiRT 4, but rather an arcade style spin-off. Fans of the series are split amongst those who enjoy the simulation style racing modes and those who enjoy the more wacky side of the sport, which usually involves a lot of crashing into stuff. Showdown definitely seems to be geared to the latter group of people.
The game contrasts with the style of the numbered titles in the series, with the traditional sparse and serene landscapes replaced with pyrotechnics, screaming fans, multiple car crashes and yet more pyrotechnics. Familiar cars return, but new vehicles like a customised hearse reveal a wackier, more Twisted Metalesque game. To top it off, your car even has a health bar.
Behind the 8 Ball
Making its DiRT debut is a destruction mode called 8 Ball, in which your vehicle is placed in an arena with the sole purpose of trying to critically damage the seven other cars. You gain points for slams, t-bones and swipes, with more reward for harder collisions, and you get a bonus for getting the last hit on someone before they are totalled. All points are doubled in the dying moments, so there is a definite emphasis on mayhem and fun, rather than a standard race to the finish. If your car is destroyed, your game is not over, as it simply respawns and you get to do it all over again until time runs out.
Also making an appearance for the first time in a DiRT game is a Demolition Derby mode, which was very popular in Grid. Here, eight drivers are in a race to the finish line on a track with multiple crossover points. This causes great situations where someone might be way out in front, only to suddenly be slammed into a wall by the guy in last place and half a lap behind. A complaint about racing games in general is that usually whoever gets to the first corner out in front will win the race, barring some mistake. This mode remedies that by making it so that anyone can win the race from any position without necessarily being the best driver, and win or lose, everyone can have fun in the process.