Muscles tensed, and with a firm grip on my controller, I sat at the edge of my seat. I could hear my opponents closing in on my crippled vehicle. Motors revved to higher RPMs and then I was greeted by the sound of metal buckling as my opponents smashed into each other accidentally. I was their target, and sped around the small arena in my banged up coupe trying to escape their violent intentions. My car was literally on its last legs when suddenly… the timer dinged. I was in the clear and had survived long enough to be awarded first place.
It’s been quite a few years since I have seen a game revolve around a destruction derby. The last game of the sort I played was Test Drive: Eve of Destruction and I loved every bit of it. Something about t-boning another car in a figure-eight track puts a smile on my face. The DiRT series has generally been all about rally racing. The last game, DiRT 3, was also quite popular amongst racing enthusiasts, earning high review scores from many outlets.
DiRT Showdown presents itself as a destruction derby game mixed with gymkhana-style racing. The bulk of the game is littered with events that are geared towards the destruction derby focus; events like Survivor (survive an onslaught of vehicles for a set amount of time), 8-Ball (tracks with twisty figure-eight designs) and general racing events that use the same type of cars. Some of the events feel similar in nature, but once you start smashing up other cars you’re generally too entertained to care.
The stylistic-racing felt very out of place when I started. I was having a blast causing carnage and had no desire to focus my driving and use more precision. It broke up my flow of wrecking havoc and I was pretty upset once I got to the first event of “Head 2 Head”. This type was pretty easy, as it was time-based and had me running through a layout that required specific actions. Drift around the first corner, do a doughnut around a pole, jump over a ramp, another doughnut around a pole, drift around the last corner and hit the finish line. I’m impressed I remembered it so closely.
These kinds of events get far more complex, though. One I had to do four or five times before I discovered the rewind feature. I had to hit colored blocks in a specific order and if I missed any, I had to rewind or restart the whole race. This was also the point that I started to appreciate these races a little more. The destruction derby races, while fun in the beginning, started to become very stale. This is the product of the mediocre unlock/upgrade system, which left much to be desired. Every upgrade felt like it did very little to the performance of the car and once it registered that that was the case, I felt less and less inclined to waste money on upgrades.
Individual cars felt different though, which is a plus in any racing game. There was no speedometer so you can’t actually tell how much faster one car is over another, but the handling was unique from vehicle to vehicle. One car in the “Destruction” category I purchased had a noticeable rear kick over a similar looking model. More information at the car select screen would have been appreciated.
Gameplay-wise, I did run into a very unfortunate glitch several times. While playing I would lose complete control over the car. I would try turning and it would randomly decide to be unresponsive. It was infrequent but still happened.
Racenet makes its debut for Codemasters in DiRT Showdown. A social network much like Battlelog for Battlefield, Racenet delivers stat tracking and special events and gives you a bonus incentive for signing up ($20,000 in-game cash). Codemasters is better known for their racing games and Racenet is supposed to act like a hub for future games, too.
Online has a few unique modes, and people are actually playing online. Why would I mention that? Read some of my flying game reviews, and you’ll see why. The online is quite laggy and while you can certainly race in that kind of environment, once I got into a destruction mode it all went downhill. Cars were hopping all over the place and disappearing and reappearing on the other side of the map the duration of the event. It was heartbreaking, because I felt the online could have really sold a game in this sub-genre.
Being something that hasn’t come around in awhile, a game like this was a treat to play, so my negative comments may be just but the sheer fun of slamming into another car in order to wreck them is still there. If you miss destruction derby games, this is a must-have. It lacks certain aspects from games a generation ago, but it’s still refreshing to see a game about wrecking other cars without silly guns or missiles involved.
- Nice to see the sub-genre return
- Destroying cars has never been this fun
- Gymkhana events break up the repetition
- Online play was too laggy to enjoy
- Lackluster car upgrade mechanic felt pointless
Note: This review was written based on gameplay of the Playstation 3 version with a copy provided by the publisher. It is also available on X360 and PC.