If I was Obi-Wan Kenobi I would just perform a Jedi mind-trick on you and say: “This is not the game you are looking for.” But I’m not a Jedi, I have no mystical powers and you’ll be wanting to know why this isn’t the game you are looking for.
For me, the Dirt Showdown stalled on the staring line when it insisted that I had to be online to play. Had I missed something? Was this an online only game? Surely not. I exited out to the dashboard and restarted the game, twice, before it let me get close to starting a game. Even then it was incessantly begging me to hook up to the internet.
I never jump directly online with any game – I want to get a feel for it before I have to take on other human competitors. That’s just how I roll.
I did eventually get to play Showdown, but even then I was in for a big and very unpleasant wake up call.
Colin McRae Rally began life as a dedicated rally game back in 1998. The series had a slight name change in 2007 with the addition of the Dirt moniker, then in 2011 Dirt 3 was released without Colin’s name attached to it. The Release of Clin McRae Dirt 2 – the first in the series since McRae’s death in 2007 – saw the game expand from being purely a traditional rally game, and Dirt 3 took this even further with the inclusion of Gymkhana. Codemasters it seemed, were looking for a wider audience for their game. And then came Dirt: Showdown.
Apparently I wasn’t paying attention. Sure I’d seen the destruction derby trailers and such, but I was assuming this was just a new mode to be added to all the other off-road racing we had seen in previous editions, much the same as how destruction derby had been added to Codemasters other world class racing game, initially birthed and based on the TOCA Touring Car series in Britain, but re-branded Race Driver: Grid.
But no, the entire game was now focussed on one discipline; destruction derby. Sure, there were a few modes in the game, inexplicably still including Gymkhana. What’s more, Showdown seems to have been further dumbed down into an arcade style game. In-fact, it’s what I’d have expected if Codemasters decided to create a Dirt spin-off as an XBox Live Arcade Game.
So, you may be wondering, how is the actual game? Once you get into it, you know you’re playing a Codemasters game. The menu system, whilst slightly different from other editions, still screams Codemasters, as does the game progression. Every thing looks fine and the cars handle fine, but the single player game runs out of steam real quick, unless you have a certain hankering for this style of racing.
With the game’s insistence of taking things online I wondered if this is where it’s strength would be. Grid certainly had the legs due to it’s online play, so Codemasters would know what they were doing. Online is certainly more fun that the single player game, but that’s about all I can say, because it too will run out of steam if you’re not into the narrow style of racing available. And this is the major sticking point for me. Any follower of the Dirt series (such as I am) would have been initially hesitant about Codemasters instance of expanding it from it’s narrow Rally confines, but I grew to love this divergence (with the exception of hamstringing the game with Gymkhana) and am left scratching my head with the return to a narrow focus on the latest offering. A focus that has never been a core component of the series.
The really sad thing is, Codemasters have a reputation for great racing games, but even as a pure destruction derby game, Showdown falls short of other games that have come before it, and it sullies not only Codemasters stellar reputation, but the reputation of the Dirt franchise as well.