DiRT Showdown is the first game to hit shelves since Codemasters’ recent rebranding as Codemasters Racing, and it really shows the benefits of a developer single-mindedly pursuing quality in one particular field.
Like its predecessors, it favours speedy conflicts across international tracks. For the most part, the challenge is just right – early races put you through your paces with cars that are a pain to control, have slow acceleration and low top speeds. As you earn better vehicles, there’s a clear difference in performance, making replaying those earlier events something to relish rather than resent. Vehicle selection is robust, with an impressive selection unlocked as you advance.
It’s not just racing though – Showdown delivers spectacle. Knockout events play like stock-car sumo, with players ramming opponents off elevated platforms, while Rampage is a demolition derby. Eight-Ball has carnage occurring at the intersections of a short figure-eight racetrack, and several other modes play with the DiRT formula in inventive ways. Single players will enjoy the 'Joyride' mode, an assortment of open fields filled with stunt challenges and collectible hidden icons. It’s not dissimilar to the better Tony Hawks games in that respect, only with cars instead of middle-aged skateboarders.
Online is where Showdown thrives though, thanks to Codie’s new Racenet. Allowing you to track progress against your mates, it also offers various community events with in-game rewards for completion, the option to upload your best crashes to YouTube and a strong selection of multiplayer options across all modes.
However, Showdown isn’t flawless. Timing braking to pull off drifts and donuts is tricky, leading to no small amount of digital burnt rubber and real-world expletives. This causes real problems in Hoonigan races, challenge tracks replacing DiRT 3’s gymkhanas. The difficulty of pulling off these pretty important moves robs this of a perfect score but the variety of gameplay makes up for it. For those who are prepared to master Showdown’s intricacies, it’s simply a scorcher of a game.
Reviewed by Matt Kamen