DiRT: Showdown Preview
Racing games are not my forte. Unless it’s a kart based cartoon-a-thon with missiles or franchise based weaponry that allow you to go nuts on the race track. This is because very little skill is involved in these games, bar some power sliding and a bit of timing knowledge on when to use an item.
Put me behind the wheel of a realistic racer, and you’ll find that I’m not entirely sure how to play driving games at all. If I’m not swerving incoherently across the track, I’ll probably be using the other cars to help guide me around corners, or just missing them completely.
It’s when I pick up the controller to a game like DiRT: Showdown that I feel someone, somewhere, knew exactly what I was going through.
For those of you alien to the DiRT series, the games feature a rally driving experience that you’ll never forget. DiRT isn’t about getting the perfect lines or trying to master the track. DiRT is about getting from the start line to the finish line without losing your life, on a track of like minded drivers who also have the ‘survive or die trying’ mentality. And Showdown is no exception.
Starting the game on the 8 Ball track, I was pitted in a fight for my life as I raced around a curving track that came laden with changing roads, propelling me into the sky, or blasting chutes of fire into my face. This is without mentioning the enhanced AI drivers who are also piling around the track, and will take any opportunity to nudge the rear of your car to send you spinning into an inevitable doom.
The 8 Ball track seemed to be enough, however I was quickly planted into a race track, complete with a proper path and everything. Snazzy, right? Yet the DiRT methodology is still more than apparent. You’ll still be attempting to keep your car in one piece as you shoot around a death inducing cesspit, again, with a number of other drivers. The actual race keeps you engaged, attempting to dodge the various ‘Pinch Points’ the track has, which are areas that focus intently on making the track difficult to go alone, not mentioning when there are two or more of you trying to come out on top.
The most apparent change in Showdown is how amazing it looks. Whilst many racing games make huge attempts at attempting to create a realm of reality (I remember Gran Turismo 4’s mind blowing tech of not rendering backgrounds as you’re driving towards them), Showdown really excels in this area. With mind boggling graphics, playing through the modes this game has to offer will quickly leave you feeling completely engrossed. However, the carnage gets better. With A mode built purposefully to smash the absolute crap out of each other in an arena pit. Driving full speed down a ramp will launch you into a circle reminiscent of a gladiator ring where you’ll be met by other racers all intent on one thing: killing you for points. No longer are you a human being, you are merely a number to be added to their high score, and they won’t let you forget it. An relentless assault from all sides leaves you needing to think clearly in order to avoid a certain death by wiping everyone else out before they can you. Survival of the Fittest is the name of this game.
Whilst I was only playing a pre-alpha build of this game, it already feels like a complete experience. With very limited bugs (however I may have just been lucky), it feels as though shelving this as it is wouldn’t be a complete disaster. With engaging graphics, sharp sound and an amazing soundtrack I was left amazed with what the game had to offer at such an early stage. Of course, there is plenty still to add to this game, and it will only keep getting better. With unlicensed cars, the game really allows you to do what you need it to do, which is give you the smash’n’crash experience of a lifetime. Without much notice you’ll go from driving a fully fledged car to what resembles a battered clown buggy.
What makes this game stand out is that it doesn’t take itself seriously. That’s not to say it’s borderline parody, more that it knows what the audience wants and it isn’t afraid to provide exactly that. Limiting the serious racing and opting for the more animalistic approach is a fantastic element, and is executed with such precision that will definitely please the series fans. As always, it appeals to a certain group of people. Don’t follow this game if you want a serious driver where you are able to race your favourite brand around well known tracks; you’ll be thoroughly disappointed. If you’re looking for a game you can invite some mates around, stick in and not take seriously, yet having an incredibly good time (along with the opportunity to mock and gloat at each other), DiRT: Showdown is your game.