Dirt Showdown is the latest instalment of the fantastic Dirt series of games by Codemasters. Dirt Showdown carries on where Dirt 3 left off – mostly drifting around a mud soaked corner – only this time, rather than hardcore rallying, the emphasis is on off road races, mixed with a healthy smattering of Gymkhana which has been made famous by the rather brilliant Mr Ken Block (if you don’t know who he is, type his name into youtube and you’ll witness the finest examples of sideways driving and supreme car control ever captured on film!) and I’m not talking about the type of Gymkhana you’ll likely find Zara Phillips doing on the back of a horse! No, in fact Dirt Showdown gives you an entirely different type of horse – Horsepower – and has you drifting, sliding and doing donuts around a course in an attempt to rack up the highest score possible and finish in first place.

But before I go into my personal favourite part of Dirt Showdown – the gymkhana – I’m going to talk about the other more traditional race types your going to find in the career mode. The first time you start up Dirt Showdown you’ll be prompted to enter your name and choose a nickname, all the usual nicknames you would expect are there such as Duke, Turbo and Dude. You’re also given the option to input your youtube account details so you can upload replays of spectacular crashes and fantastic overtakes. Once you’ve done that your presented with the easy to navigate menus which if you’ve played any Codemasters racing game in recent years will look and feel instantly familiar. You are then given the choice of doing a Showdown Tour which is basically like a career mode. Joyride which is where your given the freedom to hoon* around the sites of Ken Blocks most famous Gymkhana videos such as Battersea power station, and of course, the multiplayer.

So lets start with Showdown Tour, Showdown tour takes place over 4 seasons each getting progressively harder as you make your way up the rankings, starting at Pro rising to All-star, Champion and finally Legend and sees you competing with 7 other AI drivers in a series of off road races. You’ll be taking part in events like Race Off which is your standard race usually around courses based on a figure of 8 pattern, so each one has at least one 4 way crossover which can lead to some brutal crashes! Eliminator which is an event where the car in last place after each 15 second countdown is eliminated. This is actually a really good event mode, made better by the fact that when your competitors get eliminated from the race they don’t disappear from the racetrack, they just stay where they were when they got knocked out, giving you another more stationary obstacle as well the other racers to avoid!

Just one of the many brutal crashes you'll encounter in Dirt Showdown

Another event, which also happens to be one of my favourite is Hoonigan Head 2 Head, where your competing in a head to head Gymkhana against Ken Block drifting, sliding, spinning and doing donuts within a specific amount of time and on a set course to beat him, just make sure you don’t hit anything otherwise your hard earned multiplier will disappear.

There is also a lot of destruction derby type events such as Rampage which is a straight up Destruction Derby, Hard Target which is an event where you are the target and the other AI cars try and destroy your car by smashing into it and an event called Knock Out, where you get points for knocking opponent cars out of the arena as well as points for damaging your opponent’s cars. All of the destruction derby events are brilliant fun!

In a game which is all about crashing into each other, you would expect the crashes to sound, look and feel heavy and realistic and this game doesn’t disappoint, in fact to really hammer that point home Codemasters have got rid of the flashbacks of old, like Dirt 3 and Race Driver Grid had, instead they have been replaced by “Crashbacks” which is more or less the same thing except the emphasis now is on seeing the crashes.

Whenever you have a big crash, the word “Crashback” will pop up in the corner prompting you to press the RB button and view the crash from lots of different angles making it much easier and (it has to be said) a joy to look at all the panel denting mayhem in glorious slow motion. You can also upload your most destructive crashes to youtube via the in game menu. However, the ability to only upload 10 second clips is a bit limiting but it’s a great feature none the less.

Crashes really do look fantastic in Showdown.

Depending on where you finish in each race, you’ll earn trophies which you need in order to progress – as you earn trophies more races open up for you to cause mayhem – more trophies will also open up the ability for you to buy new cars to use in the different events (my favourites are the Gymkhana Mini Cooper S as it’s a small car suited to being thrown around a Gymkhana course and the Hearse for Destruction Derby as I just find it ironic using a Hearse to destroy other cars!).

Showdown Tour is quite a lengthy career mode all in all and will take you a while to complete, mostly because when you get to the higher levels – Champion and Legend – the AI try a lot harder to win and they become much harder to pass and posses this annoying ability to always be able to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. However, it never feels like you can’t win so you will likely often find yourself restarting races just to get the best time and finish in first place.

My only gripe with the single player Showdown Tour, is the lack of hardcore rally events which the Dirt series has been known for ever since Colin McRae Dirt and even going back further to Colin McRae Rally, Codemasters cut their teeth making excellent rallying games, so at first glance it seems a little strange to leave it out completely from Dirt Showdown but having said that, ever since they got Ken Block on board for Dirt 2 shortly after Colin McRae was sadly killed on September 15th 2007 – RIP Colin McRae – the hardcore rallying events have been taking more of a back seat in favour of the more extreme sports nature of off road racing so this very much feels like the natural evolution of the game and after a while, you’ll be having so much fun that you’ll forget that the Dirt franchise ever had rallying in it in the first place.

If you do however, get bored of doing the standard races of the Showdown Tour you can turn to Joyriding, which is basically a huge playground and site of Ken Blocks most famous Gymkhana videos the Battersea power station and the Yokohama site to hoon* around in, and it’s here, the playground where I spend most of my days, chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool and all shooting some b-ball outside of the school, when a couple of guys who were up to no good started making trouble in my neighbourhood – sorry I got sidetracked there, that theme tune’s going to be in your head all day now! – the playground gives you a place to really hone your skills and get used to drifting around courses, doing donuts and spins and just generally having fun. Each area has missions for you to complete such as jumping a certain gap, doing donuts around a lamp post or drifting under scaffolding. There is also a whole toolbox load of hidden packages for you to collect, but the absolute best thing about the joyride areas, is making your own Gymkhana routes and becoming a virtual Ken Block! I have literally spent hours doing this and I know I’m a huge fan of Ken Block and especially his Gymkhana videos, but I absolutely love trying to string together a run of tricks that Ken Block himself would be proud of, It is so thrilling to nail every part of a run without doing any damage to your car! And I’m sure you’ll find it thrilling too!

You can also try out the multiplayer modes of Dirt Showdown, which consist of Demolition, Hoonigan and Racing. As the name suggests, Demolition is all about just that, demolishing your opponent’s in a whole host of destruction derby events. Hoonigan is all about the Gymkhana’s in head 2 head events and is where your going to find me, when I’m not hooning around on the playground that is. Racing events are just that, racing, you’ll be racing around the same tracks as you race around in the single player Showdown Tour and some of the races can be a real test of just how good you are. All in all multiplayer is an incredibly fun part of Dirt Showdown.

Dirt Showdown breaks from the traditions of the Dirt franchise but it is no way to its detriment. With a lengthy single player career mode, the ability to use the playground in Joyride and the excellent multiplayer is enough to keep you coming back to Dirt Showdown for a very long time.

Dirt Showdown is my new favourite racing game. See you on the dirt track!

*Hoon, Hooning and Hoonigan are terms made up by Ken Block and mean to have fun or having fun.

Review Score : [starreview tpl=16]
Title : DiRT Showdown
Format : XBox 360
Developer : Codemasters Southam
Publisher : Codemasters
Release Date : 25th May 2012

[starreviewmulti id=1 tpl=20]

Codemasters provided SlimGamer.com with a review copy of DiRT Showdown