Preview

DiRT Showdown Preview (PC)

At this early stage, I'm worried for Dirt Showdown. A series side-step is more than welcome, but I'm not convinced Codemasters entirely know what they want this product to be. After crashing my way through a fair amount of the single-player campaign, it's difficult to see exactly what Showdown brings to the table.

Upon first inspection, we have tightly-constructed tracks, most of which force you to aggressively barge past opponents. Corners are wide and looping, allowing good drivers to overtake with a sharp turn or well-executed drift. Straights are long and filled with ramps, the perfect tool for nudging an opponent off balance, or if you're gutsy enough, leaping past the competition. Set in cities such as San Francisco and Miami, there's a feel good-factor to the title that places an importance on causing as much carnage as possible. Sadly, this has been done better before.

Spraks fly, but Showdown is gentler than you'd expect

Alongside traditional races, a number of destruction derby events are available. Points are dished out depending on how hard you hit an opponent, and if you can nudge them off the main platform. These feel extremely random, and dare I say it, bland. The allocation of points rarely made sense, giving me minimal score for a strong hit and extra points for barely doing anything. A few seconds later, this system seemed to have reversed itself. Needless to say, any tactics I had were quickly thrown out of the window in favour of just making contact. Potentially, these modes could be the most fun, but an air of confusion tinges the set-up towards frustration.

Vehicles on offer a weighty and generally fun to drive. Head-to-head events force you to complete specific tasks, such as smashing through objects and performing a donuts. Controls are responsive and allow for excellent players to thrive, especially in these tense battles.

As you would expect, Codemasters has ensured the visuals are pristine and rather slick

Although I didn't come across any sign of customisation, each vehicle has a number of different decals to choose from, in a range of wacky colours. Sponsors such as DC Shoes and No Fear litter each car, providing a feel that everything is 'rad' or 'awesome'. Each event is narrated by an irritating commentator who spurts awful one-liners, making the game feel tacky compared to Showdown's older cousins.

As I mentioned at the beginning, it's obvious Dirt Showdown doesn't know its own identity. The game plays similarly to GRID with a tad of Burnout thrown in, but not enough to make it a consistently enthralling racer. At this stage, the mixture of the two produces a lukewarm racer that 's scared to fully commit towards complete carnage. Sure, bonnets fly off and cars receive damage, but never enough to prompt a reaction. Fireworks spray across screen like in Split-Second; a reminder of what this game could be aiming for with a little more focus. Right now, although competent, Showdown suffers from a lack of ambition.

Top Gaming Moment: Vehicles are fun to thrash about, and easy to handle.

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