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Xbox 360 Review: Dirt Showdown

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Disregard the name; this isn’t Dirt. Despite being shoved into an archetype that solidifies their rally racing genius, Codemasters ditches it all for Showdown, an indirect resurrection (of sorts) to the dormant Psygnosis published Destruction Derby franchise.

The goal? To be bold, even abrasive. Menus greet with dominating fonts, the 3D world here created only so the camera can be seated low enough to appreciate the awe of these bass-spewing options. So strong, even the metal-centric soundtrack bows to the awesomeness of these letters. In general, Codemasters’ superior menu design is their aesthetic, here though it’s no longer flashy, just heavy and forceful.

This aggressive stint is a set up not for race tracks so much as it is a series of battlegrounds. Tracks are designed with crunching fenders in mind first, partial accomplishments given to a first-place winner and the real glory to those who tear apart the opposition – literally. Showdown single-handedly raised insurance claims by 15% in its first week on the market, at least virtually.

Some of Dirt remains. It would almost be naïve to believe this somewhat niche racer would be constructed from the ground up. Cars still skid across anti-driving surfaces, drift with reckless abandon, and kick up debris as if style points were awarded for mud coverage. Showdown probably misses part of its calling, punishing wrecks in the most basic of race types go unrewarded, whether that’s bonus cash or in a tie-breaking award in tiered tournaments. Some of the aggression dies in that fight for first because the benefit isn’t worth the risk.

There’s still respect for the audience looking to smash, race types including a WWE Royal Rumble-esque mosh pit called “Knock Out” where cars sumo each other off a ledge for points. Figure eight tracks become a haven for cross-cutting, super high-speed collisions, the type of stuff that makes even a non-science buff appreciate the beauty of physics. That, or the sheer brutality of metal on metal devastation. Most of these race types, despite their simplicity, are enough to carry the career mode which feels fitted with minimal filler.

Clunkers do run themselves into a corner, a brick crunching “Smash Hunter” designed as a precision challenge with colored blocks being the goal. In terms of stupidity, Showdown’s need for precision ranks somewhere between necessitated online server connections that lag upon boot and online passes. The kind of/sort of open world “Joy Ride” features a multitude of challenges to endure and secret junk to find, hardly the way to illicit feelings of speed or fierce competition.

What salvages even the worst elements of Showdown is the flash. With realism relieved of its duties, Codemasters treats lens flare and a baking sun as religions. Sunlight glances off the saturated barriers and layers itself off the surface to create a super contrast, completing an edge to the visuals that began with something as simple as the menu font. Coupled with the intensity of a six-on-one survival masterpiece, the intent could not be more apparent.

Clearly, Showdown is doing something right. Proof lies with the virtual audience, exhilarated by the events to the degree that personal safety is removed from the equation. Tracks carry scattered stacks of tires which explode into a mini downpour of rubberized death that yes, even pelts the bystanders. Yet, there they are for the next circuit, in the same position, thirsty for more spilled oil and dilapidated engines. It’s a safe bet the player will find it worthwhile too.

Dirt Showdown is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) by the ESRB for Mild Lyrics, Mild Violence . This game can also be found on: PS3

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.