DiRT Showdown Multiplayer Hands-On Preview – Car Crash Video Gaming. Literally
Written Wednesday, May 09, 2012 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
Like any gamer pushing 30, we remember Destruction Derby well, and so too does Codemasters it seems, as DiRT Showdown is wall-to-wall demolition, from the simple thrills of Joyride to the potentially fatal racing on a figure of eight racetrack in the no-holds barred 8 Ball mode, and the balls-out demolition bowls of Rampage. Crashing is seldom encouraged in racing games, but in DiRT Showdown, it's actively rewarded and even required to succeed, especially in multiplayer. It's also spectacular to boot, which always helps.
Featuring the ever-reliable boost bar, you can fill up on nitrous by crashing into your rivals and the heavier the impact, the bigger the boost reward. Of course, for the out and out destructive portions of the game, DiRT Showdown has a garage of unlicensed vehicles modelled around real-world versions. So there's a range of muscle cars, hot rod racers, pickups, trucks and other rides to choose from, and the sky's the limit as far as damage is concerned. You can also save your most glorious crashes using the Crashback feature, enabling you to upload your best replays to YouTube for posterity.
Having watched some real banger racing on the figure of eight circuit at Wimbledon Stadium, we head indoors and fire up some multiplayer action, which consists of several brilliantly arcadey and exciting game types. First up is old playground favourite 'tag', but in the form of the wildly destructive Smash & Grab mode, which has two teams of four piling in to snatch a neutral flag. The LA Pacific Parkway arena is a fairly large environment, perfect for the chaos of Smash & Grab, as eight players all contend for the flag, referred to in-game as the 'loot', despite clearly being a flag.
A straight-up game of red cars versus blue cars, Smash & Grab is an intense and compulsive multiplayer game type, and with the loot carrier marked out as a bright yellow car, you can imagine the carnage that ensues as the other seven cars all speed in at once in an effort to acquire the flag. This mode also surprisingly uses licensed cars, so you can smash up some pretty lovely real-world vehicles like the Ford Fiesta H.F.H.V, Subaru Impreza WRX STI, Ford Mustang GTR, Ford Escort Mk 2, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X and the Scion tC in your race for the loot flag.
Although the LA Pacific Parkway is large, it's peppered with obstacles, including a central podium with ramps and a thoroughfare underneath it, meaning that there are plenty of chokepoints for grinding scuffles between cars that result in more than just paint being traded. Whichever team can hold onto the loot for the longest total time wins the match, and as the timer elapses during each round, you'll be wanting to look out for the double points period that can mean the difference between winning and losing. Protecting your team's loot carrier and relentlessly chasing down the rival carrier is vital then, as scores can often be on a knife-edge throughout and victory can be snatched away from the jaws of defeat right at the very last second.
Next up is the sumo wrestling-inspired Knock Out that has cars leaping into an unfenced ring from ramps surrounding the suspended platform that serves as the battling arena. Again it's red versus blue team-based shenanigans for eight players, but given the level of destruction in Knock Out mode, we're restricted to DiRT Showdown's unlicensed rides, which usually have their own variety of distinctive custom liveries to set them apart. In Knock Out, they're simply red or blue. It's a devilishly straighforward concept, and one that proves every bit as frantic and entertaining as Smash & Grab.
The Knock Out platform in the Golden Gate Square arena in San Francisco we played is rather small too, so the tussling between cars gets very frenetic, very fast, which inevitably results in a few accidental friendly nudges between you and your teammates. If you band together as a team though, you can coordinate some aggressive attacks to shove your rivals off the platform edge, scoring a point for each car you manage to force out of the ring. Should you find yourself falling off the platform, you'll respawn at the foot of one of the outer ramps and get the chance to dive straight back into the melee of sparks and twisted metal. Jumping off the edge of the ramp right back into the thick of it is frequently hilarious too, like a wrestler belly-flopping into the middle of an all-out royal rumble. With cars.
Both Smash & Grab and Knock Out are incredibly entertaining multiplayer modes, possessing that all important 'one more go' factor. Incorporate Codemasters Racing's RaceNet integration into the equation, which enables you to throw down the gauntlet and issue challenges to your friends, and you have a remarkably fleshed-out multiplayer component that'll potentially have you coming back for more in between sessions playing DiRT Showdown's crash-happy single-player modes. It might not be the rallying that DiRT purists know and love – and hopefully there'll be plenty of that in DiRT 4 - but DiRT Showdown sure is a ton of fun.
DiRT Showdown is out on May 24th in Europe and May 29th in North America.