Racing simulation games tend to fall into one of two categories. Some seek to recreate the very essence of professional, high-octane motorsport, down to the intricacies of engine tuning, the subtle differences in aerodynamic setup and even the performance variations of different tires. Then, there are those that value spectacle and enjoyment above all else, never letting little things like physics get in the way of the unadulterated joy that results from smashing seven shades of shit out of an arena of mud-spattered vehicles. Dirt: Showdown has not only set out its stall in the latter camp – it’s declared Funville as its capital. So while Showdown definitely displays the lush visuals of a modern title, it doesn’t waste its time (or yours) on painstakingly recreating the minutiae of a racing game – you don’t need to worry about turbo injections or brake pad integrity. What’s important is choosing a vehicle-type, a paint job and a course. That’s it.
There’s no campaign storyline to speak of. Instead you’re given the chance to choose from a number of events – from straightforward sprint races and figure-of-eight crossovers, to demolition derbies atop raised platforms and tricky stunt courses – during which you can earn points to unlock new vehicles, new upgrades for the cars (on a simple plus and minus scale – no mechanical know-how required) and new courses. And that’s about as complicated as it gets. The enduring longevity of Dirt: Showdown comes from the simple truth that it’s really fun to crash a virtual car into a wall, T-bone your rivals and push them off a giant table, or spin a ludicrously over-powered stunt car around in circles and be told that you’re doing an awesome job. It’s the kind of spirited mischief that made games like Demolition Derby and Road Rash so much fun in the days before HDMi cables and online cloud data storage. At its core, Dirt: Showdown is about having a blast.
And, if you’re fond of online play, it’s also about bragging rights. When you post a great time, or destroy the opposition with gusto, you can put your scores online, or upload the results directly to YouTube. You can mock your peers as they struggle to keep up, or furiously perfect a track to silence a rowdy troll. Or, you can simply plough through the courses offline, safe in the knowledge that, no matter how many times you jump your car through a fireworks display and punt a graffiti-covered hearse off a 20-foot drop as your exhaust pipe catches fire, it’ll never get old.