UK REVIEW: There's a spectacle to Dirt Showdown that flies in the face of racing tradition: the jumps, the drifts, the squealing doughnuts, and the blinding flash of fireworks. With each crumpled bumper and shattered windscreen, a vast arena crowd roars, eager to be wowed not with the shaving of valuable seconds from a lap time, but with pyrotechnic-laden displays of driving that are as much about showmanship and destruction as they are about skilful precision. It's an intoxicating mix that forgoes the difficulty of simulation for a thrilling and beautifully presented arcade ride.
There's fireworks aplenty in Dirt Showdown.
The biggest difference between Showdown and its predecessors is that the handling is surprisingly forgiving. You can whip your car around the tightest of corners without ever easing off the accelerator, while even the most dramatic twirls of the steering wheel don't send you hurtling headfirst towards a barrier like they used to. But there's still a balance to be found. The skill lies in the timing of your turns and the judicious tapping of your hand brake and boost to perform impressive drifts and show-stopping doughnut rings. It's a dramatically different feel, but one that lends itself beautifully to the events at hand.
Some, like the Hoonigan events, are all about precision and showmanship in licensed cars. The destructible blocks of Smash Hunter are intricately arranged to reward delicate turns and tight drifts, while a timer for high scores keeps the pressure on, and your speed up. There's more challenge to be had in Trick Rush events, where drifts, doughnuts, and jumps are scattered throughout cleverly designed environments. With each trick your multiplier climbs ever higher, resulting in a mad dash to rack up points before the timer runs down.
Most challenging are the head to head Gymkhana events, where you take on the mighty Ken Block in a trick-filled arena course. The turns are tighter, the jumps larger, and the pyrotechnics even wilder. But while the bright, neon fireworks and explosive confetti cannons certainly add excitement to the proceedings, it's the process of improving bit by bit, drawing ever closer to success and perfection that makes such events so entertaining and incredibly addictive.
But there's another side to Dirt Showdown, one that sheds the skill for mindless and supremely satisfying displays of destruction: Demolition events. The licensed cars are ditched in favour of made-up machines that are turned into crumpled heaps of scrap as you're launched into the centre of an arena to ram, slam, and boost your way into opponents, doing everything you can to whittle down their health bars and to score points. Enclosed arenas give you barriers to ram them against, while open arenas mean mistimed boosts send you spiralling out of control onto the surrounding sandy ground.
T-Bone: apparently not just a delicious steak.