Ever since DiRT 2, that tagline, "DiRT" with the pointless lower case "i" has become less and less relevant. Dirt used to be about rally—small automobiles spinning around tight muddy corners of sludge. Sure, DiRT 3brought back some of the rally, but I can't help but feel Codemasters have gone over the top with the glossy, bright American feel to their games of late. People demanded a rally game in DiRT 3, but Codies threw in "Gymkhana," "Joy Ride" and the like—perhaps fun in its own right but not what people wanted—and now they've gone and made a whole game based on it.
Don't get me wrong, DiRT Showdown is not a bad game...heck, it's probably one of the better racers out there. However, those who have been playing the series since the original DiRT because of the rally may feel a little cheated. While I'm on that note, I think anyone who has played the previous DiRT games will be bummed to see the rehashed tracks in DiRT Showdown's career mode. Since DiRT 3, Codies had just about a year to work on this game; perhaps they're secretly working harder on something bigger, but if this game is seen as un-important, why release it? There is so much right with DiRT Showdown and if this is the first DiRT game you play, you'll think this review is crackers. But, when you've played DiRT 2 and DiRT 3, then you play this only to find out that not only is most of it all about partying and tricks, but so many tracks have been re-used from the previous games—slightly tweaked, but not enough—there is simply not enough content here.
As always, Codies have made a nice looking game here, one to feast your eyes upon and marvel. Hell, my mind was even telling me they're the best graphics Codies have ever pulled off but graphics don't win games alone. Sure, the audio's fine, the soundtrack is fitting (though the commentator is just plain annoying) and the cars sound like cars. The cars handle like cars too, it might take a little getting used to but you'll be using nitrous on those straights in no time. So, if the playability, graphics and audio are all just fine, where does it all go wrong? Again, it essentially comes down to delivery. It doesn't matter what a game looks, sounds or plays like if it's just the same as what you've already played. Imagine if FIFA, Madden or other sports series just decided to release the same game year after. year. It might look, sound and play great, but if that's just what last year's did, it wouldn't go down well and that's what DiRT Showdown does in a nutshell.
For a developer like Codemasters, it just looks like plain laziness—surely they're working on something else, right? Nothing was revealed at E3 2012 apart from F1 2012, which looks like the same game it was two years ago. So, if Codies really don't have anything up their sleeves, that's just plain disappointing.
It's hard to recommend a game like this because different people will like it in different ways. If you've never played DiRT before, this is the only one you need to pick up. It combines all the best tracks from DiRT 2, DiRT 3 and even Racedriver GRID. There are some modes you'll like more than others. I enjoyed "8 Bal"'—essentially a demo derby, but I hated "Hard Target"—a mode where you're outnumbered by AI trying to ram you. However, if you've played and loved all the DiRT games beforehand, but haven't enjoyed the whole Ken Block/Gymkhana aspect of it, give this one a pass. You won't be missing out on much.