Not a Change for the Better
As an admitted non-fan of rally racing, the several rally series on the market have never done much for me --- until Colin McRae's DIRT series. Those games managed to take a form of driving I'm not fond of and make it an enjoyable and easily controllable driving series out there.
DIRT 2 was one of my favorite games this generation. Codemasters has done right by the series --- arguably until DIRT Showdown. This game is a pretty major departure.
First, the positives --- visually, the game is great. I love the car models. They look good and the multiple options for paint jobs look nice, by and large. The sheer variety in game types is nice. There are demolition derbies, stunt challenges, arenas where you are the target of the other drivers, etc. Just a wide variety of game types and it helps insure that you will not get bored with the game.There's also two large open environments where you need to do 25 different things to complete it and find 60 hidden icons. One of the more impressive collections of things to do in a racing game in a while.
BUT...it isn't DIRT. There is no actual rally racing here. And while I know that online is a major point of lots of gaming --- but having to decline to buy the online pass every time you boot the game up makes one not really want to boot the game up. The controls are just a bit too easy --- when playing what is, ostensibly, a rally game, you want rally style controls and this game has controls that are much more basic than earlier DIRT titles. The gymkhana in DIRT 3 is replaced by a less robust version of it here. You can get nailed by other drivers, but the impacts seem all-but-devoid of actual impact. Shift did a better job of making impacts seem, well, impactful.
The audio is really terrible. The music is blah and the announcer is obnoxious. Again, this isn't Burnout and it doesn't have the excuse of it being part of the overall atmosphere to have a douche as announcer. It also seems to be a little less fast than older DIRT titles. It's not slow, but the sensation of speed is considerably less. I cannot even explain why it is. It just does feel slower.
DIRT Showdown is a fine title. It's not a DIRT title and it's not at the level of Burnout, Criterion's NFS, or Forza, but it is perfectly acceptable and you will probably have a bit of fun with it. Just don't expect your traditional DIRT title.