It seems that there’s something messy underfoot every step I take at the moment. The latest in a long line of trailers for car smashing lark Dirt Showdown was firmly on my ‘to be ignored’ list, seeing as there have been approximately six trailers released every day since the game was announced, but less filth-ridden nodes of the Hivemind pointed out that this was a demo trailer and as such comes with a demo. And it’s a demo with a race and an online demolition derby event, and none of that gymkhana nonsense, which is surely the vehicular equivalent of synchronised swimming or something equally toxic to my good spirits. I’ve put my mettle to the pedal. Thoughts below.
Upon loading the demo, fireworks assaulted me, the camera panned over a track, stuttering and starting as if Zack Snyder’s over-excited brother was at its helm, and music that made me feel like a teenager blasted out of my speakers. Yes, I was confused, angry and rabidly politically motivated yet hugely ignorant of current affairs.
The perfect mindset for some totally rad awesome CARnage. To the track. The 8-ball race is set in San Francisco, which means you spin around in some dirt near the Golden Gate Bridge. I wonder if a track set in London would involve spinning around in similarly configured mud paths near Big Ben. It’s conceivable.
What this does mean is that the game is even closer to ramshackle veteran Destruction Derby than I’d expected. The actual driving is fairly ponderous, the final lumbering stage of a fun run, as chubby men disguised as anthropomorphic sweat dungeons reel and stagger across the road, colliding and tumbling. Except these cartoon tortoises and hares are vans, buggies and jalopies, scraping, shunting and shattering each other as their paths cross one another or as they attempt to overtake by performing sideswipes and other vicious undertakings.
Apart from the boost mechanic, which I still identify with that series, on the evidence of this demo Showdown has very little in common with Burnout. That game was about the collision as spectacle, a full stop at the end of a 100 mile per hour sentence, whereas Showdown’s collisions are more like a crowd of people shoving each other to get to the front of a queue. It’s the first day of the sales.
Impacts have failed to jar my bones and there’s not enough space to gain a great deal of speed, but there is a certain satisfaction to all that jostling and barging. I nudged an opponent into a spin from behind and cackled as he stalled on a cross-section and was duffed around the course by incoming cars.
I haven’t tried the multiplayer component but the handling is competent, if oddly lightweight, as with the collisions. What it has apparently borrowed from Burnout is DJ Atomica’s irritating cousin who squawks incessantly, referring to the player by a nickname chosen from an extensive list, which obviously includes ‘gnarldog’. I went for ‘omelette’.
The demo is available on Steam now.