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Neal Molyneaux puts on his driving gloves to tackle Codemasters Racing's DiRT Showdown…

Publisher/Developer: Codemasters

Format: Xbox 360

Available: Out now

Price: £39.99

DiRT: Showdown continues to take the spin-off series from perennial rally franchise, Colin McCrae’s Dirt, into ever more extreme arcade styled racing realms. Showdown is an eclectic bag of mixed events and race types that shouldn’t work together but, it is because of its varied formats that it works so well.

Codemasters’ love letter to extreme racing sees the player battle their way through ranked series by partaking in everything from straight-up dirt races and Domination events to destruction-derby based events like 8-Ball, Rampage and Knock-outs [Rampage with altitude]. Then there are the survival events like Eliminator and a frantic take on Rampage that sees you as the only target, hunted by several automotive opponents. Finally, harking back to DiRT’s rallying roots, there are the Ken Block themed Hoonigan events which see you mastering trick driving or knocking down sequences of coloured slabs to score points in high-end rally cars.

There are a bewildering array of events to play and, initially, it can be tricky to figure out what you are supposed to be doing [there’s a button in the pause menu that explains it] but, before long, the game will have sunk its teeth into you. Events each have their strengths and weaknesses – Rampage and Knock-out lacking the reqired to skill to keep them interesting for long – while others, such as the Hoonigan events keep you coming back in a bid to shave a few seconds off your times. This competitive edge is further honed by Racenet, which posts your stats online for friends to compete against. Furthermore, once you’re done with the campaign mode you can always play online with the added spice of real human foes.

Long loading times are the only downside to an otherwise perfectly balanced slice of maniacal automotive carnage that makes this one of the best arcade racers of the year.