Dirt Showdown came out a little later than expected (since some bugs had to be ironed out just before release), but it’s now a couple of weeks out. It’s not an extremely good racing game, but that’s the first recent commercial one available on our platform, while we await other options in the near future. What’s more interesting is the performance part. Virtual Programming (VP) is responsible for the port, produced with their proprietary eON technology. There’s always been a certain number of folks hating eON for being a “wrapper” (while this classification makes actually very little sense) but as mentioned before even native ports fail to show great performance – one can see the recent example of Shadow of Mordor to remain a little bit doubtful about the “native is always better than non-native” claim made so often.
Dirt Showdown went through several benchmarks and every time, it showed to be roughly equivalent to Windows or at least in the same range of FPS (nothing like half!), and actually exceeding Windows performance in low settings, based on PenguinRecordings’ experiment:
This is further confirmed even on High End cards (GTX980) at ULTRA settings, where we see something like 20 fps gap on Linux on average vs about 120 fps on Windows. A pretty close call, honestly!
As you can see the performance profile is impressive, and this is another blow to the folks who keep saying that wrappers are not good enough. VP is certainly doing a very good job to get the best performance out of their technology.
The port is indeed very efficient, but had a couple of issues when it was released: the game would run into an endless loop while loading some assets in between stages (making you stuck on the loading screen). This bug has since then been fixed by a recent update a couple of days ago, and right now the experience is very much flawless – I have not noticed any crash in-game either. Stable and good.
Now, let’s talk a little bit about the game. It feels a lot like the old Destruction Derby on Playstation if you are old enough to know what I am talking about: it’s a racing game, but the emphasis on destruction and collision is aplenty. Some areas are clearly about destroying opponents’ cars instead of racing to be the first (the arenas stages) or surviving for as long as you can.
The typical race tracks are OK, but not super fun either. All tracks are about going fast and not using the brakes that much: there are no hard turns anywhere. Roads are full of obstacles and jumps and the challenge is more about dosing your turbo well to stay at the front of the pack than taking the curve in the most efficient way. That’s probably what disappoints me the most: the challenge is limited, and most driving modes are a little bit boring. I especially loathe the precision driving stages (a la Ken Block) where yo have to follow markers on the ground and go as fast as you can, fighting against a time limit. It’s not fun at all, and the game controls are not adapted at all to this kind of setting.
Dirt Showdown does not have the craziness of arcade racers like Ridge Racer, it does not have the precision of a Gran Turismo in terms of driving experience, it’s a little too much average in everything, and leaves me very much indifferent.
This being said, I really like one of the game modes, called “Elimination” – where you start a race and every 15 seconds the car in the last position is eliminated automatically: this really drives the adrenaline up to do whatever is required to get ahead of the others. And that’s about what there is to say about it. While there are many models of cars in the game, they all handle and feel pretty much the same (meh…) at least for what I could try after a dozen of hours at it.
So here I am anyway, playing this game a little bit every single day, while waiting for something more substantial on Linux (GRID should be able to provide a bit more fun). I’m not sure why VP decided to focus on this particular title for their port, but at least if it helps them improve their technology to deliver better, faster ports, I’m all for it – any port of this quality is definitely acceptable and desirable.
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