Barebones offroad racing.
It has been a while since we have heard from Jeremy McGrath, master of Supercross and star of his very own less than successful Supercross videogame. It would seem that in recent years Mr. McGrath has traded up from two wheels to four, but still insists on getting dirty as he has moved into racing buggies, trucks and rally cars off-road. So, it would make sense that the latest game to star Jeremy puts the player behind the wheel of a variety of different vehicles and has them driving around through dirt and snow at unsuitably high speeds.
Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad is available through digital download on XBLA and PSN at the bargain price of 800 MSPoints or £6.29, and sadly the presentation reflects the budget-friendly price. The menus are impressively bland and the digital representation of Jeremy McGrath himself seems as though it has been resurrected from the long distant past.
The modes on offer are equally sparse in their offerings. With a short career mode (taking only a couple of hours to finish), an arcade mode and some multiplayer fun on offer, gamers will be quickly wondering where their money went. But there is more to this game than meets the eye, so don’t cast your judgement too quickly.
Despite all of the budget presentation and minimal modes, when it comes down to the racing, things really do get interesting. The game has different difficulty modes, ensuring that anyone can pick up and start racing like a pro. The physics of the cars are well represented and, despite the arcade feel of the game, there is actually some depth to be found. Throttle manipulation, power slides and clutch boosting will all need to be mastered if the player wants to get the most out of the game. But that does not necessarily mean winning each race…
Offroad has taken an interesting approach by allowing players to earn experience and level up their vehicles. Winning races is not especially difficult in the career or arcade modes, allowing even the newest of offroad drivers to feel some accomplishment. Indeed, winning a race will earn a certain amount of experience and encourage progression. However, more experience can be earned through overtaking, performing certain maneuvers and such, and this is where tactical play comes in. Players wanting to get their vehicles to the highest levels will find themselves dropping back or driving deliberately dangerously (more dangerously than standard offroad racing) just to be able to rack up the massive experience points.
At the beginning of the game, the player is given a selection of stock cars, for various different categories. Then, as they earn experience, they gain points which can be alloted to each vehicles handling, brakes, acceleration or top speed, making the vehciles perform very differently. This is perhaps the main selling point of the game and the reason to keep coming back after the woefully short career has been completed. As the vehicles are improved, the changes are really noticable and maxing a vehcile out is a satisfying feeling.
The arcade mode really is more of the same, so the online multiplayer is all that’s left once the career has been finished and the player has stopped grinding to improve their cars. Thankfully, playing online is quite enjoyable, if a little shallow. Beyond the thrill of competition, there is nothing else to gain. Still, it’s entertaining enough if you are in the mood for some offroad racing with friends.
Visually the game is quite impressive, bland menus aside. Everything runs at a very smooth 60 fps, the vehicles look great and the environments, though desolate for the most part, all look like they could have been pulled from a full price retail title. It’s quite an accomplishment for 2XL Games to have released a downloadable title of such high graphical quality.
But despite the good looks, the interesting leveling of the cars and the enjoyable driving, Offroad is still just too short lived and light on content. Racing fans will get some enjoyment from the title, but will find that it is over too quickly.
Gamers who need to scratch that offroad racing itch will find Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad satisfies, at least for the short term. For a downloadable racing title on XBLA and PSN, the game is impressive. But the lack of longevity will leave players wanting more and going elsewhere to find it.