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Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad
Developer: 2XL Games
Release Date: 6/27/2012
You might remember Jeremy McGrath as the guy who excelled in the sport of motorcross and brought us a couple of terrible motorcross games with his name in the title for the Playstation and Playstation 2. If you don’t remember this, then that’s probably for the better as those games faded into obscurity and Jeremy McGrath has moved on to a different hobby, the competitive events of offroad racing.
There have been a couple of offroad racing games released for video game consoles, with DiRT dominating the niche of rally racing. However, aside from that series most of the games within the genre have been disappointing. As a rule I’d advise against buying any offroad video game with the word Baja in the title, as it will most likely suck. Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad is the only offroad racing game available on Xbox Live Arcade, and developed by the company that made Baja: Edge of Control.
It’s also pretty good.
The modes aren’t going to blow anyone away. There’s a choice of Arcade Mode, where you can choose specific tracks, and play single races to your heart’s content. Career is the way to go for single player, however, with over 20 single player race tracks that start you off with sportsman trucks and move you up through buggies, rally cars, and trophy trucks. This mode has a well defined difficulty curve so that you can get the hang of the racing mechanics as you advance through more difficult races. The game also features online multiplayer, but I have never run across anyone else playing the game no matter how often I check, and therefore cannot speak to how well the multiplayer works.
There is a manual of sorts available in the options to read from, which suggests that there is a practice mode, but I never saw that in the game. A practice or tutorial would have been a nice addition to the game, since while it is easy to pick up and play, there is a slight depth to the powerslides and clutch boosts that are never really explained clearly to the player. A mode to help the player understand the mechanics of the game would have helped a lot.
The box art for the game may look fairly generic, but the game is a good looking game for an Arcade title. The cars are well detailed and the levels are both well details and the game does well with giving the illusion that you are racing through expansive landscapes. The draw distance is impressive, though the textures for both the vehicles and plants are kind of flat looking and sometimes dull. The sense of speed is well conveyed without the need for any blur effects. There are multiple views, and though there is no cockpit view there is a wide lens viewpoint from the hood of the vehicles that makes the tacks feel like dirt strewn roller coasters. The tracks are varied and will switch from a jungle background to a snow covered or farm style setting.
The audio is basic, with decent background music and okay sound effects. The engines of the different vehicles sound the same and aren’t distinct. The sounds of the cars hitting each other is weak, at least when compared to the most recent DiRT: Showdown game that I reviewed. When and if you trade paint with another vehicle the sound is disappointing and there is no visual feedback in terms of vehicle damage that shows you’ve been hit. Hit a jump wrong and the vehicle you are driving might flip a dozen times, and that’s always fun to watch. The only presentation complaint I can really think of is that you can adjust a couple of options, but you can’t keep Jeremy McGrath from talking during the load screens. He sounds like he’s talking through Darth Vader’s mask, and mostly offers the same advice over and over again. I appreciate the help and some of the advice is useful, but hearing over and over again is maddening.
The game controls very well, with the right trigger used for the gas and the left for the brake/reverse. The left bumper is used to control the clutch and clutch boosts respectively. B is for the E Brake, which is used for drifting around corners, X looks behind the vehicles, and Y changes the camera position. The left joystick is for steering.
The simplicity of the controls makes the game easy to pick up and play, but mastering things like powersliding and clutch braking appropriately will take some time and skill. The game is well balanced this way with tracks that continue to challenge the player as they ascend in rank and AI that races well. There are three difficulty levels to play through, with the easiest being fairly simple to get in the front of the pack. While there aren’t many vehicles to choose from, actions in any mode will make the player gain experience points, with different maneuvers gaining experience, such as passing another racer or clutch boosting at the right time. These experience points can then be put into upgrading the different vehicles. If you find that the rally cars are too difficult, you can lower the difficulty, or keep playing until you gain enough experience to upgrade your vehicle. Different things can be upgraded, such as Acceleration, Handling, Top Speed, and Braking. This ensures that players who might even have trouble with the easiest difficulty might still be able to eventually power through and upgrade the vehicle until they can pass the race, while the higher difficulty level in later levels of the career mode will certainly provide a challenge to racing fans of all types.
The ease of picking the game up and playing, the experience point system, and just how fun the tracks are make it so that the game has the ‘one more race’ type of addictive mentality going for it. Upon completing the career mode, however, there’s not much left to do in the game aside from either replaying the career mode or playing the Arcade mode to try and secure a spot on the leaderboards.
The online mode adds some measure of replayability, but as mentioned I could never find anyone actually playing the game online. It seems like if the game had a good online community the replayability might be strong, as there are multiple maps to play on and racing games are almost always more fun against human opponents. However, the community is unfortunately not yet there for this game.
It is worth mentioning that if you are a fan of offroad racing, Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad is perhaps oe of the better titles on any console, at least when it comes to arcade style offroad racing. DiRT is still the undisputed king of rally racing, but if you are looking for a lighter, arcade style type of offroad racing game, I’ve played most of the full priced titles and Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad is one of the best despite only being a fraction of the price.
That is really what impressed me the most about the game. I’m not saying it’s a high polished amazing game or anything, but I’ve played a couple of other offroad titles, including a full retail title by the same developers a while back, and at $10 Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad is one of the most fun offroad racing titles I’ve played. It could use more modes, at the very least a tutorial mode, the graphics, while good, could have better textures, and I’d prefer a higher variety to the vehicles than what exists here. Despite all of that Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad succeeds where some other titles which do have those features have failed: it is fun to play. For $10 that’s all I ask for of any video game.
Replayability: Below average
Appeal Factor: Good
FINAL SCORE: ABOVE AVERAGE GAME
Short Attention Span Summary
While the game might not have all the bells and whistles as a $60 game, Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad is a fun arcade racing title, and if you enjoy offroad racing games it is worth the $10.