Reviewed: October 22, 2008
Released: September 24, 2008
RacingÖ a national pastime that has bridged continents and generations. Iíve been fan of racing for many years and have seen everything from everything from motocross to NASCAR to boat racing, albeit from the comforts of my living room. My favorite type of racing however takes us through the southwestern United States and across the BAJA Peninsula. Iím of course talking about the rugged off-road sport known as BAJA.
BAJA Racing is the ultimate off-road experience and for the brave athletes that participate there is no greater rush. This brings me to the point of this article as I strap in and review BAJA: Edge of Control for the Xbox 360.
BAJA: Edge of Control features some of the sickest tracks and terrain Iíve ever seen in any racing title to date. 2XL Games and THQ (publisher of the MX vs. ATV franchise) have created over 1000 miles of unforgiving environments that range from the sandy beaches of Cocono Island to the desolate Cabo San Lucas to the muddy terrain of Canyon De Chelly.
BAJA: Edge of Control is a technological achievement under its flashy exterior. The developers strove to give the player the most realistic experience possible and they succeeded with flying colors in my book. The suspension, tire, break and clutch systems are beyond anything Iíve seen recently. All it takes is one wrong turn or bump to send your machine tumbling across the desert or sailing off a cliff.
The thing to understand is that while BAJA is first and foremost a racing simulator, it treads the fine line between simulator and arcade. No vehicle could take the punishment these machines take in this title. However 2XL makes sure to keep things as realistic as possible.
There are 8 different vehicle classes to choose from ranging from the classic BAJA Bug to the Trophy Truck, the king of off-road circuit. Each class is different from the rest and can be customized to your liking with 339 different parts. Players can purchase upgrades in any one of following 7 categories: Engine, Power Train, Tires, Brakes, Suspension, Weight and Aero, and Cooling and Plumbing.
After buying your upgrades you can fine-tune your vehicle to your liking. This may give you an edge over the AI who can be a bit rough to put it lightly. You can then take your creation out for a test drive before you with the circuits.
BAJA: Edge of Control features a BAJA Career mode as well as 6 different off-road experiences. The Career mode features 8 different classes to choose from and over 95 different tracks to master. Players must race to earn both credits and experience to further their careers and to purchase upgrades for your rides. Credits are gained through purse winning and sponsor contingencies, the later being the majority of where your earnings will come from later on in your career. But with sponsor contingency comes great responsibility, as you must make sure that the sticker-plastered panels are still on your vehicle at the end of each grueling race.
Gaining experience is ultimately the goal of BAJA: Edge of Control as it allows you to unlock all of the different classes. You can compete in any race league, open class challenge, hill climb and rally race as many times as you want and gain experience points. However once you hit 1st place that event is tapped out. One of the cool things about BAJA is that you can stop in the middle of a tournament set, turn off your system and come back and finish it later. So no more wasted time when you have to bail two-thirds into a long race set.
For those of us that donít have a lot of time or too much time on our hands, BAJA: Edge of Control offers 6 different racing modes in addition to the Career. They range from the standard Circuit races to Rally Races to the granddaddy of all off-road racing, the BAJA 1000. Circuit races are the same as every other racing title so no real explanation needed there.
The Rally and Hill Climb races are where things get a little interesting. Rally Race is a point to point free for all across the sun-scorched desert with a large number of vehicles on the track at one time. Fear not though as you only need to beat the opponents that are in the same class as you. The Support Chopper, one of the cooler aspects of BAJA takes place in Rally Races as well as the BAJA Races. If you are racing with the damage simulation turned on, youíll want to make full use of the chopper if your vehicle becomes badly damaged. Simply press a button to call for support and come to a complete stop near the chopper to be repaired as good as new.
Most race fans out there know what a Hill Climb is. Well forget what you know, because the Hill Climb in BAJA: Edge of Control has been kicked up a notch. Not only do you have to ascend some rough mountain slopes but you also have to descend them too. Things have never been rougher or crazier.
I leave the best for last, the BAJA Race. This is without a doubt my favorite mode in Edge of Control. Players can choose from a couple different course in the BAJA 250 and 500, or choose the mother of all of off-roading, the BAJA 1000. The BAJA races will last anywhere from 1 to 3 hours to complete and yes that is up 3 real hours of your life. There is no accelerated time here, so get comfy because youíre in for the long haul.
Graphically, BAJA: Edge of Control is a wonder to behold. The environments are wonderfully designed and detailed. The different textures are pretty good from the muddy canyons to the water textures and the gorgeous blue skies. For those of you how like to drive from the hood view, you can see all the flora, signs and buildings reflected in your hood. The vehicle models are well designed and look great as well.
I also like the gradual way the vehicles will get dirty from the tracks they are racing on, especially when driving on the Canyon De Chelly tracks or any track with mud. It gives BAJA a even greater sense of realism.
The only thing that I think that could have used some work is the amount of environmental effects. Seeing how you will be spending a huge amount of time traversing desert, I think the amount of dust and sand that flies up is a little weak. I mean I would expect a little more spray when taking a corner at over 140 miles an hour.
BAJA: Edge of Control has some impressive and realistic sound effects are just awesome. The roars of the engines of all the different vehicles in BAJA are well captured. After watching an awesome piece of high performance machinery strapped into a frame with the driver revving the engine to capture the RPMís at different levels, you truly understand the level of detail the developers went to make this tile as real as possible.
Players can adjust the volume of their own engine plus the engines of the AI engines as well to allow for players to allow you to hear the background music. Well if you turn it up a bit as the default for the music is rather low. While Iím sure we all prefer the roar of a high-performance engine, and Iím betting the developers knew that too, BAJA also features some pretty good music tracks to race to as well. I particularly like the song ďSky WindĒ, which is the song that plays during the opening video.
BAJA: Edge of Control has a lot of offer players with its single player mode as well as its various multiplayer modes. Players can tear up the track together in split-screen, over System Link and Xbox Live. But Edge of Control goes one step farther to give the player the ultimate BAJA experience. If you can gather 3 Xbox 360s, 3 screens and 3 copies of BAJA: Edge of Control you can partake in the Panorama mode. Each console displays one view from the front of the car. This allows for a wicked visual presentation. There is just no better way to play.
Overall, BAJA: Edge of Control is an awesome blend of simulation racing with a bit of arcade. I personally love this title. Itís a major change for the usual racing titles I play (no not NASCAR), and it provides more of a challenge even to the veteran player.
I will say that BAJA is abusive as all get out. The tracks are treacherous; the AI is insanely godlike at times, but the feeling that comes from navigating the locale and coming out on top is one of greatest feelings in the world. BAJA: Edge of Control retails for $60 dollars at most retailers. If youíre looking for a title that is different than all the other racing titles, then BAJA: Edge of Control is for you. Strap in and Hang on! There is just no greater thrill than ripping through the desert.