Jeremy McGrath's Offroad|
For those old school gamers longing for the good old days of off road console racing, there is a wonderful treat waiting for you in the Xbox Live Arcade. Combining the head to head fun of the 1989’s classic Ivan Stewart’s Super Off Road with the white-knuckle excitement of the original Xbox’s Rallisport Challenge franchise, with a bit of high-flying Supercross action thrown in for good measure, Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad is like a medium-sized taste of old school fun priced for the budget gamer.
Jeremy McGrath may be best known for his Supercross motorcycle racing, but in the mid 2000’s he has branched out into four-wheeled motorsports including GoKarts, NASCAR, and Off Road Trophy Truck Racing – and has made a bit of name for himself in the new arenas. Being no stranger to the world of video gaming – McGrath was featured in a handful of Supercross games in the early 2000’s on the original Xbox – Jeremy is the perfect front man for 2XL’s Off Road, which features a bevy of off road racing classes including Buggies, ProLite Trucks, Pro Buggies, Rally Cars, and Trophy Trucks.
At only $10, Offroad might not offer all the bells and whistles of a full-priced release, but delivers all the fine points that make an arcade racing game enjoyable; excellent controls, a fantastic sense of speed, and a challenging, yet accessible, career mode. All of this easily makes up for the slim selection of vehicles (each class offers one basic vehicle that can be upgraded using experience points earned during each race), and the modest collection of racing venues (seven in total).
McGrath’s Offroad is about as old-school as arcade racing games get; there’s no storyline, no sim-style tinkering, no wear-and-tear, no car damage – there’s no fluff whatsoever. From the initial menu it’s simply a series of progressively more difficult races held along a series moderately-corralled racing courses, all the while watching a constant tally of series points leading to the ultimate crowning of the series champion. And it’s perfect in its own way – because while most of us racing fanatics love us some simulation racing, there are times when we just want to sit back and enjoy a race without worrying about tire pressures and suspension settings.
The fictitious tracks are all rendered gorgeously – reminding me of the look and feel of the classic Xbox Rallisport Challenge titles with their dusty pastures, rocky mountain paths, and muddy two tracks. There are a few questionable decisions; like the fact the Chippewa Hill course, which is supposed to be in Michigan, features towering mountains in the background when Michigan actually has no mountains, or the fact that every track has some obnoxious event (big snowballs, roll-bales of hay, etc.) that seem to roll their way onto the track to pose an additional obstacle. Still, the high-flying courses (and some have fantastically huge jumps) are a blast and each has its unique look, feel, and difficulty to make them stand out. The controls fall in the “just loose enough to be fun” – similar to what we all enjoyed in the classic Rallisport Challenge, Pro Race Driver, or Colin McRae Racing titles. There is just enough drift to add a white knuckle feel to each corner, and the cars seem to pivot on the appropriate turn axis at the front wheels (as opposed to Sega Rally or Test Drive Unlimited in which cars seem to pivot on a central axis)
Depending on the chosen difficulty level (which is selectable prior to each series race), the entire career mode takes about 4 to 5 hours to complete. This might seem a bit brief if McGrath’s Offroad were a full-priced release, but at $10 it is well worth the price of admission. In addition, the game features online racing – although the lobbies are rather empty at this time so it is hard to make an accurate judgment on the quality and performance online.
Jeremy McGrath makes an appearance during the loading and vehicle upgrade screens, and gamers are guaranteed to be annoyed with his limited list of tips that are repeated throughout the course of the career. But he does clue gamers in to the game’s unique mechanics, like the ability to pitch the vehicle in the air (a not to the Supercross controls), or the proper time to pull off a clutch boost. Performing these actions add experience point that equate to upgrade points that can be used to improve the gamer’s vehicle’s handling, acceleration, top speed, and braking of their selected vehicle. I found it most effective to max out handling and acceleration first – this will put the gamer in the driver seat of most races even at the highest difficulty – after that point, subsequent upgrades are simply icing on the cake.
As I get older, I find myself moving away from the micromanagement of the simulation racers (Forza, etc.) and back to the high-speed enjoyment of the arcade racers. Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad is the perfect budget-priced snack-sized taste of Offroad racing I was looking for.