Reviewed: November 2, 2011
Released: September 29, 2011
There are very few really realistic racing titles out there on the market and even fewer that cover the rugged sport of off-road racing. Now Iíve played a few good ones over the years and covered a couple here at GCM but they were nothing like 1C-Avalonís Off-Road Drive for PC. This new take on the rugged sport released by the now combined forces of Russian distributor, publisher and developer 1C Company and Avalon Style Entertainment is easily the most realistic that Iíve played. The only problem is that maybe thatís not entirely a good thing.|
Off-Road Drive starts you off with an off-road trail that, while manmade, teaches you the basics that youíll need to master for each course. From there itís off to Thailand to compete in the Petronas Suvium Silverstone Challenge, then on to the beautiful and rugged terrain of Ladoga Lake near Leningrad, Russia. There are several other locations on your trip including Australia, Africa and even here in the good old USA.
Off-Road Drive isnít your traditional breakneck speeds across long stretches with treacherous turns and rolling hills. Youíre going to be traversing some of the worst natural obstacles such as swamps, snow and the muddiest holes you can imagine. To get you through it or even get started youíll have to get acquainted with the controls and learn them fast. Unlike most racing games you usually only have to worry about the possibility of having to shift gears and staying on the road. Here you need to learn how to lock differentials and use lower gears to get over steep terrain. If those donít cut then youíll have to break out the winch and hope you donít break the line a few times before you get it right.
One of the things that I did like from a technical standpoint is the fact that everything matters, like car weight and tire pressure when getting through the tracks. For instance, Off-Road Drive features track degradation throughout, so you always have to be readjust on future laps. This is even more of a challenge during muddy parts which require you to release the pressure in your tires to trudge through.
The downside of Off-Road Drive is that I found myself frustrated more than enjoying the experience. I definitely see and appreciate the work that went into creating such realism, though I was always hitting momentary game slowing predicaments like finding myself unable to move and spinning tires after smacking a tree or clearing a hill. There is feature that targets the trouble spots at the press of a button as well as an exterior view camera to help see your vehicles at multiple angles.
One of the highlights of Off-Road Drive is its visuals, particularly in its track design, track degradation and water effects. The tracks, while murderously challenging, look great and are exactly what I would expect from the real thing. The different locations are nice and you can tell the difference between courses without feeling like you've been there already. The track degradation, thanks to the Unreal 3 Engine, is awesome, and I wish more off-road titles would use it. Seeing the mud pushed away and water rising and filling the ruts behind the vehicles tires is totally realistic. Add the splattered mud on the vehicles and water splashes on the screen and windshield in cab mode and the realism is overwhelming. Environmental effects like rain and mud make the races even more challenging and are a nice immersion tool. The sound effects are okay though I feel the engine sounds, which are heard all the time, are a bit off. There is an independent volume control for them though, so you can still enjoy the music and other sound effects.
There are a few extra online and LAN modes available, but unfortunately I never found anyone to race against. Given how difficult the campaign is I can only imagine that the outcome would be the same. I do like the fact that it supports local LAN play though.
In the end, Off-Road Drive could have been a really enjoyable title for me. Iím always up for a challenge but unfortunately neither a keyboard nor gamepad could help me through the frustrating gameplay. The visual and technical aspects are there and they look great and I applaud the realism but it just doesnít flow for me. This will be a game that diehard enthusiasts will appreciate and I definitely recommend it to them. For everyone else, youíre probably better off playing something from the Dirt series.