In a video game world where the shooter reigns supreme (with good reason), I always jump at the opportunity to play and review a game that moves away from the genre. For me, racing games have always been a simple straightforward escape from the shooter world. That doesn’t mean they are always a hit. In fact, I’ve felt a little let down by racing games until the past year when they came back like a mack truck. Racers like “Driven: San Francisco” and “Need For Speed: The Run” really gave the genre a breath of fresh air. While “Jeremy Mcgrath’s Offroad” is not on par with those games, it is a entertaining and sometimes addictive escape for the norm.
There are very few games these days where you can turn on your console to get a quick fix for a few minutes then shut it off and be satisfied. Smartphones and handhelds have that market cornered and it’s probably staying there for good. For whatever reason, that’s exactly what I’m getting out of “Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad”. Will it blow you away? No. Does it break new ground? Not at all, but what it does do is give you short bursts of fun gameplay that keeps you coming back.
When I began playing “Offroad”, I dare to say I was somewhat addicted. It made me think of the racing games of previous gen consoles that I loved so much. Games like “Jet Moto” and “Wave Race”. They were perfect for killing time while giving you an incentive to keep playing and pushing forward, and maybe that’s the reason for my addiction. Currently, I am making my way through Max Payne 3, but each and every time I’m ready to put that game down for a while, I load up “Offroad” for a quick 3-5 races that takes no more than 10 minutes and I’m good.
Like most game, it does things right and it does things wrong. What the game does right are the simple things. It gives you good options for upgrading your vehicle by always giving you XP while racing. You can probably guess what you get XP for (passing, finishing 1st, etc). Graphically the game looks surprisingly good. One of my favorite racing games ever is “Pure”. With the dessert look of the “Offroad” tracks it somewhat resembles the look of “Pure”. An added feature which I found annoying at first but useful over time was McGrath’s voiceovers while going around every turn. He gives you clues on which type of turn is coming up (slight right, quick left, long left etc). If you want to turn it off you have that option which in turn makes the game a little more challenging. Which most people might prefer.
Speaking of challenging, that may be the bright spot of “Offroad”. It’s hard, very hard. When I play a racing game, I try to pass like a real racer would. Slick and without trading paint. It’s tough to do that in this game and I had to come to terms with just ramming into other cars just to get by. I know some gamers play that way no matter what the racing game, but I don’t. I had to this time around. I got to the point where I wasn’t just losing races, I was getting smoked. Dialing down the difficulty was a must, and even then the game was on the challenging side. I was winning more yes, but the one thing I loved was it took most of the race to get to the front of the pack. I wasn’t the leader after the second turn then tried to hold the pack off the rest of the race. I was weaving in and out of opponents the entire race and in some cases didn’t take over first until the last turn or two. It was exhilarating racing. Oh, and when you’re taking over first, the guy you’re passing every time is McGrath himself, which makes it a little more gratifying.
So what does the game miss on? For one, the cars. They could have looked a little more modern and been a little more customizable in terms of paint jobs and what is under the hood. It’s pretty basic on what and how you upgrade. One thing I could never understand was the turbo feature in games like Madden. Athletes don’t have a turbo they can turn on while they are running at top speed to make them go even faster. Madden has since removed that strange feature a while back, but for some reason racing games still include a feature that is just as puzzling. When a car goes off a ramp and gets airborne, how is it that you can control what the car does in air? Move it forward, move it backward, it doesn’t matter. Those things weigh thousands of pounds. Effortlessly maneuvering them around while they are sky high is just not possible (In the real-world of course).
Finally, online would be fun however, it’s difficult to race online when nobody is online to race. Does that surprise me? Not entirely. This game will be a word of mouth game. The more people play it the more they will enjoy it and be inclined to pass the word along. Go buy “Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad”. It’s only $10 and it will offer you a few hours of enjoyment, and when you have completed the career mode you just might want to start it over again, if only for 10 minutes.