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Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad review for XBLA, PSN

Platform: XBLA
Also On: PSN
Publisher: Reverb Games
Developer: 2XL Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-8
Online: Yes
ESRB: E

Jeremy McGrath has been absent from the video game world since the PS2/Xbox failure Jeremy McGrath’s Supercross.  The announcement of another game starring the “dirty” sportsman didn’t make me jump with joy, but surprisingly Jeremy McGrath’s Off Road Racing is actually a very solid effort, albeit a bit basic and streamlined.

If I am being completely honest, when booting up this ten-dollar downloadable title I was cringing as if I was in for another Bang Bang Racing-like effort.  The menus were completely bland and basic, the amount of gaming options seemed limited, but the best/worst part was being “welcomed” by Jeremy McGrath’s voice over supported by a poorly rendered digital picture of the man himself.  I thought, man this takes me back 10 years, but not in a good way.  Thankfully once I got into the game itself, it was a whole new ball of wax.

Jeremy McGrath’s Off Road Racing picks up speed where it counts, in the actual racing.  Getting there is pretty boring with a bleak number of options, customization screens, and lifeless menus, but it’s all uphill when the count down from 3 to 1 is finished.  Running at a silky smooth 60fps, the game is gorgeous from the vehicles to the backgrounds.  I almost felt at time as if I were playing another game with the last name of Mc (as in Colin McRae) but a much simpler version without all the attention to realistic detail. Sure, the physics and game play ideas are the same, but you can tell that the developers were shooting for a style that appeases both the arcade and sim fans simultaneously.

Audio does nothing special here, from the roaring engine sounds to your typical “this direction coming up” comments, and I wouldn’t say you need to turn up your stereo speakers too loud unless you’re listening to a custom soundtrack during your race.  The overall presentation leaves you feeling a bit unsatisfied as you select your vehicle and upgrade options, race, finish the race, see your standings, and move onto the next track.  At least it all looks good while you’re doing it, and honestly, that’s what really counts in the end.

The game handles very well with responsive controls. Featuring easy to pick up and play patterns for each variety of race, and an A.I. that obviously balances difficulty depending on how hard you choose to play it, but it is good to know that A.I. for each setting is as good as advertised, so no dramatic come from behind miracle/rubber band A.I. here.  I like that the game switches up from head to head races to the finish, to individual time-focused racing, as well as some variety to the track design which make for enough diversity to keep the game exciting and fresh.

While the career mode portion of the game isn’t very long ranging in the 2-hour category, it is the 8 player online multiplayer that will keep you returning.  Unlike the last racing game I reviewed (Bang…cough Bang) it’s nice to see developers who are making a game that is only available through download and featured online actually use online functionality beyond leaderboards.

In the end Jeremy McGrath’s Off Road Racing does exactly what it sets out to, which is deliver a solid racing experience that will provide gamers their money’s worth whether they are playing online, offline, or both.  It hides no shame in its budget constrained development, but makes up for its shortcomings in the gripping racing it sets out to provide.  It is definitely not a game I would say to drop what you are doing and play it now, but if you’re looking for a good racing fix and you don’t care about the trimmings, then by all means give this one a spin as it’s a good dependable ride, like a Ford Focus, but will disappoint if you are hoping for a Lamborghini.

Grade: C+