Jeremy Mcgrath’s Offroad is a PSN/XBLA game that is sponsored by the racing driver of the same name. I’ve never heard of this guy personally (despite being quite a big fan of motorsport) and neither has anyone else I’ve asked, but a quick web search shows that he’s an American Supercross racer who’s put his name on quite a few games in the past. The previous games all feature Supercross racing, whereas this one is based on offroad car racing – buggies, rally cars and other offroad vehicles.
Similar to other racing games, this game is split into 3 different modes – Arcade, Career and Online. Arcade mode is just a single race mode. You pick a car and a track and race on it. There are 6 tracks in total, and this mode can be used to practice before having to do an event. It’s a must to learn these tracks before racing, sometimes the route isn’t obvious in offroad racing!
Career mode is the main mode of Jeremy Mcgrath’s Offroad. Here you race through 23 events with 4 different classes of cars in full-on races with 7 AI opponents and also rally style time trials. As usual with any career mode in a racing game, it’s completed by finishing all of the races. Jeremy Mcgrath’s Offroad does add a little bit more to that by having an upgrade system for the cars in the game. Every time you win a race, do special driving manoeuvres (overtaking, boosts) or break things like fences or signs, you earn XP which can be used to improve the performance and handling of your car.
If you’re a fan of races in other offroad games such as DiRT, you’ll love the gameplay in this one. The cars are just fun to drive. The handling isn’t particularly realistic, but this adds to the enjoyment of races. Cars are just so easy to drive. Its even fun to watch if you land a jump wrong, or flip over on a piece of terrain - you’re treated to the spectacle of your car flipping over at great speed! The tracks are quite varied and have some random events in them – you might suddenly have to swerve out of the way of a rock or a hay bail that’s in your path. There are 3 different car setups that you can choose from that trade off between speed and grip, this allows you to get that extra bit of grip on the few tracks that are packed full of hairpin turns, however when playing I found that the ‘Very Fast’ setup was the most beneficial. This gave a speed boost to allow passing of the other cars easily – helpful as you usually start in last place. There’s plenty of control over the cars with analogue throttle and brakes, an E-brake for doing hairpin turns and a ‘boost’ button. I’m still not sure why it’s labelled boost, but it definitely isn’t like a normal racing game with the nitrous button. Infact, if used wrong it’ll slow the car down – it’s the equivalent to pressing the clutch in a car. Pressing it and releasing it at the right time give a ‘clutch boost’, though this seems pretty inconsistent and I really couldn’t get the hang of doing it. The AI cars in the game have 3 difficulty settings. Each difficulty setting affects the amount of XP you get – ‘Amateur’ gives you 75% of the experience points you’d normally get, ‘Semi-Pro’ gives you 100% of the XP and ‘Pro’ gives you 125%. To put it bluntly, I found the AI of the other racers to be far too easy. Even with the difficulty setting at ‘Pro’ it was still far too easy for me, I was consistently 10 or 20 seconds ahead of the 2nd place car.
One thing really notable about Jeremy Mcgrath’s Offroad is it’s graphics. The tracks and cars are rendered in 1080p at 60 fps. It really does make a difference too, the racing is so smooth but the graphics are simply beautiful. There are dense forests, snow tracks and jungle tracks. You can really tell the teams took pride in the graphical design of this game, some more recent triple A titles could really learn some lessons here. One minor thing I noticed was that there is a complete lack of damage simulation, visual or otherwise. Games like DiRT and GRID have such good damage simulation, it adds an extra challenge to the game, not to mention the bumps with the AI just seem to lead to a little bit of pushing off course, you’ll be very lucky to ever see a massive spin out.
Upgrading your car is essential in this game if you want to stand any chance at winning races. Upgrades are made using the XP earned in races. You get upgrade points that can be used to improve the acceleration, braking, handling and top speed in the car. However, as there are different classes of cars, you have to upgrade every class individually. Also, if you want to change the paint job on the car, you have to do all of your upgrades on each different paint job. This seems like a pretty poor attempt to extend the gameplay, but I’m sure some people will appreciate it.
Online mode is a nice addition. It uses a lobby system, although when I tried it on PSN, there was only one lobby. Luckily it’s very easy to create your own. In online mode, you race with other players around a track that is chosen before hand. It’s quite fun and I didn’t notice any lag issues at all. Features like this add even more value to a good game.
Naturally, Jeremy Mcgrath’s Offroad isn’t without it’s issues. The career mode is far too short, I completed it in about 2 hours. Also, the commentating done by Jeremy gets really really annoying. He only has a few phrases, and they get very repetitive. There’s an option to turn this off, but it didn’t seem to work for me. Also the driving instructions appear above the speed indicator in the bottom right, it would be far better if they appeared in the top centre of the screen like every other rally game, but these are just minor issues.
If you enjoy a bit of casual fun, I recommend this game. It doesn’t stand out over any triple A racing title, but then again it’s far cheaper. Career mode is a little short but gives a decent challenge to someone who isn’t too used to racing games and multiplayer goes on to further sweeten the deal.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.