Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad is a racing game currently available on Xbox Live Arcade and PSN for 800MSP/$9.99 (currently not available for European PSN users). It’s developed by 2XL games, published by Reverb and doesn’t have much of a plot – you are a driver getting to grips with different types of offroad vehicles whilst Jeremy McGrath advises and gives you tips along the way.
Like most racers, Offroad offers an arcade mode – for you to practice your skills at a leisurely pace – and a career mode. Unless you’re completely new to racing games you won’t need to play arcade mode to practice, the difficulty is low enough for you to jump straight into career mode without having any difficulty. There you start off with the Sportsmans car, the first of 5 cars which you will unlock as you progress through career mode (The others being the Prolite, Pro Buggy, Rally Car and the final unlockable, the Trophy Truck). In order to unlock the next vehicle you must complete three to five races with your current vehicle. The races you partake in do not vary much, they will either be a circuit race with 1-3 laps to complete or a point-to-point race taking place on one of the seven different track locations available.
The main goal throughout career mode is to gain XP. You can earn XP by winning races of course, that’s the basic way to earn XP, but XP is also rewarded to you if you pull off specific manoeuvres such as a long jump, power sliding and knocking over signs as you go through the track. You also get a bit of XP by doing basic things like taking over other drivers and driving for a certain distance. The amount of XP changes depending on what difficulty setting you are playing through. Amateur gets you 75% XP, Semi-pro 100% XP and Pro gets you 150% XP. By earning XP you can upgrade one of four aspects of your vehicle – Handling, Top Speed, Acceleration and Breaking – before you partake in your next race. You can upgrade each aspect a maximum of five times per vehicle. However you cannot carry over your upgrades to the same car class with a different paint job. This may add an extra layer to the game for you completionists out there but for everyone else it adds nothing. Playing through the game with a black vehicle or blue vehicle will make no significant difference. You are also given the option of three different set ups before you start your race: very fast with soft suspension, fast but slippery tyres and average speed with sticky tyres. I found it isn’t worth putting much thought into this option as I tried all three settings several times but experienced no difference in how the vehicle handled.
Earning XP is not particularly challenging and you will be able to upgrade your vehicle pretty fast, the main challenge is learning to master the throttle, hand break, E-break and clutch boost in order to travel around the corners (hair pin bends, hair pin bends everywhere!) without losing too much speed or having your car flip out – literally flipping out – if you screw up your vehicle will flip off amusingly fast into the distance, not caring about physics at all. Mastering corners is not hard to do, but this is due to the fantastic controls, they are really sensitive and smooth, you can handle the direction of your vehicle really well. The button set up feels really natural too. You’re given the option of a first person and third person view which is nice, you can also change the camera angle with the right stick. There’s absolutely no reason for this though because the default camera angle is perfect, by using the right stick you will just get distracted from the game. Apart from mastering the controls, other things implemented in the game to challenge you are during race obstacles. These take the form of bales of hay, boulders, giant snow balls and even a combine harvester pulling out in front of you. Again, these actually aren’t challenging as they are not hard to avoid. Even if you hit the boulders they just bounce off of you if you’re going at a high speed, which you are never not doing in this game.
Visually this game is impressive, especially for a download title. A lot of effort has been put into the environment and it shows. There is one track in particular set in Limburg in the Netherlands that stood out the most. The detail and colours make it a pleasure to play through. If you pick this up you may want to just chill out on arcade mode for a while to take a good look at the environments and admire the effort put into them. The vehicles themselves look great too, they are also very detailed and look superbly sleek, but the environments are where the real work has been put in.
One of my main complaints about this game is the distinct lack of music. There is some pretty standard and suitable music played whilst browsing the menus but that is all there is. During the race all you hear is the roar of the engines and the annoying voice of Jeremy McGrath informing you of the type of road ahead. You will get sick of hearing ‘Intermediate right!’, ‘Over crest!’, ‘Into dip!’. Thankfully you can find an option to turn him down or shut him up completely in the sound menu. I do think a really good opportunity was missed here by not putting in music during the races. If there were some really good music playing to match the beautiful visuals this game might not have been so forgettable.
Overall, Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad is a fun little racer. It is by no means challenging, I easily completed career mode within two and a half hours. This is definitely a game that would be much more fun online with a few friends (you can have 2-8 people playing online) or as a pick-up-and-play kind of game. If you are looking for a game to just pick up when you need to burn away some time you could do a lot worse for 800MSP. You won’t find a better deal for an online arcade racer. The controls are great, it looks great and it plays great. Just do not buy it expecting a challenge or if you are looking for a meaty game with lots of content, you will be disappointed.
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.