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Baja: Edge of Control Review

30 September 2008

When it comes to real-world off-road racing, the Baja 1000 is like the Indianapolis 500 and the LeMans 24-hour race all rolled up into one exhausting event. Designed to leave you tired beyond measure, every year thousands of people (ironically) drive down to Baja, California to then drive a thousand miles in a VW bug, trophy truck, buggy or bike. The course itself is full of bumps, hills, desert and jumps which usually take a heavy toll on each driver. Unfortunately, playing this title will take a similar toll on gamers as 2XL, the team behind the MX vs ATV series, has developed the game around a niche market which won’t appeal to the majority of racing fans.

The shining star of Baja: Edge of Control is undoubtedly its massive amount content within its tiny package. 2XL has packed in 1,000 miles of open terrain to enjoy, but that is just the beginning. This off-road racer also gives gamers the chance to check out over 160 sponsored vehicles which are spread across eight different classes. If that isn’t enough to whet your palette, Edge of Control also includes over 100 tracks within nine epic open-worlds. Sadly, I think the ambition to include such an immense amount of content resulted in the game's minimal visual detail and poor gameplay elements.

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When the game starts up, you’re going to be stuck driving around in a boring and dull Baja Bug class of vehicles. The bug class happens to leave a lot to be desired in terms of excitement and actual off-road experiences, not to mention the fact that Baja starts off with one of the worst and steep learning curves I’ve ever witnessed within a racing title. Once you get the hang of it, though, you can really feel the realism of the drive while playing. The team at 2XL definitely took deep strides in implementing the most realistic racing imaginable as tires slip and grip at the appropriate times. You’re also going to take notice of the fact that if you land jumps incorrectly, your vehicle most certainly will bottom out and create quite frantic messes that will involve you having to take part in the advanced support management system. The ASMS aids you in repairing vehicles, whether by truck or by helicopter, which will in turn help prolong your race.

As you race through these lower classes, you’re going to win prize money and gain sponsorship opportunities until your vehicle looks like a NASCAR vehicle riding in the desert. Once you’ve achieved enough success, you’re going to have the option of moving up in vehicle classes and purchasing new rides. Of course, not many people will have the patience to sit through the steep learning curve of the first portion of the game to get to this point, which brings me to yet another downfall that 2XL must have overlooked. The artificial intelligence within Baja seems to be infallible. Even on the easiest difficulty setting, you’re going to notice that the computer drivers race flawlessly and rarely make mistakes. One of the other overly annoying issues with the AI is the ability for the computer to knock you off the road with ease, while the opposite doesn't apply. It gives the gameplay a sense of imbalance.

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It’s at this point where the game takes an intense downward spiral. One of the game’s largest modes of play is the Baja Endurance Races. These races can take up to two hours to play through. To get one hour and fifteen minutes in only to be thrown off the road by the computer is not only disheartening, but may result in several broken controllers induced by fits of rage. In total there are five race types: Circuit (multi-lap races), Hill Climb (be the first to the top of the hill and then the climb down it), Open Class (race against a variety of classes), Rally (Race from A to B faster than the other cars in your class) and Baja (endurance race of 250, 500 or 1,000 miles across the barren desert).

Don’t think that Baja: Edge of Control is all bad news, though. Much like the aforementioned content explosion, vehicles can also be fine tuned with over 200 manufactured parts. This customization will enable you to gain better control of your vehicle and hopefully your grasp over the title. There are seven total areas that can be tweaked and upgraded, several of which include your springs, brakes, shocks, gearing and transmission.

Visually speaking, Baja seems to be lost in transit, as Edge of Control gives off the impression that it's a last generation title rather than a current generation product. Your vehicle starts off by looking like a bland slab of metal, but slowly turns into a foray of colors as the result of advertisement deals. The environment around you may look nice and may provide the occasional Kodak moment, but the rest of the title is nothing to be proud of. 2XL should have taken a bit more time in the production of content and focused more on gameplay and perhaps visual appeal.

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Baja: Edge of Control also features a multiplayer facet. Not only does the game feature full 10-player online gameplay, but also 4-player splitscreen offline play as well. The lag during races was very limited; the game ran as smooth online as it did offline the majority of the time. However, the online arena wasn’t brimming with players like you’d want it too.

THQ and 2XL had a strong possibility of turning off-road racing simulation in a respected sub-genre of driving games. However, I feel they tried to do a little too much overall, which definitely harmed a lot of the key aspects that make a racing title great, primarily maintaining a competitive atmosphere without unnecessary frustration. Sadly, they didn’t capitalize on the potential and gamers were “stuck” with a mid-level game worthy of a rental at most.

-The Final Word-

Baja: Edge of Control is a rarely seen off-road racing simulator, which is why it’s a shame the unexplored genre is discredited with this lackluster title.
  • Great customization
  • Ton of vehicle choices
  • Wide open terrain
  • Unrealistic AI
  • Unbalanced gameplay
  • No visual appeal
5.0
See PSU's reviews scores on Metacritic and Gamerankings

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