Racing games come in all shapes in sizes. From simulators like Gran Turismo to arcade racers such as Ridge Racer, the genre has seen a diverse range of titles catering for all types of gamers. Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad, developed by 2XL Games, certainly fits into the arcade racer category, thanks to its high-paced, low-risk gameplay.
Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad actually came out last year in the U.S., but only recently did it make the transition to European territories. Available now on PSN, the game stars the eponymous motocross-turned-rally driver, as you probably might have already twigged. Jeremy himself features in the game, and gives hints during loading screens which may or may not have been told before. The overall presentation is a bit cheap, mind, with little to no discernible personality.
The game features several modes; Arcade, where can do a single race; a Championship mode which sees you progress through each of the 5 vehicle classes, from Buggies to Rally Cars to Trophy Trucks; and a multiplayer mode. However, when I tried to get an online race, no one was playing; hopefully this isn’t an indication as to how popular the multiplayer will prove going forward. The Championship mode is the bulk of the game but itself isn’t too expansive as there are only 23 events: circuit racing or point-to-point races, with each race takeing no more than 6-7 minutes.
In this mode, you progress through from the slowest vehicle to the fastest as you race and win. Each vehicle class has several vehicles to choose from, though they aren’t licensed and there is no difference performance wise, just minor cosmetic differences and a different livery. When racing you earn XP for doing things like overtake a rival, performing a power slide and lead the race when crossing the start/finish line. The XP you earn allows you to upgrade your vehicles. When you earn 1000 XP the game gives you one upgrade point, which can go towards upgrading one of the four categories: Handling, Top Speed, Acceleration and Braking. To be honest, there’s little difference when upgrading. Before a race, you can also change the set up of the vehicle. Again, it hardly makes a difference to the overall performance of the vehicle and it doesn’t really matter.
The racing itself is where this game begins to shine. The game runs at 60fps, which means that the controls are smooth and responsive, and there’s a good sense of speed. The controls are easy to grasp and are familiar to anyone who has racing games on PS3 before. Accelerate and brake are R2 and L2, respectively. Handbrake is circle, rear view is square and to change the viewpoint is triangle. The most interesting button use is L1 , which is described as ‘boost’ in the controls menu. Boosting in this game isn’t like in most racers where it gives you a speed boost anytime you use it; instead, it revs the engine to the redline and there’s a trick to using it. The best way to utilize boost is when going round a corner, press circle and when sliding round just before straightening up, press L1 and you can slingshot out of the corner and gain a small speed boost, useful when overtaking.
Unfortunately, the tracks are very forgettable, as there’s no redeeming qualities about them and they all play very similar but are set in a different location. Some of them look nice, like one is surrounded by snow which looks pretty good, but apart from that, nothing really stands out. There’s only five tracks in the game too, offering very little in the way of variety. Also, when you are racing, random obstacles come onto the track. When I say random, I mean at the exact same point at every track. They make no sense either, as it doesn’t fit the type of game this is, compared to say MotorStorm, which is known to be chaotic. They don’t really slow you down and are a minor inconvenience and I question why they were even put in the game. Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad is pretty easy too, and I was able to win each race on normal difficulty by over 30 seconds, which in racing terms is a lot.
Graphically, Offroad isn’t bad, and some of the environments look good when tearing through at speed. However, the vehicle models have low res textures on them and the driver and co-driver models look like they’ve been ripped from a PSOne game. The game’s sounds are fine but there’s nothing particularly standout about them, and oddly enough there’s no music during the races themselves. Luckily, if you have music stored on your PS3’s hard drive then you can listen to that while playing. The game has little replay value ultimately, and with no one playing online and the 23 Championship races done quickly you will feel like you should move on to a different game.
All in all, Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad is a competent racer but with little content and replay value it’s hard to recommend it over other racers with much more content under the hood. If you feel compelled to take the plunge then you will find there’s fun to be had, but little in the form of an actual challenge.