Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad brings down-and-dirty vehicle racing to digital gaming platforms. With a variety of levels to race in and cars to use, the game has good intentions and some well thought out ideas. To counter that, there are problems with repetitive gameplay, as well as an unbalanced online system. Despite these flaws, the game offers a decent value for its $10 price tag, which racing fans might be interested in.
Players can do single races in an Arcade mode, several circuits in a Career mode, or race online against up to seven other players. The tracks provided with the game have a good amount of visual variety, taking place in canyons, jungles, or even farms. There are even some visual flairs that are unique to each level, such as rockslides in the canyon and small planes flying low overhead at the farm. Overall, the game’s graphics are good for a lower-budget downloadable title, but a lack of resolution in its environments and detailed textures on its vehicles prevent it from completely looking like a triple-A title.
The cars all handle well, with steering that’s usually not too unresponsive or finicky. A nice feature the designers came up with is a system involving experience points and unlockables to spend them on. To sum it up, many of the actions you do in the game will net you experience points. Moving ahead of your rivals, successfully pulling off a power slide or a long jump, destroying some of the environmental objects like fences and signs, and even driving a certain amount of miles over the course of the game will all get you points, along with obviously ranking high at the end of a race. These points can be used on upgrades for each vehicle, enabling you to enhance their handling, top speed, acceleration, and braking up to four times each.
This is a rewarding system, but there is a catch to it that I learned the hard way. Each vehicle has several alternate skins to it, with different paint jobs and visual attachments for each one. When you upgrade the car, it will only apply to the current skin you have selected, as opposed to all variations. One could argue that this adds more replay value for players to go back and level up all their favorite skins, but it does feel a bit misguided, and it would have been nicer if the upgrade system was more universal for each vehicle.
Another issue with the upgrade system becomes evident when you try online multiplayer. Many of the matches I played were against very high-leveled players, and their vehicles were so much faster than mine that I was left trailing far behind. It might have been smarter to ditch the upgrade system in this mode, or allow it so that all players had the same stats to some degree. While it will encourage players to keep racing and make their car better, it can make the multiplayer much less fun when you can’t even see your opponents any more.
The game’s audio is also a mixed bag. One nice touch is the hint system featured during its menus and loading screens. Instead of only text, each one has audio narration from Jeremy McGrath himself. It adds a small amount of personality to a game that otherwise has very little. On the other hand, when you get to the actual racing, there’s no in-game music whatsoever. You’ll hear nothing but the revving of engines. Considering that the menus have music, it seems odd that the developers chose not to add any additional tunes to get players pumped up more during the races.
The game is fundamentally solid in its mechanics, but it’s hard to deny that its individual tracks don’t offer much layout variety. You’ll run into some jumps, some sharp turns, and some bumpy roads on each one, although the game is nice enough to include alert icons several seconds before each hazard. Because of this, the game is best played in short spurts, as opposed to long marathon sessions.
Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad is a competent racer, but not much else. There’s a decent amount of content in it, and some good replay value thanks to the upgrade system, but a lot of it is too basic to make it truly worth getting excited about. Racing enthusiasts will probably want to check it out, but other players might want to be a little more cautious in approaching it.
This review is based on a copy of the game that we received for review purposes.