Analysts all over the world are constantly saying there’s no more inspiration in the gaming world anymore. Games are rehashed, remastered, re-released and what is new is heavily based off of some other game that gained critical acclaim.
Meet Off-Road Drive, a new racing game from the folks at 1C. Off-Road Drive is hoping to bring a new idea to the racing game world in the form of a rockcrawling and mudding simulator.
But is new always a good idea?
The game is structured simply. You, as a professional off-road racer, are allowed to participate in off-road races all over the world from the US to Russia to Africa. These locations will bring racers to all forms of terrain including deserts, forests, swamps and, for the lack of a better term, giant mud puddles.
What’s different about Off-Road Drive is the aim to be as realistic as possible. This means that much of the game revolves around realistic physics and vehicle customization. There’s a variety of cars to choose from, and players have the option of tweaking them with different tires and suspension. The physics do work mostly in a realistic fashion, although it’s clear that some physics have been tweaked just to make the game a bit more bearable. “Bearable” is the word there.
The big kicker between arcade racers, like Need for Speed or Motorstorm, and simulators like Gran Turismo or Forza is arcade racers focus much more on the speed aspect and are aren’t necessarily how a race would actually work. Simulators are usually a lot slower and require a lot more critical thinking about different aspects instead of just getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible.
That’s what Off-Road Drive is doing here. During a race the player will need to shift gears constantly, increase and decrease your tire pressure, disable and re-enable your locking differentiators, etc. Add this into the fact that you’re already racing in one of the slowest kinds of vehicle races in the world and it can drag on quite a bit. Then, add this onto the fact there’s no real difficulty setting. That means a really weird difficulty curve, which means much lower accessibility to gamers.
That’s not to say that what Off-Road Drive doesn’t accomplish what it wants to, but look at this all in perspective. It’s a racing game, which narrows down the audience. It’s a racing simulator, which narrows it down even more. It’s an off-road racing simulator, which has to be one of the smallest niches you can appeal to in the video game world.
Have you ever played a driving game and went off the beaten path to have some fun, tried to go over a ledge you shouldn’t, and gotten stuck? You end up trying to weave around and back-up and accelerate over and over again trying to get over that ledge. It’s one of the most annoying and frustrating moments in a driving-based video game, and Off-Road Drive is supposed to be all about that. It might be fun if you’re actually driving a truck, but not a lot of gamers will sit through that.
To be fair, the graphics are pretty good. If your tires are spinning (which will happen a lot) rocks and dirt will go flying. Mud cakes up on your truck’s tires and body, and going through water after being all muddy washes stuff off and makes your truck all shiny. There is also an interesting effect where certain terrains will actually break down and your truck will get stuck in a rut.
Although, besides the occasional screen-tearing, the damaged terrain falls into the Fracture curse of dynamically changing ground. The parts of terrain that can change look almost like the dirt and mud has been forced into a plastic bag and only looks like it gets pressed down and molded when damaged, rather than being actually changed.
Although I applaud the developers for trying to do something we haven’t really seen in a video game before, it almost would have been better to leave it out just because it looks really awkward.
That’s really all there is to it. Off-Road Drive is a simple racing game with big ambitions, big potential and big letdowns. What could have been a really cool and unique racing game ends up being an incredibly difficult and frustrating game that doesn’t really appeal to that many people in the first place.
I cannot stress enough the amount of interest you need in this kind of game in order to justify the purchase. It’s not the kind of game that you could enjoy just because it’s a racing game. Off-Road Drive is very different. It’s a kind of different that can either be very good or very bad, and in my experiences, there are very, very few gamers that would love to sit at a computer and struggle to get a car over obstacles for hours on end.
Although I would have been sold if there was a secret Moon level.
This review is based on the final retail copy of the game, which was provided to us for review purposes.