Racing games are a dime a dozen, but I have never played a racing game that is dedicated to off road vehicles and SUVs. Off Road Drive does exactly what it says in the name, as off road racing is the name of the game here. The approach is a fun one, but the game is also a pretty good sim, with many features to turn on and off in the car that allows you to drive over and across different obstacles in the game. This offers a certain degree of realism that is lacking in some racing games.
As this is a racing game, there is not really a story. You begin in the Career mode where you first take a tutorial which gives you the basics of off road driving. After you complete this tutorial, you are ready for the test at hand. You get to race in many different locations all over the world and to open up the later locations you need to pass the first ones to gather points.
The game caters for the serious off road gamer (how many are there?) with a plethora of functions. These include down-shifting to get past rivers, locking the front and back differentials to drive over logs, dropping type pressure, and my favourite, using your winch to pull yourself up. All of these are very easy to do, each one is simply a matter of a key stroke, and during the game when you need to turn something off or on the tutorial pops up and reminds you what key to press anyway. There is something pleasing about watching a Hummer sink in the mud then flipping to low gear and seeing it struggle through it. There are no real damage mechanics, though, and the handling is, at best, rough, which is an odd thing to say as this is advertised as a realistic off road experience, and I can’t help feeling that, with a steering whee, it would have been a much better game.
There are many different SUV classes and off road trucks present in Off-Road Drive. As you progress you gain a better reputation (via the game’s points system) and are given access to more cars. I have to say that, sadly, the graphics here are not up to scratch (they are not bad, just not great) which is disappointing as this could have been a very beautiful game to look at; the cars themselves look very nice and handle differently which is good. The lack of polish does not help this game and more care and attention should have been given to this. After all, this is a PC game, and the highest graphics and smoothest gameplay can be achieved on PCs. Having said that, it’s still enjoyable to waste the odd five minutes in the game’s garage where you can view all the cars you have unlocked and the various stats associated with them.
I love rock music and this game plays some serious rock and shredding guitars to accompany you on your voyage up and over the landscapes. It is very cool to hear this solos playing in the background while you’re driving thought a deep river. I can see that some gamers will not love the crazy sounds blaring down the speakers at them, but I love it. The engines also sound like the beasts they are, moody and loud.
Off-Road Drive also comes with a multiplayer section where you can either host a game or choose an existing one from a server. This is a good addition, and the other racers are, generally, of a very good standard. With some timeyou will be beating some of them them, but you definitely need to practise a decent amount to give yourself a chance. It would have been nice if the game had included a split screen-option as well, but I understand that on a keyboard, mapping two sets of controls is pretty much impossible. Using two wireless controllers however would work, possibly something for developers 1C Company to think of?
Overall, Off-Road Drive is a testament to the fact that, in this day and age, if people like something, it won’t take long before a game will be made of it. I can see both casual gamers and serious off road enthusiasts liking this game. The level of detail will give you a different experience to other racing titles out there, as here you can’t just put your foot on the accelerate (I tried). As gamers it’s good to be tested, and Off-Road Drive will certainly test you and may well help you develop an appreciation for the cars you see. You may even begin to realise that there is more to racing games than going fast. Off-Road Drive is good game that is, sadly hindered by below par graphics and multiplayer. Ultimately, I can recommend it to people who like racing but also to fans that want to be a bit more techy than casual gamers. 1C have given us a decent driving game, one that’s sure to make some off-road fans engines purr.
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