Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad – The PS3 Attitude Review
Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad fills a niche in console rally racing with superstar associations. What with the premature passing of Colin McRae in 2007 and the DiRT series having gone down a more destructive path for Showdown, it looks like Offroad doesn’t have much competition.
This is 2XL Games first venture into the console space, but the team are no strangers to digital downloads. Their previous experience is entirely in the mobile space with apps and games for iOS and Android. From Ricky Carmichael’s Motocross to apps that make your Prius sound like a muscle car, this is their specialty.
Offroad reeks of its mobile heritage. From the main menu all the way through to its race results screen, the UI is dull and uninspiring. There is a hint of a soundtrack on the main menu, but I expected a bit of pomp and circumstance upon coming out of a race, especially coming in first. I heard no ripping soundtrack as I expected, instead a gentle tune after bypassing a few screens. This took the air out of my tires.
Thankfully, it doesn’t look like a mobile game. 2XL Games has Offroad running on the PS3 in full 1080p at 60 frames per second, ensuring the action remains extremely smooth even when the competition gets a bit frisky on those back-to-back hairpin turns.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, but again, it falls short of PlayStation quality. Offroad does not take full advantage of the rear channels, accept for a loud thud after landing a big jump or the sound of your rear wheels slipping during a powerslide. The engine sounds coming from tailing opposition jerkily pans between the two rear channels.
There are seven fantasy tracks staged in various real world locations. All are very well designed and fun to play. I encountered the occasional invisible barrier when attempting to take shortcuts, but I noticed that each turn has a tree indicating a legal or illegal turn. The beauty in the backdrops really pumps up the visuals, and it took my mind away from the fact there was no deformation of the track.
Each track has either a dynamic obstacle or some sort of interesting spectacle to take your eyes off the road for a second, like a crop duster following you through most of the track, or a pickup truck that pops into the race only to drop its payload in the middle of the track. You’ll encounter other things like rogue logs, rolling bails of hay, and event giant snowballs. This is the first time I’ve ever seen a giant snow ball roll back up hill.
Tip: When approaching an S-turn, find a straight line that cuts right through. This will shave some time of your laps and keep your momentum up for the next turn.
Vehicle classes include the Sportsman Buggy, ProLite Truck, Pro Buggy, Rally Car, and Trophy Truck. Each vehicle class handles differently, but each of the eight vehicles in each class handles exactly the same. The difference is their livery.
Vehicle upgrade points are earned by acquiring XP during a race. The upgrades only count towards the livery you apply them to; they can’t be transferred to another livery. Completionists may find upgrading every vehicle’s stats for every livery will add to the replay value.
Changing the AI difficulty not only challenges how aggressively the other cars drive, it also affects how much XP you’ll earn. Amateur rewards 75% XP, Pro rewards 100% XP, and Super Pro rewards 150% XP. I was pleasantly surprised by all the different ways I could earn XP in a race, for doing things like passing, clutch boosts, 1st place laps, mowing down fences, or crossing the finishing line. I was able to pass a guy several times and get the full XP awarded for each pass.
Vehicles handle in a very arcade-like style. Instead of steering the wheels expecting the wheels to guide the vehicle through the turns, I sort of rotated the vehicle on an axis. Approaching a turn meant angling my vehicle more or less depending on the my speed going into the turn. Once through the turn, I simply straighten it out. This sort of eliminated the possibility of fish tailing like in those pesky simulators.
Tip: A powerslide is worth +60XP and can potentially be done at every medium, hard, or hairpin turn. A clutch boost is worth +300XP and at every 10 miles driven you’ll earn another +300XP.
Pressing the Triangle button during a race will cycle through the many camera angles. There is a hood view (a la Daytona USA), a hoodless first-person view, and two out-of-car third-person camera angles. One thing I noticed while using the third-person camera angles was that the tires automatically turned, despite the fact I was steering the vehicle a different way. This may not bug you, but it prevented me from truly enjoying the easier driving experience I found in the out-of-car view.
WHAT’S UNDER THE HOOD
Offroad offers no surprises when perusing the main menu. Arcade is a standard singleplayer mode that allows you to designate the track, vehicle, and various event settings. Career takes you through the seven different tracks several times using each of the different vehicle classes. During each race you must chase down Jeremy McGrath’s Monster Energy sponsored car if you want first place. In a Time Trial race, you are trying to set the best times between checkpoints before reaching the set number of laps.
Up to eight players can race over PSN for the online multiplayer extension of Arcade mode. But at the time of writing, nearly a week after its official release, I couldn’t find a soul online to race against. I really wanted to try out the online modes but Offroad didn’t allow me to start the game with just me, myself, and I.
I was floored when I picked up a trophy for playing the game for just one hour. That’s the kind of trophy that basically tells me that the playthrough is going to be short. Oh, did I mention it was a silver trophy? I was awarded the “Play for one hour” trophy at the 65% completion point in my Career, with only seven races remaining before obtaining a full 100% career playthrough. As you can imagine, this took me about an hour.
Tip: Do not hold onto the hand brake for too long or else your vehicle will rotate too much through the turn. You’ll know this has happened when the camera snaps and you’re facing the wrong way!
Jeremy McGrath makes his appearance in only two places throughout the game. One being the hint boxes featuring McGrath’s soothing voice, while the other is just his name above the lead vehicle. He could have easily been replaced by a fictional character; John Doe’s Offroad wouldn’t have been any different. Passing Jeremy McGrath and taking first place was a relatively easy task in nearly every event with a single attempt, so my career playthrough was sadly done in under 2hrs.
CROSSING THE FINISH LINE
It’s touted as a AAA racing title at a fraction of the price, but Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad is more accurately described as an enjoyable experience that lasts for less than a few hours. While the technical specifications are high, the lackluster presentation, subpar audio, and low replay value raises questions as to whether this was really meant for the PS3 or for mobile devices.
There may be only a few other games competing in its rally category, but considering how many racing games are printed on those plastic discs and going for nearly the same price, you may want to look elsewhere for a more robust racing experience. Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad is a competent PS3 offroad racer, but it may have been better suited in a class all on its own on PS Vita.