It seems these days that in most genres, full retail games have a more affordable alternative on the downloadable market. Jeremy Mcgrath’s Offroad aims to fill this position as a foil to games such as DiRT and Motorstorm, and it does a pretty good job.
You’ll race in various four wheeled vehicles across half a dozen levels in either lap or point to point races. As you race you’ll earn XP which can then be used to upgrade your vehicles; you start off using a sportsman buggy but as you progress faster units will become available, such as rally cars and trophy trucks. Various skins also unlockable, which do more than just change the livery, bestowing boosts on your car. It’s worth picking a design and sticking with it then, as upgrades are specific to that skin, and once you have invested some points into one, it doesn’t make much sense to change and start over, especially when its likely the next vehicle type will become available fairly quickly.
In fact the entire career mode is quite short, I finished all events in roughly two hours. There is an online multiplayer mode but unfortunately despite trying over the course of several days at different times of the day, I was unable to get a single game. Whilst this is a shame, it puts into question the longevity of the title. This is definitely a game you will want to play in small chunks.
The actual driving experience however is very good. It all runs at sixty frames per second and this never seems to drop despite how many vehicles are displayed at once. The smoothness of it all is a big plus point but the visuals are still generally sharp despite the frame rate. Environments in particular are excellent (especially Utah and Michigan) with great detail in the backdrops. The majority of vehicles are well modelled but for some reason the rally cars seemed very basic and looked out of place when compared to the rest of the world.
There are some strange omissions however, such as a lack of a cockpit and even manual controls. Whilst each new vehicle is quicker than the last, there doesn’t seem to be any real difference in handling. That said, the handling physics create a very fun driving experience that fits somewhere in between Sega Rally and DiRT. Clutch control is also available, allowing short bursts of speed from the start or following a hard corner. The course designs are excellent and developers 2XL get a lot of mileage out of the same tracks, with the constant elevation changes creating some fun jumps in the more powerful vehicles. It does seem strange that even reverse courses are not included, but I never got bored with what was there.
It is thoroughly recommended that this is mostly played on the hardest difficulty setting as on easy and medium I found myself leading the race almost the entire time, which didn’t give me the excitement of bumping into other vehicles or trying to nail a handbrake turn to catch up with my opponents. Whilst Jeremy Mcgrath’s offroad may be lacking in content, the actual act of driving is fun, and ultimately that’s the most important thing. For the price however it’s hard to grumble, and offroad fans looking for a game on the cheap could do much worse then this.