Have you ever played a racing game and thought, “I wish racing was not about going crazy fast but instead about going slow and micromanaging every component of my vehicle”? If you have, then Off-Road Drive might be you. The game in question is an off-road racing game where the focus is on tactically traversing the terrain rather than speed. While this premise could have potential, the driving is simply un-enjoyable and it sports some pretty unpolished graphics.
Off-Road Drive is a game that takes itself very seriously. This is apparent from the tutorial. In the tutorial you are shown how to utilize all the tools you have at your disposal. Being an off road racer you can enable 4-wheel drive for traction and disable it for maneuverability or speed. In fact, that is essentially what all of your options break down to, traction versus maneuverability and speed. You can lock your differentials, which allows your wheels to spin at different speeds. You can switch into low gear for more torque. You can lower your tire pressure so that there is more rubber touching the ground. You can even use a wench to pull yourself up steep inclines and out of the mud.
The game explains all of this but does not do a good job of explaining when you should use these. Instead, it relies on a hint system that literally flashes the action that you need to perform on the screen. The game also has an “Inspect Vehicle” button that should spin the camera around your vehicle and tell you what to do. The prompt appears when you are stuck. But every time I pressed it, no advice would appear. I found it easier to simply enable everything while driving a vehicle with as good of handling and acceleration as I could find. You know what? It worked.
Now, this realism would not be bad at all if the game world functioned as it should or if there were the customizability that we have come to expect in sims. Off-Road Drive is some sort of weird combination of simulation and arcade racer, but I do not think it is supposed to be. It features incredibly complex controls (the aforementioned micromanaging of vehicle components) and realistic terrains but also some wonky physics and almost no customizability. Crashing into a rock at 50 mph will do one of two things: simply stop you without any damage to your vehicle or cause you to go flying off the track like a flipping Warthog from the original Halo. Neither is exactly realistic. Also, each vehicle has two selectable skins to use and a handful of tire, suspension and clearance settings. That is it in terms of customization.
Off-Road Drive does not look good. The good news is that it does not have hefty system requirements, if you were looking for a silver-lining. The game is filled with weird lighting effects that cause sun beams to not extend to their natural length but stop in a jagged pixelated line. Also, when your vehicle gets wet, it looks like someone smeared Vaseline on it, not water. Overall, the vegetation and terrain look okay, but nothing particularly special.
Frustration and boredom are the two words I would use to describe Off-Road Drive. Often times I would be in the mud driving only 10 mph holding the up arrow key with all of my vehicle’s features enabled. The game seemed to be polarized between situations like the one above and more normal driving. Some tracks consist of little to no obstacles that require your off-road vehicle’s special abilities while the rest require them at every turn. Neither is fun.
While the environments look okay, they are not consistent in how you utilize them or how they affect youe vehicle. Sometimes there will be a tree not 20 feet in front of you yet the game insists that there are no anchors available for you wench. And sometimes a steep looking wall can be scaled easily while a foot-tall rock stops you in your tracks.
As of this review, no one is playing the multiplayer. Multiplayer seems to be the standard fare, you can drive any of the vehicles and race any of the tracks from the career mode. There are no crazy modes or anything like that, just good old-fashioned racing.
Off-Road Drive is a good example of a game trying too hard to imitate reality when the technology behind it is simply not there and is unbalanced. Either the game does not allow you to use the tools it has or it requires you to use them without respite. But then, what is the use of being able to micromanage all of you vehicle’s abilities to adapt to varying terrain types if the environments are not fun to drive through and the physics do not hold up? Given how technical the game’s controls are coupled with how simplistic the actual driving tends to be, I struggle to understand whom exactly it is meant for and why it exists.