Offroad racing has become far more popular over the last few years with titles such as Dirt leading the way for this style of racing games. Jeremy McGrath mixes point to point racing with long circuit races. However, almost everything it does, it does with little competence, resulting in an overly easy, boring game.
As more of an arcade racing game Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad goes for accessibility over depth, resulting in an overly simplified driving model with turns that require no braking or letting off the accelerator. Often you will slide around corners at full speed with no deterioration in control, yet seeing your opposition braking to turn. Only once you have used the games experience upgrade system to boost your top speed and acceleration will you need to slow down for corners.
Once you have completed a race you will gain XP towards leveling up, giving you one point into handling, top speed, acceleration or braking once you have reached your next experience level. Although at first this may offer a deceptive impression of depth, you will realise that races become far too easy thanks to these upgrades. On the default difficulty races will be won by twenty to thirty second leads, increasing to forty second or minute leads. Upping the difficulty doesn’t change this, returning upgraded car runs from minute leads to 20 second leads.
Adding to the problems with the upgrade system, each car is upgraded separately within each car class. This results in not using different vehicles within the class, which seem to be reskins anyway. So make sure you choose the colour you like!
Flat textures, pop-in and poor shadow work make for a poor visual presentation for Offroad. The car models are basic with little detail and little more can be said for environments where foliage pops in a couple of feet in front of you. Shadows have a nasty habit of turning your vehicles a dark blue. It can be distracting though this seems to be inconsistent, rearing its head every other race. Dynamic environmental animations, such as planes flying low, or combine harvesters moving across the track add a bit of variety. Though the only redeeming aspect of the presentation is a consistent 60 frames per second, making driving smooth. Overall, visually this feels like an upresed Playstation 2 game.
Sound design isn’t any better, with cars and trucks sounding more like lawnmowers. The soundtrack is also forgettable, but what isn’t is Jeremy McGrath appearing every few seconds on the menu and loading screen to give you ‘tips and tricks’. These can be helpful the first time you hear them, but there are so few variations in what he is saying, after a while you learn to mute the television every time you return to a menu or begin to load your next race.
With only six tracks, Offroad wears out its welcome very quickly, especially considering there are only two event types, point to point and cross country circuit racing. The career has 24 events, mostly consisting of the circuit event, progressively increasing the amount of laps per race, however, by the end of the career you have raced the same tracks at least 4 times each in relatively quick succession eventually resulting in a monotonous bore. Multiplayer could add value to the package as experience points earned in the singleplayer transfer into the multiplayer and smashing around the track would be fun with the loose controls making proceedings more hectic. No one is playing though, so unless you have friends who own the game, you won’t be playing competitively against a human player as there is no split screen gameplay.
Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad is an unchallenging, bland bore not worth your time or money. There are more engaging racers out there, retail and downloadable that will satisfy your driving needs.