Racing titles come in all shapes and sizes, from simulators that offer incredibly deep car customization and true-to-life physics to off-the-wall arcade racers that allow you to guide everything from go-karts to hovercrafts through insane courses. Somewhere in the middle (but certainly more towards that latter) lies the newest offering from 2XL Games and Reverb Publishing, Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad, which marries realistic vehicles and courses with super-fun and accessible arcade handling.
When done right, offroad-style racers are an absolute blast. There is nothing more fun in the video game racing world than powersliding around a hairpin turn while your rear wheels struggle to gain traction in the loose dirt and then right yourself just in time to launch over a huge jump. Unlike some of the more recent offroad titles though, you won’t find yourself riding dirtbikes or ATV’s – instead you’ll be behind the wheel of Rally Cars, ProLite Trucks, and Buggies. Regardless of what vehicle you’re in though, everything there is to love about the genre is intact here. You’ll get instructions and on-screen prompts from your navigator regarding upcoming terrain, slide around turns at blazing speeds, and catch plenty of air while rocketing your vehicle off of crests and over dips. Engaging your handbrake and steering hard to one side while entering a tight turn will send you drifting across the curve. When navigating out of the turn, the clutch boost (which is assigned to a shoulder button) will, when used properly, help to power you out of the curve to gain the advantage. These subtle nuances are easily learned but difficult to master and really satisfying to pull off. And while this may be an arcade racer at heart, you also won’t find yourself flying off the sides of canyons and sticking a landing after a 300ft drop. Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad focuses more on providing a fast, exciting experience that’s rooted in reality, but with physics forgiving enough to make it accessible to everyone.
The first thing you’ll notice about the title, is how surprisingly smoothly it performs. Running at 60fps in 1080p, this game looks absolutely fantastic and plays like a dream. The earthy colors really pop and the action comes at you fast. You can spot a bit of pop-in in the distance if you’re looking for it but you’re usually travelling so fast that you barely notice. Similarly, it controls like a dream and even novice gamers will be able to tear around the tracks with little frustration. In the rare instance that you find yourself helplessly off-track, a quick button tap will reset you back on course. While the most hardcore racing fans may turn up their noses at the easygoing nature of the title or lack of a manual transmission option, most will be too busy having a blast while tearing through the two hour career mode. Taking place across over twenty races, players will be able to select and upgrade several vehicles (a new class in each circuit) and choose their suspension loadout as well as one of three difficulty levels. The higher the difficulty, the more XP you will earn, which will in turn net you more upgrade options after a successful race. You are also awarded XP for things like pulling off perfect powerslides, clutch boosting, catching air, finishing laps in first place, etc – the better you perform, the more XP you’ll have at your disposal to upgrade your ride. Aside from the career mode, you’re also presented with an arcade mode that allows you to race against your best times and 8-player online multiplayer to extend the game’s replayability.
It’s not the most challenging or lengthy racing title ever conceived but, for 800 Microsoft Points or $9.99 on PSN, it’s a fantastic way to kill a weekend and net yourself some easy achievements or trophies. There’s more than enough content present in Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad to keep any racing fan engaged and any casual gamer, whose only racing experience may be limited to Mario Kart, plenty entertained.