Off-Road Drive, the off-road racing simulation for PC, is the first game ever to deliver a true-to-life, off-road, extreme racing experience. No other game features this variety of off-road sport vehicles including tuned stock SUVs and trucks, as well as several classes of prototypes specifically built for off-road driving. The vehicles can be equipped with an assortment of special cross-country equipment and accessories including winches, low gear, differential gear locking, clinometer, altimeter, tire air pressure control, sand tracks, etc.
There has never been such an innovative simulation of interactive terrain response as well. Terrain under the vehicle will act just like it does in real life, the car will sink in dirt, the dirt will create a rut and will stick to the car and tires affecting its handling. Stones will fly from underneath the wheels and damage other trucks. The game will feature various surfaces that will not only affect tire friction but have complex reactions based on car weight, speed, wheel torque, tire condition, time on this surface, depth of car immersion into the surface and much more.
What We Think:
Off-Road Drive is unlike any other racing game I’ve ever seen. Typically that’s a positive note and I would go on to describe something fun and fresh that kept me playing for hours. Sadly, that isn’t going to happen here. 1C has made a game likely to appeal only to a very niche market, and I’m not entirely sure they’ll like it either.
What the Game Isn’t
The developers describe Off-Road Drive as a racing game, but I would consider that a stretch.
First, this isn’t the Mojave style off-roading you’re used to seeing in games. A North American audience might recognize it as mud-bogging. Rarely will you find yourself getting out of second gear as you make your way through what is best described as an obstacle course for your vehicle. Deep water, quicksand, rocks, logs and other assorted terrain will forever keep you moving at a crawl. Your reflexes aren’t likely to be tested, but you will have to remember which mechanism on your truck needs to be turned up, down, off, on, or otherwise to get you on your way as quickly as possible. This is the first game I can think of where using a winch to slowly drag myself up a hill was an integral part of the experience. If you’re looking for the 4×4 equivalent of Flight Sim, this is it.
Second, it’s a time trial system. You won’t see another truck on the road except for a phantom of the first place driver if you’re close enough. While I was aware that I needed to run the course as quickly as possible there just wasn’t the sense of urgency you get from direct competition.
Lastly, while Off-Road Drive may attempt to accurately simulate the on-track experience, there is zero attempt to do so off-track. You can’t fine tune your set-up. You can’t replace parts with ones that better suit your style of driving. Your car never receives damage, so you’ll never have to fix anything. It’s a seriously missed opportunity, because it’s the sort of thing that the target audience would want.
What the Game Is
While it may not be top of the line, Off-Road Drive is quite nice to look at. Sure, you aren’t looking at much more than water, dirt, rocks, and trees. But what is there is rendered well. While gameplay may bog you down, the graphics engine shouldn’t. I don’t think I had a single instance of stutter or refresh issues. There were a few camera issues though, particularly with some of the larger vehicles, where it was nearly impossible to see the road in front of you.
The audio isn’t bad. The stock rock’n’roll soundtrack that all racing games seem to have is present and does it’s best to stay in the background and not be distracting. The engine noises and road sound effects were quite good, except for the fact that there didn’t seem to be a difference from one vehicle to another. You would think that in a game so intent on simulating the experience, a little more time would have been spent here.
For the most part the physics engine does a good job in simulating the various terrain and vehicle mechanics, but there were a number of times I couldn’t help but scratch my head, such as when a small rock in the road stopped my vehicle dead in its tracks despite the fact that I was going full tilt.
Where it Falls Apart
So there you have it. A game who’s persona on-track is of technical driving and mechanical precision and off-track is arcade-like in it’s presentation. I think Off-Road Drive would appeal to the technically-minded who would love the idea of working the intricacies of their machine to get around the track. If only those intricacies extended to all aspects of the game.
I think Off-Road Drive might appeal to mud-bogging enthusiasts too, except a great deal of the fun of real off-roading is the physicality of it. The feel of the tires as they slip in the mud. The lurch of the chassis as it pitches over a rock. These things simply don’t translate to a video game and I think the audience they’re looking for might not appreciate the activity without it.
In the end, I don’t think Off-Road Drive knows what it wants to be, or who it’s meant to appeal to. It feels like someone took their off-time hobby and decided they’d make a game out of it without thinking about who would play it. If you can see yourself falling into one of these niche categories and think you can forgive it its faults, it might be worth buying. If you’re an average gamer looking for some off-road action, you’re probably better off looking elsewhere.