Review: Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad (XBLA)

2XL Games latest release is Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad, a simple but effective racing game that seems to takes inspiration from classic dirt racing titles such as SEGA Rally and Colin McRae Rally.

While the game’s title, Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad, might not stand out too much, the development studio behind the game does. As its developer, 2XL Games, have a fair amount of experience when it comes to dirt track styled racing games, as 2XL Games was the development studio behind Baja: Edge of Control, a full retail released dirt racing game for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Since then the team has been producing IOS styled games based in the same genre. Well now 2XL Games are back in force with its latest release and so far opening reactions are mild.

To start off with Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad is not a realistic racing game, it’s more of an arcade styled racer due to the fact that all the vehicles effectively handle the same, it doesn’t have a large catalogue of tracks or cars and the graphics are basic at best. In comparison it looks more like an older generation of a racing game, re-mastered in High Definition. Depsite the lack of graphical power though the game still manages to pull off its own charm, however if your after realism then look else where, as you will not find it here.

The game itself features 6 Tracks (Mythic, Limburg, Chippewa, Rock Spings, Zunac and Ridgecrest) each one inspired from a different location in the world, 5 Car Types (Sportsman Buggy, Prolite Truck, Pro Buggy, Rally Car and Trophy Truck) each type modelled after a different dirt racing vehicle and three different gameplay modes (Arcade, Career and Multiplayer).

Arcade mode features Single Race, Time Trial and Pratice, with options included to alter difficulty, car styles or the amount of laps needed to win a race.

Career mode is where ‘some’ of your gaming time will be spent, as Jeremy McGarth Offraod does not feature a long career mode. Career mode combines all 6 tracks and the  different 5 car classes into a 23 event long championship, with each event awarding points to the winners. The person who has the most points at the end of the entire competition wins the championship.  Career mode will most likely take around 2 – 3 hours (real time) to finish, depending on the difficulty level selected – however I suggest not completing the game within one session as you’ll soon get bored of the same tracks as they are heavily re-used, but just with different vehicles.

The final mode in Jeremy McGarth’s Offroad is the Multiplayer mode and unlike other ‘budget’ racers this game only features online multiplayer – however what is great is that up to 8 players can race in a single match and that all of the cars & tracks from the main game can also be used. The host can determine the settings, such as laps and track, however the overall game is for you to beat the other racers by coming first.

What I find interesting about this game is that it features an in-depth experience system, however unlike other racing games, such as Need for Speed: The Run, the experience system is rather useful. The idea is that by winning races (either offline or online) the player gains experience – if 1000 experience points are gained the player can improve their choose vehicle’s stats – with options of improving its handling, Acceleration, top speed and breaking ability. The better stats your vehicle has the easier it is to drive. Annoyingly upgrading one particular vehicle (such as the Rally Car) will not upgrade all types of it – so if you like multiple styles of the rally car you’ll either have to pick one and upgrade it or work extra hard and upgrade them all. Upgrading your vehicle is noticeable, as this can be seen in Time Trial styled events as you’ll be seconds faster than your opponent.

Experience is not only just gained from winning races, experience can also be gained in the game by overtaking other players, jumping large areas, playing for a set period of time or even for driving a certain amount of miles – so upgrading your vehicle is relatively easy.

Gameplay wise the game features two different styles of events, with racing laps being the main part of this game. A ‘time’ event ,where you must pass all the checkpoints  and beat your opponent is also included – however it doesn’t explain at the beginning what is needed to win – just 3,2,1, Go and your away. A warning or information about the event before it started would have been nice so players know exactly what to do. During gameplay Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad features some amusing ideas, such as ‘obstacles’. These obstacles include Boulders, Stacks of Hay and giant snowballs that roll through the track, luckily they won’t do much damage (since the game has no damage control) but they will bump your off course. Luckily this doesn’t happen on all laps, but at least it adds a bit of variety into the game.

As mentioned earlier all vehicles in the game handle the same, however you can ‘tweak’ the driving styles, with three different options available. Some styles offer faster speed but lack grip, while others offer grip but average speed – so it is up to you which you would like, additionally once upgrading the car the overall vehicle will drive better – and offer a slightly different experience to the rest. Depsite this even if you have upgraded or tweak your vehicle, mimicking the same settings on another vehicle will result in the same driving experience, but a different vehicle body style.

Jeremy McGarth’s Offroad is not a terrible racing game, its simple and effective, but most of all its ideal for players who wish to play a driving game, but not be over flooded with complicated settings, handling issues and millions of choices. If you have enjoyed Arcade styled racing games in the past, such as SEGA Rally, then you’ll most likely enjoy this.

Pros:

– Simple, Effective Gameplay
– Fast loading times
– Unique Experience system
– Upgradable vehicles & stats
– Online Multiplayer & Leaderboards
– Simple Control scheme

Cons:

– Small selection of racing tracks & vehicles
– No background music during racing
– Gameplay Tips (Audio) are displayed during loading screens, but overlap into the race
– Basic High Definition Graphics

Overall: