As much as I love tinkering with settings in order to improve my drag reduction so I can wipe 0.003 milliseconds off my lap time in games such as Gran Turismo, Forza or Formula 1, I am no mechanic and sometimes I just want to jump into a driving game and drive. So you can imagine I was excited to get my hands on Arcade Racer Jeremy McGraths Offroad.
Now firstly I have absolutely no idea who Jeremy McGrath is but he does pop up during the loading screen to share his pearls of wisdom. Super advice along the lines of:
“Remember to stay on the track” – Thanks Jeremy I had no idea
“Stay on the road it’s faster” – you want me to stay on the road in an off road race?
After listening to Captain Obvious for 30 seconds, I found myself in the main menu, no super long cut-scene to explain why I’m here, just push the Start button and we will be racing. Sometimes this is what I want from a racer. Unfortunately, some of the other things that I find to be a must in my games are sorely lacking and this is an Arcade racer at its most basic.
Firstly, if you are looking for a long career mode then Jeremy McGrath is not your man. I burned through the entire career mode in little under two hours and this was on the Pro level as well. This is compounded by the fact that although there are 23 races in career mode there are only 6 different tracks in the game and even though the turns, jumps, dips and U-bends come at you thick and fast nothing comes as a shock as long as you have a good memory.
There is very little diversity when it comes to the vehicles and whether you are driving a buggy, a rally car or a trophy truck they all sound and behave exactly the same. The collision physics between the vehicles seem okay, even though they do seem to be made out of indestructible Teflon as no dents ever seem to appear and the mud just slides off the car before you actually see it.
The physics between the car and the environment are a different story entirely. To say that they are grossly unrealistic is the understatement of the year. Very often I went round a U-bend by driving straight into the bend, lifting off and flying through the air, hitting a tree with the grace of an inflatable beach ball, spinning in the air on my return trip back towards the track and carrying on my race without a loss of any speed or momentum.
As you race you earn experience points through fulfilling certain criteria such as passing another car, having a clean lap and winning the race to name but three. You can then spend these points on one of four simple upgrades which affects the car, albeit very slightly. Strangely if you change the livery of the car once you have performed an upgrade you lose the upgrade and the points.
A couple of puzzles have been included in the game as well. The first being how does the “shoved down your throat” Clutch Boost or E Brake features actually help seeing as you get the same effects from just either squeezing or letting go of the accelerator. The second being which madman keeps throwing boulders, bales of hay or flying a crop dusters at you when you are trying to race.
As you race around the track you do notice that there are no bells and whistles and the soundtrack is stripped down to the “roar” of your engine and your co-driver shouting out what turns are coming up, who after about race six – and with 17 races still to go – starts to feel like the most annoying Sat Nav ever.
The online aspect was a big miss for me as no one else seems to be playing this game so I was unable to test out any features. I have been back numerous times and the only thing missing in my wait for another player was tumbleweed blowing wistfully by. I would expect this on a game that has been out for maybe one or two years but not something that has only been out for a week. The same can be said for the leaderboards, but on the plus side this is the longest I have ever been at the top of any game’s leaderboard.
As a small consolation, the track environments are very crisp and have been given a great deal of polish even down to the lens flare when you start driving towards the sun. It’s just a pity that they could only roll the rest of the game in glitter.
MLG Rating: 2/10 Platform: Xbox 360 / PS3 Release Date: 05/07/2012
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of Jeremy McGrath Offroad by the promoter for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of four days on an Xbox 360. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.