Off-Road DrivePlatform: PC Games
Category: Racing, Simulation
Publisher: 1C Company
After seeing Off-Road Drive two years in a row at 1C Company's annual preview event, Another Night in Moscow, they finally provided me with a copy of the game. Even though I had already tried the game, I was very impressed. You're not going to find a better off-road truck racing simulator than Off-Road Drive. With a wide variety of trucks and locations, lots of control over your vehicles, and even the ability to leave real ruts in the mud, this game is a blast.
With the settings set to maximum, the game looks very nice. On less powerful computers, you will want to turn the settings down a bit to keep the frame rate reasonable. Don't fret though, because Off-Road Drive manages to still look great. There are lots of details in the game - glare, sunsets, dirt, rocks, trees, grass, foliage. Occasionally the camera would glitch a little, looking through a hill or simply turning on its own in a strange direction, but it didn't happen enough to really be a big bother.
I already mentioned the ruts earlier. The first thing that impressed me about them was the way they looked. As you drive through the mud, you'll create actual ruts behind you, displacing the mud. This isn't just a changed texture to show a picture of tire tracks; there are actual ruts left in the mud, and it looks great. Not only that, but the ruts actually alter the terrain. On your next lap, the ruts will still be there. They could make it easier, or they could prove a greater obstacle. When you hit the mud, you'll fling mud behind you and get covered in mud yourself. It's a gorgeous game.
It's a racing game, so if you like the sound of loud engines, you'll love it! While it might not be as realistic, I went into the audio options and was pleased to see I could turn down the engine volume separately from the rest. This is a nice feature, and after using it, I could hear the rest of the game easier. Besides a bit of dialogue, there are good sound effects and music that fit well with the rugged world of off-road trucking. The audio didn't exactly wow me like the graphics did, but I don't have any complaints.
The first thing Off-Road Drive does is put you through a tutorial. While some games can have tedious tutorials, Off-Road Drive's tutorial is very helpful and well made. First, it teaches you the basics of driving. Press the up button to accelerate, use the left and right buttons to steer, and press the down button to break or go into reverse. You can also use the space bar to hand break. Now, this is where it begins to get more complicated.
Different obstacles will require different tactics to maneuver over or through them. Are you stuck? Back wheels not making contact? Go into four-wheel drive! Can't get across that surface? Lock your differentials. Need more power? It's time to use low-gear. Is that soft mud proving too difficult? Lower your tire pressure, but make sure to raise it again when you get out of the mud! Are you absolutely stuck? Use the winch to pull yourself out! Be gentle though, because you don't want to break the line. Off-Road Drive is a great simulator, but it still is a game. 1C Company isn't cruel; if there's no way to get out of the predicament in which you find yourself, you can always press 'r' to reset your position back on the track for a time penalty. After teaching you everything you need to know, the tutorial tasks you with completing a final lap, using what you learned on the first lap. It's a fantastic tutorial. I didn't even know for what most of these features were used, but after 15 minutes in the tutorial, I found myself toggling the different features as I needed them easily. Well done, 1C.
If the 20 SUVs aren't enough, you can customize the tires, suspension, and paint on your vehicle as well. Off-Road Drive features 6 regions of the world with 42 tracks total. Besides the single-player, four players can complete online or over a LAN. While I was reviewing Off-Road Drive, I didn't find people playing online, which is disappointing. Hopefully this picks up in the future!
Each region has multiple tournaments, and each tournament usually consists of three races. The better you do, the more points you'll earn from that tournament. Your total points across every tournament is used in determining what you have unlocked. The more points you have, the more regions, tournaments, and cars you'll be able to choose!
This is a good system for a single-player campaign mode. I just wish there was a free-play mode for people who want to jump in, screw around, and leave without unlocking things. I liked the joy of off-roading more than actually competitively winning and unlocking tracks and cars. Maybe this wouldn't be a concern if winning was easy, but it's not. Winning races is a real challenge. On the other hand, I wouldn't want victories handed to me. Where's the fun in that? This is why some sort of free-play mode would be beneficial! I'm also not sure why you race against ghosts in single-player rather than actual trucks. Regardless, I still had a great time!
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