I prefer the comfort of paved roads in real life, but there’s something oddly entertaining about taking detours through mud-ridden tracks in a virtual world. The resilient vehicles, rough terrain, and winding paths culminate to deliver an experience not found in polished titles like Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo. Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad aims to re-create those joys by leading the “King of Supercross” down the unfamiliar path of off-road racing. The star behind this release may be heading into uncharted territory, but Offroad paints a familiar picture of the genre, for better or worse.
I liken my time with this game to a single, semi-competitive race. I rev up my engine in anticipation of that bright green light illuminating the top of the screen. The second my eye catches the signal, it’s time to push on the accelerator button like my life depends on it. At that point I’m shoving past competitors, delicately rounding hairpin turns, and having a genuinely fun time. That feeling slowly dissipates as I look around and see no one – I’ve left my competition in the dust. The moment in which I cross the finish line feels bittersweet and I ask myself, “Now what?”
I was overcome by that same feeling upon finishing the entire career mode. The opening moments in which I familiarize myself with the vehicles and controls prove entertaining and memorable. The early races follow suit thanks to sound game mechanics. It doesn’t take long for tedium to rear its ugly head, though, and a feeling of disappointment lingers for the rest of the game. It all boils down to the humdrum nature of a decent downloadable title lacking that bit of spark I look for in a truly great game. I could run through the checklist of necessary features in the game such as a rudimentary upgrade system, different vehicle classes, and online multiplayer. That’s all well and good, but where is the distinguishing factor – why is Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad different?
I may have answered my own question by typing out the name, but McGrath’s involvement amounts to little more than window dressing. I suppose McGrath fans may enjoy hearing his voice give tips and turn directions during races, but it does little to bolster the quality of Offroad or give it the level of novelty it needs.
I see missed potential in Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad, but one of the most critical factors in a successful racing game is, well, the racing. That ends up being Offroad‘s biggest strength and makes those early moments with the game so enjoyable. Every vehicle class has its own weight and speed to adjust to, and the fact that they all handle with just the right amount of precision makes the adjustment process gratifying. In addition, players are required to choose from three automated setups, encouraging even more experimentation between vehicles. I just wish there was a larger variety of game modes, or a unique game mechanic, or something to separate Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad from the sea of racing games.
Review based on PlayStation 3 release.