|System: PS3, X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: 2XL Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: THQ||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Aug. 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-12||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Pending||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
April 14, 2008 - Imagine, participating in one of the most punishing off road races in the world. The race can last several days, and has some of the most grueling off-road tracks in the world. Hairpin turns, a barren desert landscape, and more than a few booby traps await you. Welcome to Baja, a game that challenges many of the pre-conceived notions about automotive games and provides automotive fans with a much needed diversion from the arcade-centric Need for Speed and the simulation-style Gran Turismo. Baja will feature some completely new concepts in automotive gaming, and takes a real-world approach to racing events akin to the Daytona series, but with one main difference: Baja is a lot dirtier.
The signature mode in Baja looks like it will be the Baja 1000, which is based on the Mexican racing event that takes place every year on the Baja Peninsula. Think of it as the off-road Indianapolis 500. The original race is generally around 800 miles in length and is definitely one of the most intense driving events in the world. Baja tries to capture this intensity by having a 300 mile version of the race in the game, which will take around three hours to complete. But if you don't necessarily want to drive for three hours, you can still participate in a point-to-point version of the race. You also have the option of letting the game's A.I. take over the driving for a little while if you need to go for a few moments and don't want to lose time. I'm not entirely sure how sold I am on this type of long-term racing in a video game setting, but I have to say that it's definitely unlike any other automotive title out there, and that makes it worth looking into.
But the Baja 1000 isn't the only mode in Baja. As you might expect, there are the standard circuit and rally race modes, but there are also some pretty unique modes here as well. One such mode is the hill climb mode, which challenges you to scale a steep and demanding course with both the fastest time and the least amount of damage.
As far as vehicles are concerned, Baja is a four-wheel only affair. This is a little interesting, just because the Baja 1000 does allow motocross bikes, but I can't really hate on this decision too much, simply because the goal is probably to sacrifice this tiny bit of realism in order to provide a more balanced gameplay experience. You will have a wide variety of trucks, dune buggies, and 4x4s to choose from, each with their own supercharged stats. And unlike a lot of other off-road games, Baja will actually let you customize your chosen vehicle.
Visuals in Baja look like they're going to be pretty sweet. Although they may not be as sharp as last year's DiRT, early screens have a high amount of detail and emphasize track design over anything else. But that's not to say that the vehicles look all that shabby. Vehicles have a very rugged look and take on environmental damage and dirt extremely well. However, the folks at 2XL Games have said that they are still hard at work on the visuals in Baja, so there's a good chance that some of the minor visual shortcomings will be resolved before Baja's release this summer.
Tracks in Baja look like they're going to be extremely intense. The tracks were designed with the Baja 1000 in mind and feature some crazy looking turns and some punishing terrain. And since this is an off-road title, don't think your Forza-honed race lines will help you. This game will be all about speed and reflex, and the track designs look to only enhance these factors.
Baja looks like it is yet another addition in what's looking to be a great automotive lineup later this year. Games like Baja and GRID are changing the way we play racing games, and are proving that the racing genre, just like any other genre, can change and evolve over time. So if you're ready for a great new automotive experience, you can't ask for much more than Baja!
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Freelance Writer