Test Drive: Off-Road 2 Review

By: Dave Mitchel

Sigh. The last game I reviewed, Activision Classics (Atari 2600) was a reminder of the days when the developers designed their games just for the sake of fun. The graphics sucked, because the technology simply didn't exist for high-rez, 3-D, mip-mapped, fancy graphic muscle. The people at Accolade could learn something from these days: Graphics aren't everything. This game is mediocre at best. Though there are some fairly good graphics in it, the sound is repetitive, the control is extremely hard to get used to, and it's short (and not very sweet). There isn't even a 2 player mode! What the heck is that? Well anyway, there is also a little bit of deception on Accolade's part which I'll discuss later. Anyway I might do some occasional ranting about this game, so it's lucky I've got an "*" button.


Well, I believe I'll start with the graphics. The graphics are good, no question about it. The backgrounds are clear and crisp, the racers are captured in all their raggedness, and the canyons, trees, mud, water and other features on the tracks are quite realistic looking. I'm not saying the graphics are drop-dead gorgeous, or will fool you into thinking you're in the elements, but they're good. The only problem is that sometimes when you're right against features of the landscape they lose their attractiveness. It isn't pixelization, but they just don't look all that good up close.

The sounds are where I'm gonna bitch the most. I don't want to get off on a rant here but... First of all, on the package of the game there is a big, bright yellow sticker that raves about the soundtrack: Featuring Sevendust, Fear Factory, and Gravity Kills. As a casual fan of Sevendust and Gravity Kills, and since Fear Factory 's my favorite band, I was excited. I put in the game, and then there's a cheesy Cinematic sequence raving about how cool the game is, and showing the featured bands again. So I choose my racer, and eagerly rushed to a track. As soon as the race started, I heard a great song called "Shock" by Fear Factory start, and I was excited as hell. That excitement came to a stop in about a minute, when I realized that the game had was a 30 second clip of the song repeated to death. To make it worse, it wasn't quite the original song with a few changes, and the vocals were removed! The same went for the other two songs by the other bands. My question was: What the **** were they thinking? It turns out that the full songs, with vocals are played on the title screen of the game before it starts. Oh, they're on the sound track, too bad not in the god damn tracks! Deliberate false advertising to appeal the game towards the teen crowd. Shame on you Accolade! I can't think of a faster way to kill a good song then to play 30 second clips endlessly. Luckily enough, there's an option to turn off the music, with good cause. And the sound effects? The crash and engine effects aren't really special, and most of the sound effects aren't very good. And, following suite of many recent games, the announcer is annoying is hell! There's a silver lining to this one too, because yes, you guessed, it you can turn off the sound effects as well. So let's review: You can have either repetitive music, or irritating sounds, or neither. Sorry to turn this part of the review into an episode of Dennis Miller Live, but any game which would have players turning off it's sounds should of gotten more work. That's just my opinion... I could be wrong.

The control of Off Road 2 is simple enough: one button each for braking, acceleration, reverse view, and shifting, and the direction pad for turning. The turning is very difficult for all but one of the vehicles. I know they're supposed to be rugged off-road monsters, but should they really handle like a frikkin' shopping cart. Corners were difficult even after a few days of play. The one exception was the military dune buggy-type racer, which was easy to get used to, and handled briskly. (Hey, what a selection: One maneuverable vehicle!) Also you don't really get that "feel" of speed you do in really well designed racing games.

The gameplay of the game has a lot to be desired. Very limited tracks really hinder the game, as do the fact that some of these tracks are somewhat similar. Also, the stupidest part of the game is the fact of that they didn't include a two player mode. How stupid have you got to be... There are six tracks, and one decent racer. That doesn't sound like longevity to me. The two-player mode increases the longevity of even a bad game, like this one. They put in a tedious circuit mode, in a failed effort to increase the longevity. In this mode, you have to start with really crappy vehicles and work your way up to more crap, until you get the one good vehicle in the game. Which brings me to another point: Really bad vehicles. Most of the vehicles have bad acceleration, speed, handling except the aforementioned military racer. I'm not a game designer, but here's a pointer: When designing a racing game, make sure to make well balanced, easy to control vehicles, and make sure the vehicles don't suck.

Final Thoughts: Good graphics don't save this sound-repeating, crap controlling, six track wonder. In the broad selection of racing games, this one will hopefully be passed by, because, frankly, there are just much better, longer, (and two-player) racers on the PlayStation. I think the most disturbing thing about this game is that Accolade thought they could pull a fast one on video game consumers everywhere. They thought they could mask horrific sound, control, and gameplay flaws with flashy graphics, which aren't even all that flashy. Sorry guys, but this is the 90's: We live in the day with a lot of savvy consumers who scrutinize games heavily before they buy. And the whole soundtrack issue really pissed me off, which I'm sure would do the same to music fans in general. Since the PlayStation can't really handle CD-quality music from bands, as evidenced by Twisted Metal 3, and this game, developers should stop trying to use this music, and develop their own. So what have we learned here, boys and girls: Don't try to fool consumers with propaganda and glossed over, bad games. Oh yeah, one more thing: Rather then waste your money on this abysmal piece of crap, play a good game, and listen some CDs of your favorite bands with the video game on mute.






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