One race that has been garnering a lot of attention in recent years is the Baja International 1000, which is a thousand-mile endurance race that takes place in the heat of the Mexican desert. Although this race does not have the cheap thrills or quick intensity of NASCAR, it is a great race to follow. It’s not so much of a race about speed and driving strategy, but more of a race that pushes human boundaries and tests your will to drive.
It should come as no surprise then that this year we have had not one but two titles based on this epic race. SCORE International Baja aims to satisfy arcade racing fans with interesting tracks and tons of vehicles to hit the dirt in. It all sounds very good on paper, but the execution in this Wii title is way off-base.
First of all, the signature feature of Baja racing is the “endurance” aspect. As such, you would think there would be endurance-focused races that have interesting formats and conditions. However, almost every race in Baja 1000’s Career mode is basically the same. You jump in, do a few laps, and finish. Sure, there are the usual “challenge” tracks, and there are separated class tracks, but there is nothing here that effectively channels the spirit and unique conditions of the Baja race. The only thing that even comes close is the Exhibition mode, which allows you to switch everything up and use any vehicle on whatever track you want. But this sort of aimless gameplay still just doesn’t live up to the real thing.
Another gripe that I have with this game is its barebones multiplayer modes. Any automotive game fan will tell you that most of the fun with these titles comes from playing with friends. As such, varied multiplayer modes are essential. However, SCORE offers only one multiplayer option, which is the two-player split-screen. There are no options as to course rules or even race style in the split-screen; you just pick your cars and go.
The only thing that really makes this game playable is the variety of cars. This game boasts an impressive list of over 90 vehicles for you to unlock from seven different classes: ATV, dirt bike, SCORE Lite, Tomcar, Class 1, Class ½ 1600, and SCORE Trophy Trucks. The different classes all have unique handling, and you can definitely notice the intricacies of each car and its corresponding class. You can also race under different Baja 1000 team banners, which is pretty cool for fans of the series.
However, this is where this game’s good points take a turn for the worse. It may sound superficial, but the look of this game is probably its worst facet. Since it is a Wii game, of course, you don’t expect PS3-grade graphics, but the visuals in this game are truly like none you’ve ever seen in the past ten years. Cars are horribly pixelated, and tracks are painfully nondescript. Even the track onlookers look bad; they are just faceless 2-D shapes. The look of this game is probably on par with most PSOne and N64 titles, and it’s just not enjoyable to look at.
Although the sound in this title isn’t as bad as the graphics, there still is a lot to be desired here. The music is generic and features some rock tunes from bands you’ve probably never heard of. Despite the passable music, the sound effects in this game are of very poor quality. Many of the game’s 90 different vehicles sound exactly the same; the motor effects do not sound realistic at all.
The control in this game is hit or miss, and there are two different control schemes you can use. The most intuitive is the Wii-mote on its side, which you can tilt either way to steer. This option works well on early courses, but the handling is too imprecise on harder, more winding tracks. Luckily, there is a second control scheme that allows you to use the Wii-mote and Nunchuk combo and steer with the thumbstick. However, this still feels a little imprecise and doesn’t give you any substantial cornering ability.
Its no secret that the Wii has not exactly been the most conducive platform for racing games. With the obvious exception of Mario Kart, the console has barely any titles that would satisfy even the most casual of automotive fans. Unfortunately, SCORE International Baja 1000 does not do the automotive genre any justice on the console, and is actually one of the worst racing games I have ever played on the system. This is definitely one race to avoid at all costs.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 1.5 Graphics
Graphics are borderline N64 quality. Almost everything is grainy and pixelated, and background elements are completely 2D. 2.7 Control
Wii-mote motion controls work sometimes, but on difficult, looping tracks they are not precise enough. The alternate controls are slightly better. 2.1 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music has a couple of nice yet generic-sounding rock tunes from artists you never heard of, but the automotive sounds are flat, boring, and unforgivably simplistic. 2.1
There are plenty of tracks and vehicles to unlock, but the multiplayer modes are bare-bones, and the single-player mode should only take you a few hours to run through.
2.4 Overall Rating – Poor
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.