Your puny little sports car won't cut it here.
It's time to run with the big boys now.
Who would've guessed it, Infogrames releasing an off-road
style Test Drive? Well obviously not me, but after playing through the
game, it's apparent that the series needs some remodeling. The game,
however not bad, isn't perfect.
The first noticeable area of imperfection is the graphics.
Textures around the level, the dirt and water kicking up from your tires,
and the vegetation look very low resolution when it comes to the full
potential of the Xbox right now. It looks like a computer game; a Motocross
Madness 2 (PC) with trucks. Speaking of trucks, this is where development
seemed to focus on, as they look better than mainly everything else.
They still look pretty good, but they're not at the quality of other
racers out there, such as Project Gotham Racing.
But how are the level visuals you ask? There's not much
to discuss, since they seem to look copied and pasted, and not smooth
and bump mapped. The water looks good, but if you take a closer look,
you'll notice the copy and paste look to it as with the ground textures.
Volcano lava, boats in the harbor, rocks along the country side, all
of them just look a bit flat and unpolished, with not as much effort
put into them as one would expect. Overall, I wished for more, but I
The visuals reminded me of something I might play on the
PS2, and I wondered how much of an improvement over that version of the
game I was playing. No matter, I played on, mainly focusing on beating
race after race, and listening to the insane audio tracks.
I love Metallica. They're one of my favorite bands, so it's
no wonder why I like the audio in Test Drive: Off-Road, because it features
songs from Metallica, along with Fear Factory, Digital Assassins, 303
Infinity and more. You'll also hear your truck slide through the different
terrain, from water, grass, and mud; along with the sounds of the engine
through various speeds. The audio sounds decent, and I'm not complaining
with the Metallica tracks, but I still do feel like they could've done
something more to add to the overall feel of the racing - like adding
the ability to create your own soundtrack.
So I do have complaints about the graphics compared to the
Xbox's real power, but the game can be fun. There are 53 trucks to earn,
each with four different classes and power. However, earning these is
a little harder, for the A.I. is no pleasant adversary. Computer opponents
will constantly try to just get in your way, and if you find yourself
neck to neck with one, they'll attempt to ram you off the road. You'll
face these merciless foes in Single Race, Career Race, and Stadium Race,
all which are pretty self-explanatory. However, in Career Race, you start
off "seasons" by buying vehicles and/or upgrading them for races. As
you finish each race, you'll earn certain amounts of credits to purchase
these vehicles and upgrades, with new ones becoming available as you
progress. You can also use the vehicles that become available to buy
and your modified classes within any of the other modes.
If you're still wondering what Stadium Race is, it's basically
what it says. You race the unlimited class of trucks throughout tracks
within a stadium. The array of tracks range from your basic rectangle
to an eight ball to some other lengthy and complex courses. As you compete
each track, you'll open up new ones to compete within. And don't take
speed for handling, because the sharp turns can make you go speeding
into the walls or off course.
If you don't want to race, and just want to drive freely,
that option is certainly available for you through Free-Roam. This is
probably my favorite mode, because you can drive anywhere within the
three massive levels with no boundaries or time limit. This is where
I found my fun, driving anywhere and taking all the insane jumps I could.
From Hawaii, to the Moab desert, and even Yosemite National Park, I drove,
jumped, rolled, and swerved my way through the different terrain. There's
also an exclusive moon level in which you can unlock and play through.
You can even play through Free Roam with a friend, or take on Multiplayer
with up to four friends in basic races to King of the Hill.
Thankfully, the controls are fairly easy. They're pretty
much what you would expect from the Xbox controller, with acceleration
either being right trigger or A button, and braking/reversing with left
trigger. Steering is also the same, as you use the left thumb stick or
directional pad to move your truck. Other basic controls are shift up
and down with the White and Black button, camera change with the Select
button, look back with the Y button, and map with the B button.
Let me be honest, I couldn't play this game for long. The
difficulty level, even on easy, with the A.I. can become so frustrating
that you just want to put the game down. There are also not a lot of
areas to race through, however, the promise of earning those 53 trucks
keeps me coming back. If you're a hardcore truck fan, you should have
fun with this, but if you're not into this kind of racing or want to
deal with an insanely difficult A.I., you may stray away from this title.
Needless to say, the graphics and gameplay could use some
work, adding more textures, levels, and lowering the difficulty level.
Perhaps the sequel will have these areas addressed. You may want to rent
this title first before you consider buying, for it's not the best out
there. One tip before bringing this to an end, you'll want speed and
good handling, for damn it, that A.I. can be a pest in my rear end.
Scott "VeX" Kuss
Test Drive Off Road Wide Open: The Scores
Poor texture quality and a shortage of levels just make
you wanting more from a Test Drive game. The game feels
like it could have spent a little bit more time being
worked on before release. If anything, rent this game