Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad
Jeremy McGrath is no stranger to the videogame landscape, having fronted a handful of other racing titles throughout the years. The key separator between Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad and those other titles is that they were motocross titles. Offroad is strictly cars only, offering a lengthy career mode, arcade mode, and topped off with classic online multiplayer.
Career mode is where players are going to spend most of their time. Racing in any mode generally grants experience points that can be poured into categories like acceleration and braking, but strangely these boosts must be applied to specific cars rather than the vehicle class. There’s not much point in spreading the experience around and it’s much more effective to pour it all into the one car you plan on using.
Racing in Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad feels little more than a 101 class on the basics: brake when necessary and powerslide around hairpin turns. Winning boils down to remembering those two simple lessons, despite McGrath’s sagely advice on using the clutch. McGrath’s constant advice curiously references techniques either wholly absent or so unnecessary to victory they might as well be.
Once enough experience has been pumped into a car, it’s common practice to hold down the acceleration button without ever stopping. There are tight turns and a few level-specific obstacles, but the game’s navigator does a good job of calling out these features before they turn into huge hazards. It’s a shame that there’s no music to race to during the levels, adding a certain flatness to the whole proceedings, but the whir of the engines sounds spot-on at the very least.
Graphically, there’s nothing impressive to speak of. It’s a tad crisper than a PlayStation 2 title, but not by much. There’s also a disturbing lack of weight and presence to the muscle cars, the collisions caused between them, and the environment. Plowing into another car or a tree will result in the player bouncing around like a bumper car, or otherwise getting stuck for an abominably lengthy amount of time.
In addition to career mode there’s also arcade, letting players race the unlocked levels on their own terms—namely deciding between a standard race or a time trial. Since gamers will have already had their fill of the tracks by the end of career mode, it’s difficult imagining anyone going back in for seconds or even to grind for experience points. The game is quite generous with them as is the career mode. It’s easy to rack up points for passing other racers, running into signs, and of course placing in the top three at the end of a race.
Although players will race rally cars, trucks, and buggys, they all feel the same with hardly any difference in handling. There’s no reason to adopt any particular strategy from one to the other, and if anything it reinforces the notion that whatever learning curve the developers aspired to give Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad is completely nonexistent. About the only thing players need to think about is what suspension setting they should choose before racing, and even that hardly factors in. Choose very fast, and win the race with little effort.
There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad so much as there’s no compelling reason to recommend it over other racing titles that have more depth, variety, and make for a more engrossing racing experience for the same asking price. Instead, it’s a barebones package with a famous name in the title that nails the basics and nothing else.
Five out of ten