Test Drive: Off-Road 2
The long running Test Drive series finally made the jump from the street rods to the off-road monster last year with Test Drive Off-Road. There was no question that the game had problems, but potential. The developers have gone back to the drawing board, took a modified version of the [[Test Drive 4 engine and have taken the game in a different direction with Test Drive Off-Road 2.
Just like the original version, the game features a ton of licensed vehicles, plenty of tracks and some off-road action. Gone are the days of short, narrow tracks; now you will be racing for what seems like hours just to finish a single circuit. The game is better than the original in almost every way, but that does not mean that it doesn't have its share of problems.
I need to get one thing out before I go into this review. I really did not like this game when I first started playing it. Actually, I was very disappointed. The thing is, the more I played, the more I started to enjoy it. Before I knew it, I was playing this game until 3:00 am without realizing it. Test Drive Off-Road 2 is plagued with a number of technical problems which I will outline, but one thing is for sure -- if you look past these problems, you will find a deep racer that provides some seriously intense competition. If you are one of those people who decides if they like a game within the first 15 minutes of gameplay, you might as well not even bother.
One thing that the Test Drive franchise has always been good at is going out and securing the licensing rights to tons of vehicles. To start it off, they have exclusive rights to the Hummer. That means that if you want to know what it feels like to race a Hummer, the only place you can turn is here. The Hummer is not the only vehicle you can race, either. You can race the Dodge Ram, Ford Explorer, Jeep Wrangler, Ford F-150, Chenowth FAV, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Dodge T-Rex and the AWESOME Saleen Explorer. There are 20 vehicles to choose from in total. The great thing is that each of these vehicles handles and feels unique. Choosing the right vehicle could mean the difference between winning and losing.
Another huge improvement in this game is the track design. One of the big complaints with the original Test Drive Off-Road was that the tracks were too narrow and it was hard to tell where you were supposed to go at times. This is not a problem any longer. Plus, there was the issue in the original about getting off the track and getting stuck, unable to make your way back on the track. This is also no longer a problem. The tracks offer a variety of environments, ripping through mud, sand, rivers, streets, jumps and snow. Most of the tracks are very different -- not only do they offer a unique racing experience, but they also offer a long race with the tracks ranging between four and six minutes, depending on the vehicle you select.
Some games offer varying terrain, but it is nothing more than eye candy. The different terrain in this game really affects the performance and handling of your vehicle. For example, in the Switzerland track, you will race across what appears to be a frozen lake. If you are unfortunate enough to have your momentum stopped, it is a pain to get going again on the ice. Another example is on one of the dune tracks. If you get off the beaten path into the deeper sand that has accumulated on the side of the road, your vehicle will slow to a snail's pace while kicking up a rooster tail of sand. The developers did a great job of giving you the feel of driving in these different conditions.
Now for the bad stuff. The first thing you will notice when you play this game is the overly sensitive steering. I mean, these off-road beasts turn on a dime. This is a problem, because you don't expect them to be so responsive. You will constantly find yourself blasting off walls and slamming into things just because the steering is so damn sensitive. I know that it sounds weird to hear someone complain about steering being too sensitive, but you will understand once you start playing. This problem is compounded exponentially when on pavement as well. When you are on slippery surfaces, it isn't quite as noticeable because your back end power slides, but it's brutal on dry pavement.
Another major problem with this game is the collision detection. I can't tell you how may trees that I magically drove right through with no consequence. This was lame. If you are going to put trees in the way as obstacles, make them solid. It did not seem to be an issue with the rocks, but the tree thing was really embarrassing. I had a buddy over who is a semi-gamer, and when he saw me drive through a tree, this game's credibility went out the window for him.
The last issue I had with this game was that it was too easy to get stuck. I would be flying down a hill and slam into a rock. I would try to back out -- no luck. I would try to pull forward -- no luck. I was stuck and there was nothing I could do about it. If this only happened once, I could deal with it, but it happened a bunch of times. There is nothing more frustrating than being ahead in a race only to slam into a rock and get stuck. Lame! This happened on road obstacles as well.
The vehicles and the tracks all look nice, but this game really suffers from slowdown and the occasional poor frame rate. All the vehicles really look like the real deal, which was very cool, but one of the downsides of having a license for vehicles is that you can't have them show damage. The frame rate and slowdown problem never really affected the gameplay, but it needs mentioning anyway.
Despite all the technical flaws in this game, I really got hooked. I just could not stop until I unlocked all the vehicles and tracks. I was very impressed with all the variety the game offered in terms of tracks and vehicles, but the collision detection problem was pretty bad. This game reminds me of a new music CD by one of your favorite bands. It sounds different from their old music and you are not sure if you like it at first, but the more you listen to it, the more it grows on you. If you give Test Drive Off-Road 2 the chance to grow on you, look forward to some challenging racing action.
Download Test Drive: Off-Road 2
Forget about last year's decent but boring Off-Road offering, this year's edition has been completely rebuilt from the ground up. Now, before you cringe, here's the good news. Basically Accolade took the game engine from Test Drive 4, tweaked, buffed and shined it and built an off-road game around it. Imagine the frame-rate, physics (modified for four-wheel drive) and gameplay of Test 4 but this time you're driving a Hummer, a Dodge Ram or a )eep Wrangler (to name just a few). There are 20 cars total, 10 of which are licensed.
Much of the terrain is filled with water pools, jumps, hardened lava, mud and other objects to test the four-wheel physics. And while the hazards do wreak havoc, the momentum stays high providing good speed emulation. In other words, the game is fast even while traversing obstacle-laden tracks. For effect, breakable stuff including exploding barrels, fences and trees are scattered about the roadway. Look for monster jumps and impressive tire stands when jostling about the road. Speaking of tracks, 12 are available, located in strange places like Hawaii, Switzerland, Wales, etc. Each will feature indigenous terrain, Hawaii-beach, Switzerland-snow and so on.
While this is only a preview, and we only wish to give you the facts, it's obvious even at this stage Off-Road 2 is a lot of fun to play and a great improvement over last year's game.
- MANUFACTURER - Accolade
- THEME - Racing
- NUMBER OF PLAYERS - 1 or 2
Plow through mud bogs, over sand dunes, down the beaches, and bounce like you've never bounced before. Test Drive: Off-Road 2 (TDOR2) is a pretty cool concept; everyone wants to take some crazy time and truck through some nasty terrain'well, maybe not everyone, but we guys love it! For a game that boasts an awesome soundtrack and is the only racing game to have been licensed to include the AM General Hummer, it came up pretty short.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Just as in Test Drive 4, the options are extremely limited. This led me to rely on my keyboard for driving (something many of us know is not very effective). The driving isn't really all that exciting. In fact, you are on the road because there are those 'invisible walls'? made so famous by the original Need for Speed. You can never really go off-road because of these walls; the only reason they might call it off-road is because the road you are on is bumpy and filled with jumps. These invisible walls are very apparent when you try to drive your Hummer on the sidewalk of a street, but find the vehicle cannot overcome the curb (please).
The interactivity of the courses was poor as well. At one point I was driving down a beach filled with people. I don't know what happened to these people, but they seemed to be petrified! They didn't move at all, and they brought me to a dead stop when I ran into them. I guess milk really does do a body good!
Two options: 3Dfx or software rendering. If you don't have a 3Dfx card, don't buy this. The software rendering is only done at 320x240 and you have no other choice. Textures and 3D objects have visible lines between them. It's awful.
I did manage to go to the house of a friend who has a 3Dfx card. Sure, it looked better, but the gameplay obviously didn't get any better. We noticed that the tires do not sink into water, but ride on it like solid ground.
Since the game is marketed on its soundtrack, it is obviously pretty good, although I wouldn't put that kind of rock music to off-roading. Sound effects are pretty bad, since all vehicles sound exactly the same and there are no good crash sounds.
P-133 (with 3Dfx) or P-200 (without 3Dfx), 16 MB RAM, 150 MB hard drive space
Reviewed on: P2-350, 128 MB RAM, STB Velocity 128 (RIVA 128)
This game stinks. It was hard to write this review because it was so bad. This game irritated me every time I played it. The people at Accolade really need to review their games before they put them in stores. I don't know how well this did on the console market, but I don't believe it will do very well in the PC market. Save your money.