Test Drive Off-Road 3
Beyond Rally Cross 2, there hasn't been many offroad racing games that pull off the physics and speed of the real thing. 4x4 fans will enjoy the vast amount of licensed rigs in TDOR 3 but may find the game lacking in real excitement once they rip into it. Last year we complained the tracks in TDOR 2 were overly long and too mundane. This year they're still long but they're filled with hills, steep climbs and rocky terrain galore. Beefy stuff like that is great but there's a problem. The vehicles are so spongy with oversteer, keeping them under control is tough. The lag in the steering is detrimental to tight control. It's probably more realistic this way but to me it's not as fun to play. How does this affect the game? Two-player races are less speed and excitement and more an exercise in driving concentration. You spend more time trying to stay on course than overtaking your opponent. Single-player games suffer from the same thing only to a lesser degree. On the other hand, if you're into the nuances of 4X4'ing you may like the game. It's more about learning how to traverse the obstacles and finding the right line up a mountain than flat-out racing. Unfortunately I have no patience for that style of driving game. For me TDOR 3 needs more speed and tighter control. Give it a rent if you're a 4x4 enthusiast.
If you intend on buying this one for fun two-player racing...don't. The frame-rate blows. But as a one-player game, Test Drive Off-Road 3 isn't that bad. It has its share of well-designed stages (on top of some very uninspiring ones). The racing itself has some nice interaction to it (like having to rapidly press the accelerator to climb steep surfaces), making for a more interesting racing experience. Customizing cars before races is pretty cool as well.
Off-Road packs cool vehicles and better tracks than last year's model, but it just never delivered enough white-knuckled thrills to get me excited. Opposing racers often keep their distance; I felt like I was alone on the course half the time. Vehicle upgrades didn't boost performance as much as I'd like. The tracks are varied and well-designed (I really like the hilly parts), but control takes getting used to. This is a competent racer, if a little less than thrilling.
I like a good off-road racing game but TDOR 3 has some undesirable elements. For example, why play up the realistic appeal of the trucks when the tracks are obviously too extreme to be driven by any real vehicle. It'd be better if they were beefier or the tracks toned-down somewhat. Even on the easier courses It's hard to control most of the 4x4s. They bounce around and spin out a bit too much for me. Two-player isn't bad though.