Test Drive Off-Road
The 16-bit Test Drive gets a new lease on life with this good-looking revision for the PlayStation and PC. Up to four players can bounce across 12 desert or mountain courses in actual sport-utility vehicles: a Chevy, a Hummer, a Land Rover, or a Jeep.
This early test drive was slowed by sluggish cars and limited camera angles, but Accolade promises quick vehicles and nine views in the final version. The many shortcuts (alternate routes that can take you from worst to first in a hurry) should rev up the Fun Factor. What's more, if you drive way off the road, you'll find hidden ramps, bonus vehicles, and even a crashed alien spaceship! Alternative rock band Gravity Kills (who performed on the Mortal Kombat movie soundtrack) fuels the action with hard-driving tunes.
Download Test Drive Off-Road
Don't want to shell out $80,000 for a Hummer that you are just going to rip through the sand, snow and mud in? No problem. The kind people at Accolade are willing to save you $79,950 to let you live this fantasy. The best part? You don't even have to wash it when you are done.
Test Drive Off-Road is a racing game that offers 4X4 hounds the ability to race production off-road vehicles through a series of tracks and various terrains. Treacherous curves are abundant in the 12 tracks that will take you through forests, deserts and snow-covered roads. Each of the tracks is unique and, if you are lucky enough to find them, contains tons of shortcuts. So hoist yourself up into your bad boy 4X4 and get ready for some bone-jarring, truck-rolling, jump-hitting and tree-crashing fun.
Enough with the introductions. This is a mean, off-road type game, so anybody interested in it probably doesn't have time for sissy intros. No way. Let's get straight to the meat and potatoes of the game. Let's talk trucks. The first little number is something called a Hummer. This is every off-road junkie's dream vehicle. Why, you ask? Because it is unstoppable. It has power, torque, full-time four-wheel drive and is just plain ugly. The second vehicle is the Land Rover Defender 90. This truck has all of the technological advancement like fuel injection, four-wheel ventilated disk brakes, aluminum V-8 and best of all, it has class. The third vehicle is the Chevy K-1500 Z-71. This is the jacked-up, weekend-warrior type truck. It looks like the truck that pulls up next to you at a stoplight where your eye level is at about the center of the tire. Your final choice is the good old reliable Jeep Wrangler. This vehicle is full of 100 percent tradition. You will be bouncing off trees and blowing out of corners and the Jeep won't even break a sweat.
So now we know what we will be racing. The next question is, where will we be racing? The first type of track is the forest track. Most of the forest tracks are set with some serious turns that are usually lined with trees. This means that if you miss your corner, you will find yourself in a dense patch of woods struggling to find your way back to the track. This, by the way, can be very frustrating. If you get stuck, the only way to get back to the track at some points is to go back to where you left the beaten path. Come on, this is an off-road game. Let me bust through the trees and get back on the road. The next track type is the desert track. These tracks are slower-paced since you are driving in sand, but when you do get moving, stopping becomes the problem. There are plenty of corners to power-slide around and you will find yourself looking for an entrance back on the track if you slide off (aaaaggghhh). The last of the track types you will race on is the snow track. These are very fast tracks, and obviously traction and turning are the main concerns. If you are lucky, you will find a corner with dry patches that will let you make the turn without spinning out. Vehicle contact is also a bad idea here because the surface is slick and it could cause you to lose control.
There are plenty of race options available to suit your fancy. You can always start out with a practice race. The practice race lets you choose any vehicle available and race on any track available. The next race type is the mixed league. The mixed league lets you choose which vehicle you want to race and throws you in competition with 23 other trucks. You will race three other trucks on 6 random tracks. If you finish third or higher in the first three races and second or higher in the last three races, you advance to the next cup. After winning the cup, a new track is unlocked. The final race type is the class league. The class league is four of the same vehicles in a race to the finish. There are six races in this class and you are awarded points for your finishing position. After the sixth race, the driver with the most cumulative points wins the class. If you win the class, a secret vehicle will become available for practice races. Each class unlocks a different secret truck.
Test Drive Off-Road has a number of options to control the in-game action as well, the most unique of these being the friction option. This lets you change the vehicle's reaction to the different terrains. If you want to go for an all-out race that has nothing slowing you down, you can turn the friction off and your vehicle will not be affected by the sand or snow. If you want a realistic race, turn the friction on and your vehicle will react to the road conditions. You also have an anti-skid option that helps control the vehicle from sliding and spinning out.
The graphics are good and bad. I will start with the good and work into the bad. The trucks all look like their real counterparts. The tracks are detailed and the backgrounds are well-drawn. The multiple camera angles allow you to race from different perspectives to keep the game fresh. I really enjoyed flying over jumps, catching serious air.
Now the bad. This is what kept the game from getting a score in the high 80s. The tracks suffer from terrible drawn-in. If you are not familiar with drawn-in (also referred to as pop-up), let me explain. As you are driving down the track, things in the distance are drawing up on the screen. The problem with this in Test Drive is that all the corners are so sharp that you need a little warning so you can slow down. By the time the corner draws on the screen, you are already there. This gives you no advance warning so you can prepare for what lies ahead. There is an on-screen map that you can try to watch to see when the corner is coming up, but it is too difficult to drive and watch the map. This is the only thing that is really negative about the game, but unfortunately it is a major problem.
Test Drive Off-Road is a unique game that will give you some stiff competition on the hard setting. I really like the idea of off-road racing, but it was difficult to remember that speed is not always the best method to win races. Unfortunately, the drawn-in rate was so slow that I found myself unable to explore the shortcuts of the tracks, because by the time I realized I was at a shortcut it was too late to stop. This is the only thing that keeps the game from being a real winner. Otherwise, this is an enjoyable title as long as you don't go off the track in the wrong place and get stuck. Definitely worth a weekend spin to see if it is for you.
Racing simulation fans have had a lot to be thankful for over the last year. With groundbreakers like EA's Andretti Racing and Psygnosis' Formula One, players have had their hands full mastering the art of Indy car and Formula One road racing. Now it's time for the next wave of 32-Bit racers to hit the shelves and there's not a sign of asphalt in these puppies...just dirt sand snow and mud!
Accolade's Test Drive: Off-Road puts players in control of four different heavy-duty 4X4s that must tackle several obstacle-laden tracks. Each vehicle, whether it be the Jeep Wrangler, the Land Rover Defender 90, the Chevy Z-71 or even the famed Hummer, will have its own handling characteristics, as well as several other features unique to that vehicle. Each vehicle's dashboards and instrumentation are digitized right from the real thing. In addition, six other vehicles will be available by code including a monster truck and a Baja bug. Cars will display damage when colliding with other vehicles and various objects on the road.
Players can choose from two different modes: Class Racing, which puts all the same type of vehicles in a race together, or "Unlimited," which mixes up the classes for an all-out contest to determine which type of vehicle is king of the off-road mountain. Two-player split screen or link-up play is also available.
The 12 courses feature sand, snow, mud and dirt as the primary racing surface with plenty of hills and ditches to maneuver. Large amounts of road debris including logs, rocks and even the wreckage of a downed airplane make things even more challenging. The carnage is accentuated by the music, which is provided by the group Gravity Kills.
Controls are pretty straightforward, except for one nice twist which allows players to power-slide around corners by using a handbrake control.
The genre of off-road racing continues to heat up, and Test Drive looks to be one of the early front-runners in that growing category.
- MANUFACTURER - Accolade
- THEME - Racing
- NUMBER OF PLAYERS - 1-4
Accolade bursts off the asphalt track with its latest Test Drive, taking this racing series offroad. Speedsters choose from real-life 4x4s like Hummers, Jeep Wranglers. Land Rovers, and Chevys. then skid onto one of 12 obstacle-laden tracks for bone-jarring action against three opponents. In an intriguing departure. Test Drive doesn't limit you to the track--racers can head off-road through forests and hills to find shortcuts. With already snazzy graphics and sounds recorded from the actual vehicles, this game's a promising prospect.
Although die-hard monster-truck fans may hanker for a hunk of muddy off-road fun, Test Drive: Off-Road's loose controls, aggravating pop-up problems, and uninspired gameplay stall its overall appeal.
Test Drive pounds the ground with four authentic 4x4 vehicles, including a Hummer, a Jeep, and a Land Rover, along with desert, dirt, and snow tracks. You can play against a friend in a two-player split-screen mode, or challenge yourself in either a one-player practice mode or two tournament modes. While racing, you can even take different routes to the checkpoints by going offroad. This tactic, however, proves to be more confusing than helpful.
Aside from these options, Test Drive fizzles with sketchy control and annoying graphics problems. Your truck tends to bounce all around the screen, while tight, important turns aren't noticeable until you're right on top of them. The sound, however, rounds the corners nicely with realistic revving engines, a cool soundtrack, and a clear announcer.
Test Drive is definitely a game for racers who fancy monster trucks over speedy cars. If your curiosity is still peaked, take a weekend and experience a different way to race. A couple of laps is all you're likely to need.
- Choose the Land Rover when tackling dirt tracks in the Mixed League mode.
- Take the inside lane, then ram opponents into obstacles on the track.
- Use the power-slide to navigate tight turns.
Accolade must have several people with the same sense of fantasy that I have. Test Drive Off-Road (TDOR) is aimed directly at those of us who wish we could disregard the 'Tread Lightly' campaign, and go all out off-road, generally in someone else's vehicle, 4x4 racing in a fantasyland of off-roaders where the worst thing that can happen is a finger cramp.
The 4x4 selections are no SUV wannabes; these are the best of the best at off-road. The GM Hummer, Jeep Wrangler, Chevy K-1500 Z-71 and Land Rover Defender 90 are the no-frills off-road champions. Race them against each other around twelve tracks, and over three types of terrain: desert, snow or forest.
TDOR is a race, period. You race against three other vehicles, around a track that requires you to pass checkpoints. Each track has shortcuts that can trim off corners and precious seconds.
You can select one of the four vehicles at the beginning of the race/league, and select one of four colors to customize your vehicle. Each vehicle has its own acceleration, speed and handling capabilities. Accolade has even included four bonus vehicles that are available after winning each Vehicle Class League.
Races fall into one of three categories: Practice, Mixed League and Class League. The practice race is simply a quick way to get into the action and develop your driving skills. The Mixed League consists of six races on various tracks, with various terrain, against various vehicles. The Class League pits you against drivers in the same vehicle you have chosen, but is similar to the Mixed League in all other respects. Winning a race in the Mixed or Class Leagues unlocks the next race. You are also required to win races in increasing difficulty levels to proceed to the next course.
Driver control is very rudimentary: accelerate (forward), left-right, reverse, brake, hand brake and horn. There is no gearing, and the acceleration is pretty much on or off.
Camera views are selected from the number pad, 0-9 giving different camera angles.
Like all driving sims, as you replay the same racecourse, you tend to get better results. TDOR is no different. Unlike exotic car sims, though, you are free to wander around the area inside the racecourse. Checkpoints will keep you from taking too big of a shortcut. Crashes display a glittering of fragments and damage appears in the form of discoloration of your paint scheme. I found there really wasn't too much to do after I flipped my vehicle several times, and the races become rather repetitive.
The courses can be run at SVGA levels, and generally look like an off-road area. The terrain differential is easy: white for snow, yellow/tan for desert, and green for forest. The course path is a worn gray/black area down which you try to steer.
The vehicles have been rendered with care, and are easily identifiable as their real-world siblings. Accolade even paid attention to the underside of the vehicles, probably realizing that gamers would regularly get to see them from that perspective.
TDOR's major deficiency comes from the driver's view. I ran through all the views several times in different races, and was not able to find a view I was comfortable with. The view options change following distance, and height to acceptable perspectives, but the camera engine just doesn't work well. The best analogy I can provide is a "crack-the-whip" game where you try to shake loose the camera. The camera is more interested in looking at the vehicle location than the path you are traveling. A sharp corner leaves you looking at the side of your ride with the road running horizontally across your screen. Get lost in the trees, and you may never know which way you are pointed or how to get out of your predicament (pressing F12 returns your vehicle to the last cleared checkpoint).
Game sounds are average. I had to turn them way down after five minutes of engine noise. Imagine a 1978 Rabbit going 45 in first gear, and you get the picture. The announcer isn't as annoying as a wrestling MC, but serves just as little purpose.
In contrast, TDOR's CD soundtrack is perfect. The group Gravity Kills provides an aggressive, top-notch soundtrack that enhances the driving fun of this game. Not your average MIDI-class repetition, this is the type of music to crank up in your CD/cassette deck and let loose in the off-road. Unfortunately, these are not actual CD tracks and are only available in the game.
Required: IBM/PC or compatible, P-90 (or better), 16 MB RAM, 2X CD-ROM drive, major sound card
Reviewed on: P-133, 32 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM drive, SoundBlaster 16
I would have bought this game simply to drive the Hummer and Defender 90. The vehicles and soundtrack are unique, but the game falls short of other driving sims in one key area: you don't feel like you are driving. Control is arcade-like, and there is no environment interaction beyond dust clouds. While it is probably the "King of the Hill" in off-road sims, this genre niche is still too new and undefined. Accolade got close to the mark on its first shot, but not close enough.