There are a number of arcade racers available for both Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network, and many of them have names that dedicated game fans can relate to. Outrun Online Arcade, Sega Rally Revo, Daytona USA, Hydro Thunder Hurricane…and the list goes on. That might make Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad a bit of a tough sell, as it’s coming out of left field with very little fanfare behind it. But to brush it aside would be an error in judgment because, despite some flaws, it brandishes all the arcade goodness you’d come to expect from the other racing games we mentioned.
This is arcade off-road racing through and through. Think of it as a modified version of Midway’s Off Road Thunder, but with the crazy thrills and mud-filled tracks replaced by more simpler stuff – and for the better. You’ll have the opportunity to take on 20+ racing events in the Career Mode, and challenge others through online multiplayer, with up to seven other people able to join in an event. You can unlock additional arcade modes as well.
On top of modes, Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad also comes with an XP system, where you can upgrade your vehicle for “later events”, according to the man himself, McGrath. However, we didn’t notice too many differences in performance, even with all our stats maxed out. Granted, pro racers shooting to make it all the way through career on the highest difficulty may think otherwise.
The gameplay is vintage arcade racing, as good as a game of this type will get. Each vehicle handles the same, but handles well, as you slide around dirt turns, go flying off jumps and ram into vehicles (without flipping them over) to try and brush past them. There’s a “clutch boost” that supposedly helps you gun better out of a turn, but we tried it and didn’t notice much improvement in the ride. There’s nothing there that the DiRT series didn’t already perfect, but at a smaller price point, Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad is easily more accessible.
The online racing is smooth, though it takes a little bit of time to put together a race, since the lobby is usually a ghost town. Luckily, you can still challenge fellow players through leaderboards, competing with their best times with your souped-up car. And unlocking new ones is a good add-on, though the performance between them hardly differs. You’d think the Monster-licensed truck would have an energetic upgrade over the others. Nope.
Graphically, Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad has plenty to offer. Though there are only six tracks in all, they look very good, running at a fluid 60 frames per second and packing more detail than we expected, especially when we went plowing into signs on the side of the road. There isn’t much variation in the vehicles, though, nor any real time damage. You take the good with the bad, I suppose.
As for audio, the in-game music is okay, but hardly memorable, and McGrath spews out a whole bunch of racing tips in-between each race. He does so with little emotion, but at least he’s somewhat helpful with his advice. The sound effects are good, though all the trucks sound the same.
Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad, more often than not, relies on typical driving conventions, thus guaranteeing it won’t stand out over Sega’s arcade racers or the others we mentioned. However, it’s an entertaining romp that took us by surprise, and for $10, you certainly get your money’s worth when it comes to arcade-powered joy.