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Test Drive Off Road: Wide Open

Angel Studios



1 - 4


Your puny little sports car won't cut it here. It's time to run with the big boys now.

Who would've guessed it, Infogrames releasing an off-road style Test Drive? Well obviously not me, but after playing through the game, it's apparent that the series needs some remodeling. The game, however not bad, isn't perfect.

The first noticeable area of imperfection is the graphics. Textures around the level, the dirt and water kicking up from your tires, and the vegetation look very low resolution when it comes to the full potential of the Xbox right now. It looks like a computer game; a Motocross Madness 2 (PC) with trucks. Speaking of trucks, this is where development seemed to focus on, as they look better than mainly everything else. They still look pretty good, but they're not at the quality of other racers out there, such as Project Gotham Racing.

But how are the level visuals you ask? There's not much to discuss, since they seem to look copied and pasted, and not smooth and bump mapped. The water looks good, but if you take a closer look, you'll notice the copy and paste look to it as with the ground textures. Volcano lava, boats in the harbor, rocks along the country side, all of them just look a bit flat and unpolished, with not as much effort put into them as one would expect. Overall, I wished for more, but I wasn't disgusted.

The visuals reminded me of something I might play on the PS2, and I wondered how much of an improvement over that version of the game I was playing. No matter, I played on, mainly focusing on beating race after race, and listening to the insane audio tracks.

I love Metallica. They're one of my favorite bands, so it's no wonder why I like the audio in Test Drive: Off-Road, because it features songs from Metallica, along with Fear Factory, Digital Assassins, 303 Infinity and more. You'll also hear your truck slide through the different terrain, from water, grass, and mud; along with the sounds of the engine through various speeds. The audio sounds decent, and I'm not complaining with the Metallica tracks, but I still do feel like they could've done something more to add to the overall feel of the racing - like adding the ability to create your own soundtrack.

So I do have complaints about the graphics compared to the Xbox's real power, but the game can be fun. There are 53 trucks to earn, each with four different classes and power. However, earning these is a little harder, for the A.I. is no pleasant adversary. Computer opponents will constantly try to just get in your way, and if you find yourself neck to neck with one, they'll attempt to ram you off the road. You'll face these merciless foes in Single Race, Career Race, and Stadium Race, all which are pretty self-explanatory. However, in Career Race, you start off "seasons" by buying vehicles and/or upgrading them for races. As you finish each race, you'll earn certain amounts of credits to purchase these vehicles and upgrades, with new ones becoming available as you progress. You can also use the vehicles that become available to buy and your modified classes within any of the other modes.

If you're still wondering what Stadium Race is, it's basically what it says. You race the unlimited class of trucks throughout tracks within a stadium. The array of tracks range from your basic rectangle to an eight ball to some other lengthy and complex courses. As you compete each track, you'll open up new ones to compete within. And don't take speed for handling, because the sharp turns can make you go speeding into the walls or off course.

If you don't want to race, and just want to drive freely, that option is certainly available for you through Free-Roam. This is probably my favorite mode, because you can drive anywhere within the three massive levels with no boundaries or time limit. This is where I found my fun, driving anywhere and taking all the insane jumps I could. From Hawaii, to the Moab desert, and even Yosemite National Park, I drove, jumped, rolled, and swerved my way through the different terrain. There's also an exclusive moon level in which you can unlock and play through. You can even play through Free Roam with a friend, or take on Multiplayer with up to four friends in basic races to King of the Hill.

Thankfully, the controls are fairly easy. They're pretty much what you would expect from the Xbox controller, with acceleration either being right trigger or A button, and braking/reversing with left trigger. Steering is also the same, as you use the left thumb stick or directional pad to move your truck. Other basic controls are shift up and down with the White and Black button, camera change with the Select button, look back with the Y button, and map with the B button.

Let me be honest, I couldn't play this game for long. The difficulty level, even on easy, with the A.I. can become so frustrating that you just want to put the game down. There are also not a lot of areas to race through, however, the promise of earning those 53 trucks keeps me coming back. If you're a hardcore truck fan, you should have fun with this, but if you're not into this kind of racing or want to deal with an insanely difficult A.I., you may stray away from this title.

Needless to say, the graphics and gameplay could use some work, adding more textures, levels, and lowering the difficulty level. Perhaps the sequel will have these areas addressed. You may want to rent this title first before you consider buying, for it's not the best out there. One tip before bringing this to an end, you'll want speed and good handling, for damn it, that A.I. can be a pest in my rear end.

Scott "VeX" Kuss

Test Drive Off Road Wide Open: The Scores













The Final Word:  Poor texture quality and a shortage of levels just make you wanting more from a Test Drive game. The game feels like it could have spent a little bit more time being worked on before release. If anything, rent this game first.

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