Holy Jesus! Look at the size of those Pixels!
Okay, here’s the scene. This is the final race in the championship of the Short Course Off Road Driver’s Association, or SODA for short. It’s down to you and seven other people for the gold. You inch your way to the starting line, revving the engine every other second or so. You peer to your left, then to your right, sizing up the opponents and their vehicles. A drop of sweat falls from your brow. Suddenly, all the racers begin to accelerate. The race has started. What informed all the other drivers to start the race is beyond you. You stay near the back of the pack, but begin to make your move. Then you hit the first turn. Not wanting to forfeit the place you’re in, you take it conservatively and wide. Then it happens. You do a complete donut. It’s ok. It’s a long race. You try the same technique on the next, easy turn. Again, donut. What the hell!? Out of sheer frustration you do 10 donuts, kick the computer and put in a REAL racing game.
Well, this about sums of playing SODA Off-Road Racing. Outdated, not good to look at, horrid controls, but hey, it’s got a good track editor.
When playing all the great looking, 3D accelerated racing games on the market, one might start to get used to this luxury of good graphics with a relatively high polygon count, while at the same time running at a decent, playable frame rate. Well, you might need to look a little further. While the 3D engine is fast, every graphical aspect of the game stinks, at least when compared to those other high performance games currently available. All terrain and objects (most importantly other vehicles) appear blocky and simple, due to in incredibly LOW polygon count, while their texture maps are almost as basic. Dirt and other particles kicked up during races appear as huge pixels, becoming more of a hindrance as opposed to actually adding to the realism. SODA does support Rendition-based 3D boards, but ONLY Rendition based. Everyone else is s*** out of luck, graphics-wise. (Note: conveniently, all screen shots are from the Rendition-accelerated version).
If the, um, “less-than-par” graphics don’t ruin your will to play SODA, I’m sure the controls will. On the good side, controlling the game consists of the usual gas, brake, turn, and shifts gears and are fully customizable, compatible with almost any medium of play. Actually playing the game is, however, a different story. Have you ever had the experience of driving on a frozen pond with completely bald tires coated in oil? Well, by playing SODA Off-Road Racing, you should feel at least close to this experience. Newcomers to the game will “hit donuts” (not on purpose) on every single turn their first game, I guarantee it. After some experience, players will probably somewhat get the hang of it, only spinning out every third turn or so. Who knows, you may even master it entirely, but the question is, WHY BOTHER?
For those who get tired of the twelve included tracks (separated into “country”, “desert”, and “tropics) SODA comes with an excellent, fully customizable track editor, facilitating the creation and distribution of new, unique tracks. This is easily the highlight of the game, with great editing options and a simple and effective interface. There are even new tracks available via Internet right now. Also, players have a choice of racing in three different vehicles: 2X4 with 800 HP (HorsePower), 2X4 with 150 HP, and a 4X4 with 800 HP. Players can modify different parts of these vehicles to suit their maximum performance. These parts include power options: Horsepower, transmission, and tire selections; Suspension options: chamber, springs, shocks, weight distribution; and gearing options: gearing, and steering lock.
There are certainly some good aspects of SODA, but they are overshadowed by the other, not-so-good aspects – namely controls and graphics. SODA Off-Road Racing just can’t compete. There are too many better games, with better graphics that have better controls etc. (keyword is BETTER). While the track editor is magnificent, other parts of the game (i.e. the game itself) bring this puppy down. Trust me, you can do better than this.