Here’s mud in your eye!
Who doesn’t love the idea of being behind the wheel of a big, powerful, 8+ cylinder, 4 wheel-drive monster of a truck? Leaping great distances, letting no terrain, no-matter how harsh, block your path.
No one, that’s who. Test Drive Off Road 3 is Accolade’s 3rd attempt to satisfy those dreams.
The intro sequence is live-action (which I feel is well suited for a racing sim with licensed vehicles like this one); you know the drill: cut-scenes of last year’s newest off road vehicles thrashing, screeching, leaping, and splashing through various off-road environments. Once again fans of the infamous Hummer are blessed with a chance to plant their virtual arses behind the wheel of the world’s widest, most cumbersome vehicle (with a turning radius of about 50 feet). So far, so good, but anyone can make an intro. After the first few races, however, it became as obvious as a bat upside the head that Test Drive Off Road 3 was going to be a dreadful experience (and almost as painful).
Now, I know some guy with a mustache and wild hair once said something about relativity. So, with that in mind let’s put some perspective on this.
Here’s the good: Some courses are point-to-point and the others are standard, lap-based tracks which provide a nice variety of course types. It is noteworthy that brake and reverse are separate buttons, brake-to-reverse in an off-road game can seriously hinder control. Fans of Rally Cross (which was a very fine, first generation off road engine) will be pleased to see a similar physics engine. There’s the good. That didn’t take long.
Here’s the bad: The licensed cars just don’t look very good. Mutants with the ability to create and apply polygons through their awesome mental powers, will marvel at the chance to hone their talents on the vehicles conveniently lacking sufficient polygons.
The environments are first-generation Playstation graphics, almost not worth mentioning. Lots of little details are missing. The player-controlled vehicle is the only vehicle that has graphics for the sand, mud, snow, and dirt being kicked up while skidding and peeling around corners, visibility should never be a problem. It looks strange, and makes the game feel less real.
Got a little time to kill? While waiting for a saved game to load, scientists were able to figure the last digit of pi and witness the radioactive half-life decay of all the world’s radioactive waste.
Jupiter’s inhabitants will love the absolute weightlessness of the vehicles; driving a relative cardboard box should be a nice change of pace for them. Watch in amazement as the cars leap improbable distances in the air and bounce off trees like trampolines.
Off road racing has never been more warm and fuzzy. All those that feel threatened by dangerous, interactive environments can feel safe knowing that the only interaction here is with the occasional friendly pumpkin. When hit, the pumpkins make pleasant popping sounds, non-offensive and reminiscent of those wonderful Canadians "Terence & Philip". Ahh!! Tearing around a corner will remind you of delicious cold creamy milk shakes since the tires in this game always sound like someone trying to suck the last bit of chocolate malt through a straw.
Not everyone enjoys being able to upgrade one’s vehicle; fortunately for those people, in Test Drive Off Road 3 the upgrades are absolutely useless. I suffered through many races, in an attempt to earn sufficient money to upgrade my vehicle. Once I deepened my pockets; I was able to purchase a set of tires (racing/street style tires), an engine upgrade, and some new shocks. With these new enhancements I placed first on the New York course, which is practically all snow, even though I had all the wrong upgrades. How many games can you do that in? There was no sliding or loss of control, at all. Just because snow is wet and makes friction near impossible doesn’t mean it should interfere with what tires I choose.
And finally, not up for rigorous, intense racing events? Not to worry! Test Drive Off Road 3 is just the game for you. Merely aim the tires in the direction you want to go and there’s almost no challenge at all. No special braking necessary (no braking at all really). Don’t worry about traction, the tires have about as much grip as an arm-wrestling amputee. Just point and you’re off. I won first place on several courses with several different vehicles, without laying a finger on that pesky brake button. Off-roading has never been this easy.
Now, some people might say that this lame game needs to justify its existence. The world certainly never needed Test Drive Off Road 1 or 2, so why is 3 here? Another person with a mustache might say, "It’s all relative."