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Ford Racing: Off Road

Score: 30%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Strategy First
Developer: Razorworks
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Racing

Graphics & Sound:

What attracts players to racing games? For most, that answer is simulation. Simulations offer you the ability to do and control things you could not do yourself. Some might say competition amongst friends to "race" one another. Even still, some might say that it is the ability to just wreck and play around, consequence-free, even just to enjoy that careless destruction. With all of these possible motivating factors, what could allow a company to release Ford Racing: Off Road and ignore every facet of why players would enjoy playing a racing game? Yes, it is all about the Ford, and that places it in the marketing game category, but even as a playable commercial, there were issues that prevented this from being successful at even advertising the intended product.

The graphics look like an early 90's coin-op. Now if that was what they were shooting for, then kudos; they nailed it. I don't think that this was the case, though. This level of grainy detail might have passed on a PS, but would have been as equally aged on the PS2. But, on a PC, it is unforgivable. The whole purpose of an advertising game is to make at least the product look good. No disposable mesh. No destruction. Pixelated detail. There were plenty of opportunities to give photo realistic or even real images of the vehicles in menus and transitions. Instead, they used badly rendered and touch "down". Yes, I said touched-downs as in the nonexistent opposite of touched up. It looks as if you tried to open a High Definition picture on your computer with the color depth set to 16 colors. It looks like the colors are distorted and there's a ton of grey where a color should be.

The midi looping was a nice throwback. Their short and constant cycles grind at your nerves. This is a very nostalgic approach to take with a new game. Really, the music and sound effects show the same lack of cohesion to the purpose of the game as the graphics. The engines do not sound anything like actual engines. All of these issues just amplify the same feeling that this is a poorly conceived game.


Welcome to Ford Racing: Off Road. You begin by figuring out where in the hell you begin. You have your entire standard fare of options in the Main Menu. You have the Quick Race where you get in and go. You have the Career, the Tournament, the Arcade and then last and least, the Multiplayer. Quick Race being self-explanatory, let me jump to why I made the comment about trying to figure out where in the hell you start. In Career mode, you are offered the following options in order: Career Map, Garage, and then Showroom. Let me also include that there is no instruction booklet in the box. You click on your first option, the Career Map, which details your current progress. It is first on the list, so why not? You are presented with your map and starting point. All of the other races are locked, so obviously we start there. You get in and read a description of the race and the prizes. Start here? No. When you choose the race, it says you need a car to start. So next on the list is the Garage. Start Here? No. There is nothing in your garage. So last on the list, instead of first, we have the Showroom. You were bound to run out of options. So you choose one of the two models you can afford to buy with the money they provided you to start with.

You are given $6000 and told to buy a vehicle. This will buy you a Ranger Truck or a Defender SUV. Each vehicle has three stats: Acceleration, Speed, and Handling. The truck is $4000 and the SUV is the full $6000. There is absolutely no difference in the starting stats between these vehicles. At least you don't have to pay for the paint job; you can just choose a color. Now you have a vehicle and you can race. To progress, it is First Place or nothing.

I cannot even begin to tell any difference between the Career Mode and the Tournament Mode. You get a little more cheese in the bank account to start, allowing you to pick from all four unlocked models. The process is identical to Career Mode where you choose your car, race your car. Map works the same. Win or go home. The races are longer in the Tournament, but not much else is different.

The Arcade mode allows for the fun and excitement of being able to race a course backwards. You can unlock several types of races, but these come well into the Career mode. This ties in directly with our last mode, the Multiplayer. Well, actually the point is that it doesn't tie in at all. The multiplayer allows for a split screen, two player game. You have a ton of games you can unlock in the Arcade and sit and enjoy all by yourself. The Multiplayer Mode only offers you three different games.


Let's make this short and sweet. Ford Racing: Off Road offers no challenge to speak of. Go forward flat out until you bounce off of the wall like a rubber ball. Take hairpin turns in an SUV at 90 MPH and not flip like a top. Now you will have to compete against the makeup code that allows vehicles that are the same make and model to just out-accelerate you in the wide open. The frontrunner always makes the same one mistake that allows you to get around them and eke out a First Place finish if you run the perfect line. It is the very predictability of the race that makes the whole experience a little hard to bear. Sure, you can have a friend sit next to you and share the same keyboard. This makes it a little more difficult as you poke and prod one another the same way you did when playing PONG with a person sitting in your lap trying to knock your hand away.

Game Mechanics:

The control scheme for Ford Racing: Off Road is right in line with every other aspect of this game. This is a PC game. A PC game where you can't change the controls at all. You drive with one hand and the arrow keys. You can't even use the mouse. You simply hold down the forward arrow key while your vehicle redlines the tachometer the entire race. No worries, though, it doesn't seem to affect it much. I mentioned there is no deformation to the vehicles, but there is a damage meter. I was able to run a race flatout redlined and only had a tiny bit of damage on the car.

When the rubber hits the off road, this game is found wanting on many levels. I am not trying to be snide. I have done a great job of sounding like an ass, but I am serious. The overlying purpose to this game is to put attention on Ford's products. So if any press is good press, then the game is not wanting on all levels. So, advertising aside, we are down to this being a game. A game that is old in appearance, play, and sound. The price point of $19.99 says that they were not honestly trying to go all the way with this game, but there have to be concessions. When you make a game, you want to accomplish some goal beyond the obvious. This was an adver-game for Ford, obviously. The rest was just left in the dust.

-WUMPUSJAGGER, GameVortex Communications
AKA Bryon Lloyd

Minimum System Requirements:

P4 2000, 512MB RAM, 500MB HDD, 128MB video card

Test System:

Dell XPS DXP061, XP Pro, Intel Core Quad, 2GB Ram, Gforce 8800GTX

Nintendo DS Disgaea DS Nintendo DS SimCity Creator

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated