Off-Road Drive: review

  • Format: PC
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Lace Mamba Global, 1C Company
  • Developer: 1C Avalon
  • Players: 1 – 4
  • Site:

We’ve all been there; the random strips of land that border the race track in every driving game. Whether it’s gravel, mud, grass or a water hazard, each is designed to slow your car to a crawl because you had the audacity to go off-road. These areas are punishing slogs that tell you to follow the tarmac. The unique spin in Off-Road Drive is that that every track is made up of these hard to drive through areas. It is a greatest hits compilation of awkward driving surfaces.

1C Avalon has tried to do something different from other race titles and made track navigation more than just the challenge of remembering particularly nasty corners. Almost every inch of each track is waterlogged, covered in mud, peppered with loose gravel, sprinkled with rocks or on an ungodly angle that would be difficult to climb, let alone drag a couple of tonnes of car up. Those expecting paved straights are obviously going to be disappointed by Off-Road Drive, as it certainly lives up to its name. At times it will feel like you are driving through hard butter.

Wheels carve channels in mud. This helps you get stuck but looks nice.

Thankfully the game equips you with the tools necessary to conquer such obstructions. Every car can be switched into 4×4 mode at the touch of a button. The difficult nature of every road surface makes us wonder why you would want to switch out of four wheeled drive, but you can go back to eco-friendly 2×4 should you care about a fictional atmosphere more than pretend medals. You can also use locking differentials on your wheels to gain greater traction and power through obstacles, and even auto-deflate your tires to get through boggy areas. Should these options fail to dig you out of trouble, each car is also equipped with a winch to pull you through the worst hazards.

Unfortunately these don’t always save the day when you are battling up the muddiest, rockiest, steepest creek with a grunting, 4×4 super paddle. It is very possible to completely beach your car and be unable to escape some hazards. The lack of a player controlled respawn option means you have to restart the entire race should this happen. It’s a game design crime to have such random, game halting obstacles every so often.

However, the peculiar nature of the beast means that it’s not always possible to spot such hazards. You sometimes get stuck in the deep mud pit the game forces you to drive through. If there isn’t a tree nearby to winch yourself out of such a beaching you can be entirely screwed. Other times you can optimistically rock the car back and forth for two minutes and eventually break free. There is no science to bypassing obstacles, which is hyper frustrating. Half of the time you just need to gun the engine with the correct off-road options active as you pray to the motoring gods.

This vertical wall really is part of the designated track. Good luck.

You can spend two-thirds of each race attempting to free your car from awkward scenery. This is particularly difficult if you like your view from the cockpit or use the chase camera that is positioned far too low. It’s necessary to view the car from multiple angles to find out what it has caught on. You may think that you’re rubbish at the game for getting into situations like this, but it turns out it’s to be expected when you finally cross the line in a respectable position. You can make ten metres progress in two minutes and still have a foot on the winner’s podium. This is just the nature of off-road driving. Unfortunately it makes the game more frustrating than playing chess against a cat.

Races feel like an unpleasant slog to finish made more unsatisfying when you finally cross the line and find out you have dropped two places due to penalties you have picked up along the way. It’s made worse by the lack of opposing racers. Each race is a time trial against times set by off-screen opponents, making each event desolate. You can see an opponent’s time trial ghost appear occasionally, but it doesn’t spur you to keep up with the competition. It just adds to your annoyance as you see this car shaped apparition glide through the mud sodden pit you appear to have parked in.

Multiplayer mode goes some way to address this, as it allows up to four people to battle against the track hazards simultaneously. Turn collisions on to allow your cars to bash into each other and you can have a fun few minutes. That is, you will have a fun few minutes if you can find anyone to play against. The server browser’s default search looks for local network games, which seems like a nudge towards the best way to find opponents.

Drive like this and you can turn your car into a seesaw too.

To the game’s credit, there is a wide selection of cars to unlock which vary in performance. Each one is beautifully detailed, with operational fans and other moving exposed car bits. They can also be customised with different suspension and wheels that alter stats. There are lots of tracks too which differ in scenery, but all tend to share similar hazards. If you like the very staggered gameplay then the variety and attention to detail might hold your attention.

Off-Road Drive is a slow game. You are likely to be driven mad by race tracks that seem unfair and a real effort to complete. Conquering a particularly bad mud pit or climbing to the top of a steep slope isn’t fun; it’s just hard work. Most of the time you’ll be holding the accelerator button down with all 4×4 traction aids on, hoping your winch line won’t snap as you attempt to reach dry, flat land. The game is a navigation lottery that might appeal to Land Rover enthusiasts who like traversing difficult ground. Normal driving fans will just get frustrated by the slow pace and awkward terrain that makes races seem more like Total Wipeout than Need For Speed.

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Written by Anthony H

Anthony has been playing games for far too much of his life, starting with the MS-DOS classic Mario is Missing. Since then his tastes have evolved to include just about anything, but his soft spot lies with shooters and the odd strategy game. Anthony will inspire you with his prose, uplift you with his wit and lie to you in his biography.

One comment

  1. Turbo /

    “The lack of a player controlled respawn option means you have to restart the entire race should this happen.”

    That is incorrect. You can respawn your vehicle with R, however the position it gets respawned to can be just as tricky as the one you were trying to escape. And that’s the nature of the game. You have to love offroading if you want to like Off-Road Drive. The name is spot on then.

Leave a Reply to Turbo