Jeremy McGrath garnered much fame during the 90s, even earning the title ‘King of Supercross’. So, any fan of the man would hope that Jeremy McGrath's Offroad lives up to the name on the box. Sadly, this is a dull and repetitive paint-by-numbers racing game.
The title does the minimum required for a game of this generation and still manages to come up short. Visuals, for example, are instantly recognisable as a weakness. Environments are bare, and the few unique pieces of foliage that appear in the title are repeated numerous times so that every corner and crest looks the same as the last. These bushes, shrubs, cacti, and trees are all made up of simplistic sprites that fail to accomplish any realism. The ground they sprout from too is just as unimpressive; textures are flat and don’t portray the road surface very well, mainly because your vehicle doesn’t appear to be affected during the rare occasions that muddy tyre tracks replace sandy-dirt.
Handling, just like the graphics, is average at best. The usual racing game controls are present, but they fail to create realistic feeling cars; vehicles seem to glide and slide over the environment like they aren’t fully connected to the road – a quick glance at the third-person camera will reinforce this impression. It might be that the developers were trying to recreate the feel of dirt sliding away from under the car as its tyres struggle to regain grip, but the sound and visual design does nothing to support that idea. The one snowy location in the title suffers from the same problem, as the weather doesn’t seem to change the handling at all.
Each vehicle class feels similar, too. There are Sportsman Buggies, Prolite Trucks, Pro Buggies, Rally Cars, and Trophy Trucks, with each successive class being unlocked by playing the career mode. Progressing through the vehicles doesn’t take long, and each new car type brings some slight tweaks to responsiveness and speed, but nothing major. The different vehicle types have around five different cars to choose from, although this really boils down to which colour you prefer
Due to the unlock system, it would be smart to choose your colour wisely. XP is earned by completing races or challenges, and can then be spent on upgrading your car's top speed, acceleration, handling, or brakes. Once you've purchased an upgrade, you'll only be able to use it on the car that you purchased it for. This comes across as a cheap way of trying to extend the game's longevity. Unfortunately, it fails, as the racer is already an easy game (even on the hardest difficulty), but with a few upgrades added to your car, the other competitors don’t stand a chance.
As a result, the career mode is, indeed, short, and can be beaten in just a couple of hours. Repetition is still a problem, though: there are just six tracks in the game, with each reused about four or five times during the course of the campaign. In an effort to make the gameplay a little less dull, some tracks feature the addition of cringe-worthy landslides (consisting of straw bales, rocks, or even giant snow balls). It isn’t really clear whether the title is coveting an arcade audience or a simulation one, as there is an odd mix of choices that come from both genres. One minute the game is telling you not to accelerate while airborne in case it damages the engine, then at the next corner a flock of out of control snowballs will send you cart wheeling into the air before landing in perfect condition.
Outside of the boredom of the career mode, there is a multiplayer option, but it will take you a while to find anyone to play with. There’s a neat feature that allows upgraded vehicles from the single-player to be brought into races online, but it does mean that any competitor that you find will have already upgraded their vehicle, making the ensuing races a little uneven if you haven't fully specced your own ride.
Jeremy McGrath's Offroad has raced into a genre saturated with more competent competitors, and it pulls up in last place as a result. While the game doesn't necessarily do anything offensive, it's still a subpar experience with a major identity crisis. If you're looking for an enjoyable offroad racer, there are much better options on the PS3. Don't waste your time with this cheaper sub-standard alternative.