Off Road Nintendo Wii review

An off-road game where you ca.t go off-road? Stuart wonders if Land Rover and Ford chose this game well to promote their rugged and thirsty range of 4X4s...

An off-road game where you can’t go off-road? Stuart wonders if Land Rover and Ford chose this game well to promote their rugged and thirsty range of 4X4s… The Wii is, of course, absolutely the perfect vehicle (excuse the pun) for a quality racing game. The advantage is with the developers from the word ‘go’, given the long-standing propensity of virtually every video game novice to wave any controller around like a berserk drunk driver, and the ingenuity, flexibility and instinctiveness of the Wiimote. In practice, sadly, this does mean that for every Mario Kart Wii, truly the Rolls Royce of racing games, there’s a clapped out Trabant with a knackered big end just round the corner.

Enter Off Road – or Land Rover Ford Off Road to give the game its full title, the latest all-action racing game for the Wii. And that’s one problem from the outset – this is going to have to be one special game to convince me that it’s anything more than a marketing focus group-driven brand-pimping exercise.

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve no objections to racing ’18 of Ford and Land Rover’s toughest off-road trucks, 4x4s and SUVs’, but is it really necessary even for the loading screens to gleam with the distinctive blue of a colossal Ford logo throughout? Apparently so, lest we forget.

More than happy to give the game the benefit of the doubt, we zip through to the first race only to discover that what Xplosiv meant by an adrenaline-pumping, high-speed racing experience is actually closer to trying to get all the shopping home in the back of your Chelsea tractor in time for X Factor, with points docked if any of your case of Ernest & Julio Gallo falls over in the boot.

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The steering is sluggish and unforgiving, the pace varies neatly from sedentary to pedestrian, and the other yummy mummies racing their shopping home are fiercely competitive. Come into contact with the scenery in anything more than a fleeting manner and you can expect to spend the rest of the race muttering in silent contemplation at the back of the field, the race leaders never to be seen again. A combination of frustration at the lumpy steering and boredom at trailing the escaping pack with only nondescript pastel shades of tree and dirt mound to look at is not a happy one. A disgusted commentary by Jeremy Clarkson would have added immeasurably.

Still, the prospect of sending a colossal SUV crashing through some trees and down a muddy hill is an enticing one, so we look forward to cutting some corners and doing some proper off-roading. That is, until we slam into the edge of the course and come to a dead stop due to the immovable, intractable and invisible borders planted along each side of the track. That’s right, Off Road is a game in which NO OFF ROADING IS ALLOWED. The tracks might be dust instead of concrete, and they may well bobble up and down unevenly, but you can’t veer off them and do, y’know, what the title of the game promises – what the hell is this, Out Run?

How ironic, then, that even if its sole purpose is an extended promo for Land Rover and Ford’s fine array of gas-guzzlers, that it does such a poor job. As far as I can now discern, having never driven an actual Land Rover, they handle like Sherman tanks, couldn’t outpace a Sinclair C5, but are at least virtually indestructible (and next to impossible to flip, smash or otherwise wreck).

A quick glance at the other formats the game is available on reveals them to be essentially identical to the Wii version: compounding the flawed gameplay is the fact that this is another game that’s been crammed, square-peg-in-round-hole style onto the Wii, rather than written with that console’s unique charms and potential in mind. From the badly-thought out menus (come on, that’s not even trying) to the twelve shades of magnolia variations on the theme (race that, beat this timer, do it again but faster), the whole affair is just badly thought through.

What are we left with, then? If it’s high-octane racing in real cars for petrolheads you’re after, then buy a PS3, frankly, or make do with Need For Speed. If it’s multiplayer racing joy, look no further than Mario Kart. If it’s shiny 4×4 auto-porn that floats your boat, a subscription to Total Off-Road magazine might deliver more thrills. Off Road is something that should never have made it out of the marketing department brainstorm into the developers’ studio.

It does, however, get a bonus point for enabling me, to the amazement of all my friends, to distinguish between a 2006-model Defender and a straight-off-the-factory-floor Discovery 3 at 200 yards.

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2 out of 5