Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad was developed by 2XL Games and published by D3 Publisher. It was released on June 27, 2012 for 800 MSP. A copy was provided for review purposes.

Off-road racing is a relative newcomer to Xbox Live Arcade. Only two other titles have braved otherwise untouched territory, Sega Rally Online Arcade and the Mad Riders, left us feeling that as good as they were they could have been more. 2XL Games’ Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad is the third competitor in this relatively small market. It pits would-be racers against McGrath and six other racers in varied environments and vehicles. Unfortunately it doesn’t stack up to expectations, and while there’s a solid racer underneath, whether it’s a solid game is another story.

Here’s what we liked:

Varied locales – As an arcade-style game that leans toward realism 2XL was limited in what the vehicles could realistically drive on. Somehow they succeeded in punching out unique tracks with the limited terrain types that a truck could realistically race on. You’ll find you typical desert scenes, a jungle, and frozen terrain, then a few variations on mildly vegetated tracks.

Multiple vehicle types – While Jeremy McGrath races primarily trophy trucks these days players are not limited in their choice. Pro buggies, rally cars, trophy trucks and other classes exist for players to choose from. Each class of vehicle also has multiple paint schemes to choose from.

The racing – Generally speaking once you get over the hurdle of actually upgrading your vehicle you’ll find the racing is pretty spot on for an off-road title. While you can’t just cut through the middle of the track (invisible walls) the rolling hills, mud and dirt all feel like what you’d expect dirt racing to feel like. Playing the game using the hood-mounted camera further envelops you into a sense of realism. The AI are competent enough to take the best racing lines and hog the straightaways, yet aren’t so smart you’ll feel like they’re cheating.

Here’s what we didn’t like:

Jeremy McGrath – Sorry, but the racing legend is a major annoyance. You’ll constantly hear him give you tips, and the audio is filtered to make it sound like it’s coming through a radio. He bugs you through every menu screen, into the loading sequences, and even at the beginning of a race. The worst part? You can’t turn it off. Sure, there’s a menu item to do so, but it doesn’t work. It just seems like a cheap way to slap a name on the game. Why not make the Monster Energy paintjob (McGrath’s racing livery) an unlockable? Why not have a quick tutorial mode with Jeremy guiding the player? Why not have a one-on-one showdown with Jeremy as the climax of the game? Nope. You get a monotone, annoying voice that you can’t turn off (as of this writing).

Invincible cactus and the combine of doom – The collision detection in Offroad isn’t inaccurate, but what you collide with may have you scratching your head. Signs and fences can be taken down with relative ease, but running into a cactus will either send you through it like a ghost or bring you to a dead stop (depending on the cactus). Thin trees will stop you cold. That’s not the half of it, though. In an effort to bring a little more “arcade” to the game hazards will occasionally roll onto the track. These range from a rockslide to large bales of hay to, you’re not gonna believe this, a combine tractor driving onto the track. Who the heck plows their field in the middle of a trophy truck race? Why are they letting trucks race through their crops? For that matter, where are the crops? (the stage where the combine appears has no discernible vegetation that could be eaten).

XP systemJeremy McGrath’s Offroad has an XP system. Why? Instead of the standard “win cash, buy parts” upgrade system that pretty much every racing game has had since the 80’s you’re greeted with XP for your trucks. Since when do trucks level up? It just seems weird. You earn this XP through wins, passes, big jumps and the like. The XP transfers into upgrade points at the end of each race, but these can only be used on the truck you select. Should you change trucks the points don’t carry over. Oh, and the game forgets to tell you that. In fact, it took a bit to figure out to use right on the D-Pad to actually use our upgrade points. There’s no on-screen prompt to remind you, even though there’s one for every other function.

It lacks punch – The biggest downfall of Offroad is its utter lack of fun factor. Sure, you may feel like you’re racing a pro buggy or trophy truck, but that just isn’t enough for 95% of the perspective audience. There are no pretty ladies waiting in victory lane for photo ops. There are no collectables to help you unlock new content. There’s no nitrous boost to give you that much-needed edge. It’s just plain, vanilla racing, and it gets boring quickly.

No splitscreen – Developers, if you include multiplayer at all, it has to be both local and online. Send out company-wide emails. Plaster it in your break room. Talk about it in the weekly meeting. Players are tired of having one or the other. Include both or leave it out all together. This could have been (somewhat of) a saving grace for Offroad.

Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad falls under the “it had potential” category. Like Mad Riders this game could have been more than what it turned out to be, but gaping flaws leave it feeling like they just ran out of ideas or development money. When it’s going right it’s a lot of fun, but that fun doesn’t last more than a few races. Hardcore racing fans will be able to look past the game’s flaws and find some temporary fun, but unless you’re dead set on mediocrity we recommend saving your points.

Score: Skip It