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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Racing

 

Publisher

Interplay

 

Developer

Rage

 

ESRB

E (Everyone)

 

Released

Q2 2001

 

 

- Good physics model

- Quick action

- LAN play

- Easy to get into, hard to master

- Solid track design

- Graphics move at a good clip

- Split-screen two-player mode

- Different weather effects

 

 

- Sometimes too hard

- Driver AI is nearly flawless

- Even with a fully loaded engine, winning isn’t easy

- Getting used to the control takes a long time

- Expected bigger crashes

- No garage feature

- Tries to walk a fine line between arcade and realism

 

 

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Off-Road Redneck Racing

Score: 5.8 / 10

Remember Redneck Rampage? Well, Off-Road Redneck Racing has nothing to do with it. Redneck Racing (RR) is to Redneck Rampage, what X-COM Enforcer is to X-COM. The flavor of RR is definitely taken from Rampage, but you won’t be battling aliens.

        

Whenever reviewers look at a racing game, the physics model is almost always the first thing they scrutinize. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never driven any further off road than the time I crashed into a ditch. But actually racing off-road – never. I have watched it on TV and I have fond memories of tractor-pulls and mud racing from my youth, so I know what "feels" and looks real. Just watching the demo reel, I have to admit I was impressed and after playing it I was even more impressed. The suspension system responds accurately to the various bumps and dips in the road. Hitting an embankment at a bad angle will send you flying through the air then landing on your side. Driving through sand is very different than driving on dirt or mud. The short of it is, the physics model is very good – too a fault. (But as hard as you crash, parts of your vehicle will never shatter, bend or explode, which is what I was expecting.) I would have liked the ability to turn the realism down. Since RR is part of the Redneck universe, I expected a slightly more comical or easy-going racer – a kart-like game in the vein of Mario or Crash Bandicoot complete with power-ups like shot-guns. (Some of the vehicles have loaded gun racks.) And for whatever reason, the driver AI is not affected by the game physics. Taking a turn in the sand at high speed will send you fish-tailing all over the place, while the other drivers leave you eating dust. They must have hit the brakes, right? I never saw their brake lights come on. They just ease on by like they’re on rails. That is, except for the last two drivers that go out of their way to screw up. They’ll plow into walls and get 

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blocked by various on-track obstacles to let you catch up if you’re flagging behind in 6th place. But the top three AI drivers never falter. You can actually be in the lead then make a tiny mistake, spin out and find the entire pack in front of you by a quarter mile in a matter of seconds. Playing catch-up all the time isn’t much fun. Also, if you nudge one of them 9 times out of 10 you’ll enter an uncontrolled spin or bounce into a wall but they’ll continue on their merry way.

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Since the driver AI maneuvers flawlessly, it’s refreshing to play with human players. This can be done via split-screen play, which is fine, but since it hacks your view in half it’s effectiveness is limited. I’ve always had the opinion that split-screen modes only have finite effectiveness. Much better is LAN play. It’s a lot more fun to take one your friends who are equally fallible. There’s no Internet play. The lack of Internet multiplayer doesn’t bring the score down too much though since there aren’t any "extra" challenges – like capture the flag or vehicular soccer (like that found in Excitebike 64 for the N64).

There are 24 tracks that follow six themes. This means you’ve got 4 tracks for each theme. They range from sandy canyons to slaughter house grounds to, probably the best theme, a winding downhill course. On Cross-Country Championship, there are four tiers to win to become the ultimate champ. Once the 4th tier – the tier you start on – is successfully won, meaning you have the most points, you move up a tier. (You must place first in a tier to advance and the tracks repeat themselves with time of day and/or weather conditions changed until you do.) To help with this vertical movement are vehicle upgrades, like gear boxes and engines. The catch is, these upgrades are random. After a good or a bad race, you can expect a screen explaining your vehicle has been upgraded. There’s no garage option to upgrade and balance your vehicle. Even the ability to chose different tires would have been nice since you’ll race in all manner of weather conditions – snow, rain, and sun – and through mud, sand, and dirt. Heck, even the time of day changes. Adding more powerful headlights during night races would have been more than welcome. More times than I can count, I whacked into corners that suddenly came into view. There are 16 different vehicles to choose from. As you move up the ladder to the final races, these vehicles are unlocked for use in Challenge Races. They all handle differently too, which has to be taken into account when offers are on the table from other racing teams to join them (if you meet some specific criteria). And rounding out the modes is the standard time trial.

The flaws are obvious. Other teams will only make the offer to join them once. You could be stuck in the same tier for 6 or 7 seasons and only receive one offer to join another team which might have an easier-to-handle vehicle. And even though you may have a fully-loaded truck or jeep, the unforgiving AI almost always finds a way to win. Even slamming nitro into your system (you get three canisters per race – use them only on straight-aways) they still keep pace. It helps that when you win a race, you have the chance to save your progress – even when progress is not easy coming.

 

The graphics and animation are great. The weather effects are well done, especially when it’s raining and a lightning bolt flashes onto the track. Leaves and water are kicked up as you tear around the tracks, your suspension system bobbing up and down . . . it’s all very nice. The audio  is middle of the road. Music is fantastic! It really gives it that Redneck and "down South" flavor. In contrast are the vehicle sounds, which sound wimpy. They putter – not the kind of deep chortling that I expect of big racing machines. Ambient noises get old fast. There’s a police helicopter that shows up on a number of the tracks and says the same things over and over again. It might not have been so bad had he been given more than three lines of dialogue.

Off-Road Redneck Racing attempts to ride the line between arcade and serious racing. It doesn’t do either one particularly well. There aren’t enough features to satisfy the hardcore racing crowd and the physics model and driver AI are too punishing for an arcade racer. It does look great and it is fun to play with a few LAN friends (and the price is affordable), but it’s hard for me to recommend RR to either hardcore or casual gamers. This looks like a console port in the making.

- Omni

 

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