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Reviewed by Jason Thompson
nother day, another racing game. Like any other sort of video game in the sports genre, racing titles can either be really great, or just really suck. There are not too many in-between moments. These days, developers are constantly trying to toe the line between giving fans an arcade experience while also offering up a deeper, more robust driving simulation. Blame it all on “Gran Turismo.” Before that game reared its ugly head, video game racing was pretty much still all about the arcade thrills of just hitting the gas pedal and driving around a course. Now it’s all about that and tweaking every last goddamn part on your car to get the most out of your ride. To that I say “blah.” Just lemme drive my damn car and race.
The folks at THQ have tried to address both of these factors in their latest off road experience called “BAJA: Edge of Control.” And never has there been a more apt title. If you think you’re just going to sit down and drive off into the sunset – much like I did when I first popped this game in – you’re sadly mistaken. You see, this game does its best to completely brutalize its players with its “true to life” physics that will more often than not send them screaming while restarting the races over and over. The minute you think you’re doing well in a race in this game, forget it. In a split second you’ll find yourself flying sideways through the air for almost no discernable reason other than the terrain got a little bumpy.
Hey, I understand that bumps in the road and other little inconsistencies with terrain will cause you to overcorrect your steering when driving through such things, but at the same time, it shouldn’t mean you’re suddenly driving in an atmosphere you’re likely to find on the moon. Coming over a small hill at an average speed shouldn’t automatically send my ride into the sky, only to land somewhere outside the course. Yet it happens here in this game almost religiously. And if that’s not happening, then be sure to watch out for all those invisible places in the course which will also seemingly throw your car willy-nilly for no reason at all. “Edge of Control?” How about zero control?
But hey, as a driver in this game you can choose from all sorts of cars and race series pretty much out of the box. There are VW bug races, trophy trucks, 4 X 4s, and all sorts of other modded off-road vehicles to crash around in. What’s more, like good old “Gran Turismo,” you can buy new parts and tweak them around to your heart’s content. Will it all really matter? After souping up one of my bugs, I personally couldn’t tell much difference. In fact, it often seemed like I was doing worse. So much for progress.
“BAJA: Edge of Control” isn’t a very pretty game, either. These graphics basically look like something the original Xbox could have handled with no problem. You get the sense that the racing terrains were supposed to be a little more spectacular than they are, but there’s only so many ways you can make dirt look pretty. And for some reason, the game’s soundtrack is automatically turned off when you start the game. It’s not wonderful music, but it does take some of your attention away from the repetitive grinding sounds of cars careening around a ho-hum plot of land.
In multiplayer modes, this game offers four-player split screen and up to eight players online. But trust me when I say that this isn’t really a game that’s going to demand your attention online. Nothing about it feels necessary, either alone or with friends. Yeah, you know how it goes by now. There are plenty of better racing games out there worth your money these days. “BAJA: Edge of Control” comes off as a half-baked afterthought that brings nothing new to off-road video game racing. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing.