THQ Baja: Edge of Control
As a Camaro is to a Ferrari, such is Baja: Edge of Control to the world of digital off-road racing.
- Great multiplayer options, tonnes of tracks and events and vehicles
- Sloppy handling, lacks personality, lacklustre graphics
Too much emphasis on simulation stalls Baja. Despite a wealth of tracks, vehicles, and varied modes, its sloppy controls make it fundamentally inaccessible. While it's good value, there's not much fun to be had here.
Price$ 99.95 (AUD)
As a Camaro is to a Ferrari, such is Baja: Edge of Control to the world of digital off-road racing. It's a poor man's effort to seize a little soil in the shadow of bigger, better names. It's not nearly as pretty as MotorStorm nor as energetic, although it's definitely dirtier thanks to sloppy handling and gameplay that idles in neutral.
There's plenty of value in Baja between it's huge single player career and multiplayer modes. Starting off with a Baja Bug, you work through more than half a dozen classes competing in various races across the American southwest and Mexico. Each race won nets you experience points that unlock new classes and events, as well as credits for purchasing new vehicles and upgrades. Joining the solo game are awesome multiplayer options including four player split-screen and a range of online events supporting nearly half a dozen competitors.
Hit the off-road and Baja shifts gears from straightforward racer to sullied sim. The game literally exists on the edge of control, providing some of the sloppiest handling of any recent off-road racer. Vehicles float more than drive. Speeding down straightaways is nearly impossible since you constantly fight the game's tendency to veer off the designated track. Learning to use the hand brake is a must if you don't want to slide out of turns. An upgrade system does provides an avenue for improving control of your vehicles — mind you, the effect of these upgrades are negligible. They do, however, add depth to the single player career.
No Fun in the Sun
Spending a few hours with the game results in an adjustment to the physics and controls, although it doesn't make the game any more enjoyable. Baja aspire to be a simulation, yet it ends up losing its appeal in the process. Beyond handling, the game tries innovating with a simulated contingency sponsorship system that falls flat too. Event payouts only come from sponsors whose logos remain intact following a race. This, of course, is an enormous source of frustration due the challenges of controlling your vehicle and avoiding collisions with competitors.
The point is that by erring on the side of simulation, Baja has become lacklustre. It's simply not fun. Some of these elements have to give in order for the game to regain the edge that makes off-road racer so entertaining. Packing the game with tons of tracks, vehicles, and solid multiplayer options is commendable, but great value isn't enough. After all, a Camaro is a great value, but it just isn't as fun to drive. Baja finds itself in the same boat — not nearly as pretty nor as slick as its sporty superiors.
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