Mired And Admired: Off-Road Drive

By Tim Stone on July 4th, 2011 at 11:11 am.

Every year in the UK, recreational 4WD users crush 33,070 primroses, wake 6,312 dormice, and ruin the reveries of 451 nature poets. They’re a menace and yet irresponsible game companies like 1C continue to glorify their activities through titles such as Off-Road Drive. I was so disgusted by the premise of this upcoming release, that I almost returned the preview code, and nearly didn’t spend most of yesterday happily jockeying Land Rovers and Jeeps through Karelian swamps and Rocky Mountain gorges.

I stuck around mainly because of all the sticking around. Despite giving off the pheromones of a budget-racing-game-with-bumps, ORD actually possesses surprisingly simmy depths. Navigating the boulder-strewn, bog-dotted courses requires an agreeable mix of sump-scraping trial and error, skilful wheel-work, and timely gadget activation. Think up-realismed Tricky Truck rather than down-market Dirt 2.

I can definitely recommend the winching. All of the vehicles seem to come with a motorized reel of steel cable bolted to their bows. When wheel waggling, shuttling, tyre pressure tweaking, and three forms of diff-lock adjustment fail to get you over a fallen pine or up a steep escarpment, you just hook the cable to a nearby tree and gently (too much tension = snappage) ease your vehicle out of trouble.

As I discovered when I accidentally put my Samurai into neutral at the end of one particularly arduous climb, delicacy is also required if you opt to drive with a fully manual gearbox. Take your foot/finger off the clutch and gas while in gear, or attempt to drive over an obstacle or out of a slough with inadequate revs, and you’re suddenly going to find yourself stationary wondering why it’s gone so quiet.

Being deprived of engine noise for a few moments does have its attractions. The weakest aspect of this preview build is unquestionably the audio. All engines currently sound like bottled bees and there’s a baffling lack of the kind of suspension squeaks and chassis thumps that you’d expect to hear when pelting along a rutted track or rocky foreshore. Hopefully, before the September release, something can be done to bring the ear stuff up to the standard of the Unreal Engine 3-powered eye stuff.

Perhaps there’s also time to supplement the enjoyable yet strict time-trials with some more free-form play modes. Right now most of the racing seems to involve winding your way along narrow preset routes in the shortest possible time. Knock down a stake, or stop for any length of time and you’ve got yourself a points penalty. Leave the track or face the wrong direction and you’re magically reset.

I’ve just scribbled some quick calculations on the wings of a passing butterfly, and interestingly, they indicate that ORD would be 138% better if 1C: Avalon added an orienteering-style challenge mode. Biggish chunks of chaotic wilderness. Random start points and destinations. Blaze your own trails or die trying. These things would be splendid.

I suspect the game would also be attracting more attention if it wasn’t wrapped up in a sporty shell. In my book, trouncing a faceless field of AI controlled 4×4 experts to win the Ladoga Trophy, will never be as satisfying or stirring as, say, delivering anti-venom to a hard-to-reach jungle clinic just in time to save a stricken villager, or plucking forest fire-fighters from the path of an out-of-control wildfire. So many of the civilian vehicle sims that turn up on my harddrive, seem to opt for the most obvious and prosaic settings.

Whatever you think of the context, if you’re partial to plausible physics and new simulation experiences, ORD is worth watching. It looks like those of an adventurous bent or Russian parentage can even go for a preliminary testdrive right now.

I’m attaching the latest trailer more out of duty than enthusiasm. Oddly it seem more interested in showing real 4×4 footage than pointing out how much fun you can have in Off-Road Drive wallowing in mud pools, scraping gingerly over boulders, and messing around with winches.

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18 Comments »

  1. Alexander Norris says:

    I read the title as “mined and admired” and thought someone had made a racing mod for Minecraft.

  2. ShiftyParadigm says:

    It reminds me of 1nsane, albeit more realistic. It’s a shame there aren’t more off road games like this.

  3. Squire says:

    I love when they edit together real life footage of racing with footage from the game they have purposefully made look similiar, like you are going to suddenly go “Oh my god its exactly like real life, I mean THOSE FAKE CARS ARE PERFORMING THE SAME ACTIONS AS THE REAL CARS” Its not like real life having per-atom lighting isnt a give away haha.
    Yeah tho, looks like would be fun with aforementioned free-run style challenges thrown in.

  4. Koozer says:

    Wouldn’t it be faster just walking..?

  5. President Weasel says:

    Nature poets MUST BE STOPPED.

  6. Tomski says:

    This trailer is all ingame, and shows off the winch a bit too!

  7. Azdeus says:

    Shiney, makes me remember the good ol’ Screamer 4×4! I hope this game manages to equal it atleast.

    • identiti_crisis says:

      Yeah, Screamer 4×4 was / is excellent. I was hopeful reading this that we might actually get some kind of continuation and improvement. Sadly, it all looks a bit floaty, like the vehicles lack weight and the interaction of the tyres with the terrain looks primitive.

      If they can tweak this and broaden the appeal a bit, i.e. with other modes (even just those that were present in Screamer 4×4, esp. the online stuff) this might be worth a look, though.

    • Shadowcat says:

      I’m glad I’m not the only one immediately thinking of that title.

      Screamer 4×4 was one of the single most surprising games I ever bought, bearing absolutely no similarities whatsoever to the preceding sequence of Screamer, Screamer 2, and Screamer Rally. I mean, I knew it was going to be a bit different — the title and the box art/screenshots were something of a giveaway — but given the pure arcade roots of its predecessors, I was pretty unprepared for the pure simulation that was Screamer 4×4.

      And thank goodness, because I might not have bought it otherwise. Screamer 4×4 was not only challenging, but it was far more fun than I ever would have imagined an off-road sim could be. Every checkpoint was an achievement; and the view from the driver’s seat got pretty crazy at times — it gave me something of an appreciation for the nutters who drive like that in reality :)

      If you enjoy this sort of game and you’ve never played it, see if you can track down a copy of Screamer 4×4.

    • Premium User Badge

      Henke says:

      Yesss, Screamer 4×4 is probably still the best offroading sim, even if the landscape is a bit blocky.

      1C has apprently got a few offroading titles under their belt. MotorM4X is the only one I’ve played and it’s not bad at all. It doesn’t have an in-car view though and the vehicle-handling just feels a bit off. I can’t exactly say why but it’s just not the same thing as Screamer 4×4.

      Offroad Drive certainly looks good, hope it has an in-car view.

  8. Premium User Badge

    Petethegoat says:

    I tried the demo but it got stuck at the loading screen forever.
    Anyone else had this problem?

    (note: this was after having to sit through a bunch of logos and a trailer for the game)

  9. CriminalJustice says:

    I am particularly a fan of off-roading, and I cannot wait for this game to be released. Screamer 4×4 and 1nsane were a lot of fun, hopefully this will be too.

  10. Axess Denyd says:

    Reminds me of the other one they published, Motorm4x (“Motorm Forks”, as I call it). That had quite a bit of fun and potential, but it took 1C FOREVER to actually let non-eastern-Europe buy it.

    • Javier-de-Ass says:

      that one was by city interactive. but thanks for mentioning it, I hadn’t seen it before.

  11. Raiyan 1.0 says:

    What this game needs is a Lada!

  12. Javier-de-Ass says:

    love this series. this one looks like it’s going to be a HUGE step up over uaz and hummer.

  13. N says:

    I want a new 1nsane bitches.