Definitely living up to its name, Baja: Edge of Control can provide an exciting racing experience if are you willing to learn the ins and outs of this extreme form of racing. This is one game that is really created for the hardcore.
The Baja is a legendary race spanning for miles in desert area between California and Mexico. Drivers beef up their buggies, VW bugs, and trophy trucks to traverse the exceedingly hilly and bumpy terrain. Developer 2XL Games has taken this massive race and tailored to its hardest-core fans. Some of the staff members of 2XL Games came from Rainbow Studios, the makers of the MX vs ATV series. Needless to say, these guys know their off-road racing.
Edge of Control has some pretty impressive wide open racing environments. In the game’s Free Ride mode, the player can drive around for miles without ever seeing a loading screen, but sooner or later, your vehicle will hit an excusable invisible wall. The game’s draw distance is also quite impressive and one of the main reasons why the environments look as big as they do. In total, this game has over 1,000 miles of sculpted terrain to travel.
When you first start off the Career Mode, the main mode of play, the player is restrained to the beginner Bug class, the first of eight total classes available in the game. Giving the game a minor RPG touch, the more races you win, the more opportunities that will be unlocked. Each win rewards the player with experience points that can be used to purchase upgraded parts or new vehicles. Eventually, sponsorship opportunities will be available as the player can sell ad space on the racing vehicle. However, the amount of money you will receive is contingent on how well persevered your vehicle is at the end of a match. Lose a lot of panels and lose out on cash.
However, unlocking the trophy class and building your reputation to even have advertising opportunities is another story. Many hours must be spent not only building enough experience, but to also become familiar with the game’s steep learning curve. The developers of this game set off to create a realistic experience with this title, and they definitely nailed it on the head. However, learning how to control these off road beasts takes quite a bit of time to get used to. Tires pop when they have taken a lot of abuse. The realistic suspension will have the player feeling every bump, hill, and slide. Land a bad jump and you are likely to break something. This game is built around knowing everything there is to know about Baja racing.
The game’s technological abilities are impressive, but they can be very frustrating to the non-Baja driver. This game is much more of sim than it is an arcade racer, and the game handles as such. Using the simple first class VW bug in the beginning stages will have the player bouncing around the track like a pinball. Learning to control your vehicle is more of an art form than it is simply holding the right trigger button to accelerate. Learning when you use the clutch, hand break, and pre loads are a necessity if you want to see the checked flag. Unfortunately, the game’s lack of a tutorial fails to teach the player when, and when not to, use specific driving techniques. The best way to learn about the game’s complex driving system is to read the one liner notes during the game’s multiple loading screens. Not having an advance tutorial in this hardcore of a game is truly a sin.
Besides the steep learning curve, the computer AI opponents will just about always win. And not only will they win, they will dominate. In many cases, coming in second-to-last is worthy of applause. Even with the difficulty turned down, there is at least one opponent that always seems to drive flawlessly. And to make matters worse, there is this strange Velcro-like stickiness whenever you bump into an opponent. This will often cause your buggy to lock up and veer off the track when you eventually break free causing the game’s collision detection to be a bit on the flawed side.
Further tailoring to the hardcore, the game gives the player a wealth of options when it comes to upgrading your vehicle. Tweaking springs, breaks, tires, shocks, and the transmission are just some of the options to toy with. But if you know nothing of cars, this menu screen will look like a foreign language. Again, the lack of a tutorial almost seems like the developers assumed that every player knows exactly what is going on and how to do everything. But if you are untrained in the field of car repair, this menu screen will most likely go untouched.
The graphics in this game have a solid mixture of the well done, and the not so well done. The environments themselves look fairly detailed thanks to the vast draw distance, but the vehicles themselves seem to lack significant detail even after your gain more sponsorships. But each vehicle without advertisements looks especially drab, something you can plan on seeing for the first several hours of the game.
Up to ten players can compete online or via system link, and four players can play off splitscreen mode. Surprisingly, there was very little lag and drop in detail when playing online, a definite plus.
With the wealth of tweaking options, the high learning curve, and the dominating AI, Baja: Edge of Control is a game that only hardcore fans can truly sink their teeth into. For everyone else, it will be fun for a few races, but when the computer controlled AI absolutely smokes you for the tenth time in a row, your patience will be more than tested. If anything, this game will generate a high sense of accomplishment when you do come in first place for that first time (there is even an Achievement for it). If you enjoy arcade style racers, you should probably look the other way. However, if you like to get into the nitty-gritty of every single detail about your car, then you will have an enjoyable time with this title.