Ultra Off-Road 2019: Alaska (Switch) Review
The attention to detail regarding how the vehicles run is incredible.
The actual task of driving is slow, touchy, and buggy.
It seems like a video game should make the task it depicts seem fun, exciting, or at least moderately engaging. Ultra Off-Road 2019: Alaska bucks convention by making off-road exploration seem like a tedious slog, both filled with items to gather and endless menus of minutia to navigate. If you’re into recreating the common off-road experience of getting stuck headlight first in a bolder while your driver starves to death within a matter of minutes, this is the game for you. Anyone else might want to look elsewhere for their virtual driving thrills.
It should be noted that, in some places, the attention to detail in this game is incredible. Every vehicle handles so differently that I noticed it instantly, each with unique strengths and weaknesses. I ended up using one that could power over hills by getting up to sixth gear at the cost of my ability to reverse, but any of the vehicles had valid advantages. It was really cool! The amount of things about your vehicle you can fiddle with is also amazing. You can modify a ridiculous amount of your car’s workings, from choosing your braking system to changing nearly a dozen extremely precise details of each individual axle. It’s all pretty noticeable as you drive, too, making for an interesting system. It would all be fantastic if the game worked well. Unfortunately, it doesn’t.
Driving in Ultra Off-Road 2019: Alaska is one of the most difficult tasks I’ve ever been presented with in a video game. It requires pinpoint precision, constant fiddling with gears and other car settings, patience, and a high tolerance for watching a vehicle slide backwards down a hill. The smallest mistake ends with you stuck in a rock, frozen over a bump in the road, or just inexplicably trapped in an invisible part of the terrain. It’s miserable, tedious, and frustrating, leading to a dozen game resets for every success.
I would almost buy that this was part of the game’s attempt at realism if, when your vehicle flipped, you couldn’t drop into a negative gear and twirl it around like a rotisserie chicken. It also seems unlikely that the wilds of Alaska are filled with CG pizzas that, when run over, can be fed to a driver to keep his off-roading skills intact. As it is, it just seems that this game is buggy and unplayable, making off-road exploration seem slightly less fun than navigating a student loan bill.
The graphics in this game are neither great nor terrible. They’re a little dreary, and have a distinct PS2 era feel to them, but they’re not bad enough to distract from the joys of spending five minutes trying to free your vehicle from an unfortunately place boulder. The sound is nearly non-existent. The menu’s country music sets up a nice atmosphere, but during gameplay, there’s nothing but some sparse sound effects. It’s not terrible, but it does make the game feel kind of empty.
I think there are, legitimately, some things to like about Ultra Off-Road 2019: Alaska. It’s obvious that a lot of love went into putting these vehicles in the game. They’re all distinct from one another, and endlessly fiddling with their incredibly specific parameters leads to some noticeable and interesting results. It’s just too bad that the game itself isn’t more playable. Ultra Off-Road 2019: Alaska makes off-road exploration feel like a chore, and unless you’re truly interested in playing with the game’s array of pinpoint specific settings, there’s no reason to suffer through it.
By: Allison Bates