With such a simple name, you'd think that Off Road would do exactly what it says on the tin, but shelve those desires to careen carefree off the track and out into a wonderful open-world racer because, sadly, it isn't quite so.
Off Road, crucially, does not allow you to go off road. OK, technically, you're not on a road to begin with, just a series of 24 tracks over three environments split into desert, water and ice. There certainly aren't any traffic wardens or cycle lanes, but just try straying from the designated route for a second and you'll quickly hit an invisible wall, discovering that this game goes about as far off the tracks as your average monorail.
Making a sticking point of the inaccurate name seems unfair though, not least because the full name of the game is Land Rover Ford Off Road, a phrase that will be blasted onto your retinas at every given opportunity from the underwhelming bare bones menu to strangely muted finish line.
The over branding is a pain, and not least because of one simple thing: Land Rovers and Fords are dull. Recently, everyone from Jay Z to James Bond has tried to persuade us otherwise, but the fact remains that these tank-like vehicles are forever linked to waxed jackets and wet dogs, making the opportunity to choose from 18 remarkably similar models an effective cure for insomnia.
If you can get past the relentlessly corporate nature of the game, you will at least find a fair amount to do. There are three main types of game on offer - arcade, tournament and career - plus a split-screen multiplayer mode, which can be good fun.
'... the game itself seems unable to decide whether it wants to be a realistic racing sim or an adrenaline pumping arcade racer.'
Arcade and tournament options are just for quick fixes really, but career mode offers 12 different types of race, ranging from a gauntlet where the other racers are given a head start to time trials, elimination events and gold rush where the object is to pick up cash icons around the track.
Each success unlocks several new events, tracks and cash to spend on yet another Ford/Land Rover, which does give some sense of progression, but the tired old system simply drags you back to the career map and offers little long term interest.
Ironically, in a game so heavily branded, another problem here is an identity crisis. While the blurb screams about the attention to detail and high speed racing experience you are about to enjoy, the game itself seems unable to decide whether it wants to be a realistic racing sim or an adrenaline pumping arcade racer.
Unfortunately, it manages to be jack of all trades and master of none, frustrating die hard race fans with its lack of gear control, simplistic gameplay and limited upgrade options, but also boring arcade junkies to tears with the vehicle choice and lack of personality.
Whichever side you fall on, this is a serious problem and one which a simple sense of fun could have easily fixed. There are no drivers behind the dark windscreens of each car for a start - a small thing perhaps, but an easy way to add character to an otherwise dry game. Further options could have seen unlockable Mii drivers perhaps, or a Need for Speed style storyboard linking career stages, but in this area, Off Road is as deep a pool of humanity as Paris Hilton.
We all know that the Wii wasn't designed to blow us away graphically, but the effort behind Off Road's blocky vehicles seems minimal and there's little attention to detail on any of the environments. Where small points like the movement of water and snow under wheels could have been nice touches, they just end up looking cheap. The bad looks also extend to music, and if you're not muting the rent-a-rock dirge after ten minutes, then you may want to have your hearing tested.
Having said that, the game is still just about playable and runs smoothly at a decent pace, meaning that there are a few hours of fun in flicking to the driver's view bumper camera and bouncing round a track or two. Much is made of the chance to play with the Wii steering wheel, but the motion control doesn't handle well in this instance and you're much better off just using the simple d-pad control system with the Wii remote on its side. Yawn.
This all means that Wii owners are still left short on decent arcade racers or realistic sims. Off Road may amuse for a few hours (as long as you provide your own soundtrack) but ultimately, this is strictly for Land Rover obsessives. And if that's you, please, seek help.
VideoGamer.com Score3 Score out of 10
- Moves smoothly at a decent pace
- Very basic
- No off road action
- Land Rovers are boring