“SUV” doesn’t actually stand for Sport Utility Vehicle. The actual definition of SUV is, “an off-road-capable machine that never leaves the tarmac.” The fact of the matter is that, while many Americans drive former “Motor Trend Truck of the Year” winners, few of these pilots actually know what it’s like to tackle roads less traveled—or less paved.
’Tis a bit easier for the normal, license-toting gamer to relate to tarmac-based racing games since there’s at least a little bit of familiarity there. The dirt? Well, that’s a different story. Rally and other off-road games throw many players for loops; that is, send them spinning out into the indigenous vegetation of the environment at hand.
If you want to put the average gaming motorist into an even more precarious, pavement-less position, replace dirt with sand and WRC cars with mega-horsepower trophy trucks. This is exactly the scenario for Baja: Edge of Control—a professional desert racing simulator, for all intents and purposes.
Baja: Edge of Control is a straightforward motorsports game that is fashioned quite similarly to the modern racing titles that have come before it. A normal race mode enables users to play any one of the five events commonly seen in desert racing’s pro ranks: Circuit, Rally, Hill Climb, Open Class and Baja. Environments are plucked from popular North and South American desert racing locales, including Arizona, Nevada and a few choice spots in Mexico.
Not surprisingly, Baja: Edge of Control also comes complete with vehicle choices that run the entire gamut of sanctioned desert racing. Most beginners in the sport start out with Volkswagen bugs—either keeping the entire car and modifying it for desert usage, or transplanting the air-cooled power plants into purpose-built tube chassis. Vehicles get completely crazy (and expensive) after the Baja Bug class, from open-wheel and unibody models sporting two feet of suspension travel, to fully-sponsored, eight-hundred horsepower (ten times the amount in the bug class vehicles) “trophy” trucks costing the higher end of six figures.
In addition to the professional-level event types, locales and vehicles, Baja: Edge of Control features the racing game-standard “career” mode. Straightforward is again the name of the game for Edge of Control’s Baja Career, where credits (cash) enable the purchase of additional vehicles (and tune-up modifications), while experience points open up more challenging event types and courses.
You’ll begin in Baja Career with just enough credits to jump into a baja bug and compete in low-profile events. The goal is to eventually own and pilot a trophy truck in a baja enduro, but you’ll have to progress through the more of the lower-profile events and vehicle classes in order to get to the big leagues.
The online functionality of Baja: Edge of Control is about as basic as multiplayer racing gets. Ten-player Live and four-player System Link matches can take place in the Circuit, Rally or Hill climb categories. It’s nice to see that the damage in Player matches can be toggled to be only cosmetic, and that split-screen is available for local competitions, but there’s not much else to get excited about when playing Baja: Edge of Control in the multiplayer setting. It’s functional, but not jaw-dropping in any shape or form.
The theme of this review on Baja: Edge of Control thus far is that it is quite “straightforward.” The game modes, locales, vehicles and event types are exactly what one would expect for a game that centers on professional desert racing. While having a to-the-point motorsports experience might be what the hard-core followers of baja would want in a desert-themed racer, the rest of the camp will be left with the taste of vanilla extract in their mouths after spending some time with Baja: Edge of Control.
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