Baja: Edge of Control Review
I don't often venture outside my gaming "comfort zone," you know, action, adventure, shooting or role playing games, but when I do, there is usually a good reason behind it. I don't get much out of fighting games, but I'll check out the ones based on Dragonball Z. I'm usually not much for racing, but I make an exception for Mario Kart. You get the picture. So when Baja: Edge of Control for the Xbox 360 came up for review, a promise made in a preview I had read months earlier stood out - the developers swore up and down that this game would include a huge, marathon type race that covered all the ground found on California's Baja peninsula aka - the Baja 1,000 race. If you've ever visited, you know that the area was long overdue for an appearance in a true to form, next gen racing title. The relatively small geographical area has "dirt track" written all over it, with some nice beaches, dense greenery and even some areas that look like the surface of the moon. So, were the people behind the MX vs. ATV series able to pull it off?
Well… kind of. Some parts, they nailed on the head. Others… not so much. The huge, 3 hour+ Baja 1,000 rally race covering the entire area did make it in to the final game, but it is marred by some serious, and almost assuredly avoidable issues. Baja: Edge of Control isn't the best off-road racer I've ever played (my vote goes to MotorStorm), but it's ambitious, fun and has a ton of replay, depending on how you look at things.
Let's go for the good stuff first. The game looks and sounds great. The environments are crisp and easy on the eyes, even if some of them do seem barren of much detail (I'm not sure how good sand dunes can really look, but they look pretty good here). Trees, sand, water, weather… all of it looks very nice, even with the occasional pop-in horizon and muddy, slow-to-load texture. The cars themselves aren't quite as impressive, but they still look pretty good. Again, I defer to MotorStorm, which featured semi-realistic damage and cars that got - duh - dirty as they tore around the tracks. There isn't that painstaking level of detail in Baja, but things are far from unpleasant.
The sound is fairly nice as well. The cars and engines sound exactly how you'd imagine; loud and obnoxious. These races are meant to be loud, though; you won't find too many Lexus or BMW-type cars on any dirt track. Instead, you have everything from go-kart type open vehicles to refurbished VW Bugs to trucks to ATVs. The game has a licensed soundtrack as well, but it gets old very quickly; there aren't a ton of songs and there isn't really a memorable one in the bunch. You have the option for a custom soundtrack, but even with the music off, I didn't really miss it.
Graphics and sound aren't everything, though, and Baja's biggest selling point is also one of its best features - the Baja 1,000 race. This race, no joke, can take about THREE HOURS to finish and it covers the entire landmass that serves as the game's namesake. It tears through the area's many varied locales and, believe it or not, stays fun for nearly the whole race. The mode isn't without its issues, but it was an ambitious shot and it comes very close to the kind of payoff I imagined.