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Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: November 27, 1998
Often competition among racing games is fiercer away from the courses among the companies that produce them than on the tracks among the vehicles themselves. Off-road racing is certainly no exception, and Accolade and Microsoft have been in an intense competition in the last couple of years to win this particular race. While earlier Accolade’s Test Drive: Off-Road competed against Microsoft’s Monster Truck Madness, this year when Microsoft released Monster Truck Madness 2 in the spring, Accolade could not help but respond with Test Drive: Off-Road 2 in the winter. Although the games are not exactly alike, with the Microsoft offering focusing just on souped-up monster trucks and the Accolade offering dealing with a wide range of licensed vehicles available commercially, they both target pretty much the same buying audience. As this review hopes to show, while neither product is a disaster one appears to be more than a car length ahead of the other.
Accolade accurately claims to have the “#1 selling driving series on the PC” because its Test Drive series (which began just with conventional car racing) has been around longer than any other set of racing games. As a result, the company has accumulated more expertise than anyone else, and it is not an easy one to unseat. It has listened to its loyal customers carefully, as for example there were objections to the checkpoints in the original Test Drive: Off-Road, so in this new version there is an option to turn this requirement off. But the pace of new developments is so fast in racing games, speedier in my opinion than any other genre of PC game except perhaps first-person 3D shooters, that it is hard to keep up.
Test Drive: Off-Road 2 includes 20 licensed off-road vehicles, including an exclusive license for the world famous Hummer; and 12 tracks in 6 diverse real-world settings. Beyond the Hummer some of the well-known vehicles are the Chenoweth Fast Attack Vehicle, Land Rover Defender 90, Ford Explorer and F150, Saleen Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder, Dodge Ram V12 or T-Rex, and Jeep Wrangler. The racing environments are Santa Cruz, Hawaii, Morocco, Mojave, Wales, and the Alps. As is readily apparent, there is some preference here for desolate over urban settings. As with the forthcoming Test Drive 5, Accolade places an emphasis in its racing games on settings that represent real places in the world using real licensed vehicles, in sharp contrast to the many racing games using imaginary settings (which though beautiful are not real) or fantasy vehicles (which may bear little relationship to their real-world counterparts).
This game is one of the very first racing games I have seen that puts as much emphasis on background music as it does on vehicle design and performance. Many racing simulations contain no music at all, and the background tunes in most arcade racing games are readily forgettable. Here, however, Accolade has secured a soundtrack based on the music of top recording artists Sevendust, Gravity Kills, and Fear Factory.
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