Review by vyse_1986

"A good, extensive offroad experience hampered by some glitches and bad design choices."

Baja: Edge of Control is an offroad racing game based on a real racing event called the Baja 1000. In this annual event, drivers embark on an odyssey through the Mexican desert, namely on the Baja peninsula, where the name originates from. The game covers a great deal of the Baja experience: Eight distinct vehicle classes, ranging from the Baja Bugs which actually are modified versions of the Volkswagen Beetle, to high-performance trucks and dune buggies.

The majority of the game is made up of classic circuit races, which can be a bit disappointing if you expect a classic rally racing game. Rallies are also a part of the game, and each of the game's 10 environments has a rally that can be raced without any interruptions by loading times and lasts somewhere around 20 minutes. The Baja events take these another step further by putting the rallies together, and although there are loading times and you can not race for three hours straight, the experience of going through 300 miles of virtual track without seeing anything twice is impressive. The environments are limited because all the races take place in the desert, but there is some variety and the surroundings range from humid, muddy riversides to barren deserts and cover anything in between - sparse forests, dry plains and so on. Wrapping up the experience is a Free Ride mode that allows you to freely explore the ten environments, and it's surprisingly fun, especially because all the areas really are extremely big.

The main single player mode is the career mode that makes you start in the lowest class. From there, you gain experience and money to work yourself up to the bigger leagues. The main problem is that the career mode makes you start with the Baja Bugs and they are very hard to control. Actually, you couldn't blame anyone who tries the game, starts up the main career mode and never touches the game after the first race. Once you get used to them, it still takes some time to unlock the next league, but after that the other classes fall like domino bricks because the required amounts of experience points are way too low. On the other side, you'll struggle to gain enough money for buying new vehicles from each class and upgrading them - and even on the deceivingly named easy difficulty, you'll need a fully upgraded racer to even stand a chance.

The biggest problem of the main career mode are invitationals. They start on a specific date, and if you want to participate, you'll have to make the in-game calendar and the appointed date coincide. Not only do you have to wait a full year if you lose one of these events (there's no way to skip time), you also can't check the dates when they begin, so if you want to keep track of which races you've been invited to and which ones you've won, you need to take notes. There's even a glitch that might throw you back to the menu after winning an invitational and after that, it's like you never participated in the event. Speaking of glitches, there are at least five achievements that do not work like you'd expect from the description. If you like to go for gamerscore, this might be very frustrating because some of the achievements take a lot of work and then do not unlock because they are broken.

Another problem of the game is damage. Cars take punishment from the harsh environments and depending on the kind of race you're in, you'll have to take pit stops or call in a helicopter with some mechanics. As cool as that might sound, they do not repair an overheated engine. You can halt to a full stop to let the engine cool down, but if you do that the engine just overheats again after a minute. If you do not slow down, your top speed will eventually be severely affected. Fortunately, damage can be turned off outside of the main career mode, so at least you can participate in the Baja 1000 without having your engine overheat after a few minutes.

= SCORING =

- Gameplay -

Value: This game is huge. There's countless tracks and the longest event takes more than 3 hours to be completed without having any repeats of track sections. The career mode will take you quite a while to complete, the other modes might keep you entertained for a long time after that, and all the races can be done online. Many glitches and broken achievements hamper the otherwise great experience.
Score: 30/35

Controls: The physics in Baja are very loose and the cars feel like they have little to no weight to them. It's definitely playable, but the dune buggies and especially the Baja Bugs have a tendency to uncontrollably fidget around the track. Driving is still a lot of fun and surprisingly, there's little to no frustration involved.
Score: 27/35

- Appeal -

Visual Appeal: The desert environments don't offer much variety and you might not be able to count many polygons, but it still looks pretty decent. The viewing distance can be absolutely breathtaking, especially if you climb a high mountain in freeride mode, the vehicles look good and overall, it really is quite pleasant to the eyes.
Score: 11/15

Acoustic Appeal: There's a licenced soundtrack, but only a few tracks and they're quite bad to boot. Engine noises can get redundant during a three-hour-race, so a custom soundtrack is your friend here.
Score: 6/15

Verdict:
Baja: Edge of Control is the best rally racing game on the 360 so far, mainly due to a lack of competition. Compared to DiRT, it features more tracks and better, more demanding controls that are one of the essentials of rally games. It's a fun experience that will keep you occupied for a few weeks, but completionists and people who like to go for 1000/1000 Gamerscore might be turned off by the bad implementation of invitationals and broken achievements. If you're just looking for a fun offroad racer with epic tracks and some online competition, this game might even be a better choice than Pure because it has way more content and variety.

Final Score: 74/100 -> 7/10


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 10/14/08

Game Release: Baja: Edge of Control (US, 09/22/08)


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