Actual Baja rally races with damage. Circuit track races with jumps/dirt embankments to get up on are best, 60+ tracks, large free roam environments. A career mode, 187 licenced customizable vehicles, unlock-all cheat code, and great menu navigation.
< This Games Race Event Selection in a Nutshell < Controls < Damage < Dirt < Camera Angle Views < Track Environment < Graphics < Conclusion < Cheat Codes
< Options < Modes, Vehicles & Settings < Final Word
Baja: Edge of Control is a great arcade sim like racing game for the PS3 and XBOX 360 released in 2008. It's developed by THQ and 2XL Games the makers of the MX vs. ATV series of games. I used the unlock all cheat code from the beginning so I didn't do the Baja career mode were you buy vehicles, upgrade and tune the vehicles parts for stuff like the engine or suspension. This review will not get into that career sim stuff.
Baja is a game with large environments, dirt courses, jumps, bumps, and large dirt embankments to get your vehicle up on taking turns. It's a racers game for the Circuit races and Hill Climb events. The realistic Baja events and Rally events do not make this a game to own. They cover lots of distance and are based on actual events but alone as a game mode here do not fully do it for me and I will say traditional race enthusiasts would probably feel the same. Thankfully there are other race modes.
Circuit races are set on a traditional type of winding race track but feature dirt course bumper-to-bumper racing over jumps, up and down hills with the other vehicles and the large dirt embankments to aid in taking turns at speed. Most tracks are complex with multiple routes to navigate. Hill Climb events are up around the top of mountains on courses. Not just a short climb to the top of a steep hill, it's a race around the top of mountains that causes lots of crashes, driving angle choices, big jumps, and falls. See the second and third picture to the right of the review.
Steering wheel owners will enjoy this game. If you just want to drive around one of the large environments that several of the courses are laid out on you can. The design in this game is that several race courses are in one location, say Utah, Nevada, Cabo San Lucas. You can time trial a course or free ride the entire vastness of each location, crossing through each course allowing you to roam the hills and surrounding race courses endlessly. Even have pavement roads with pedestrian vehicles driving around.
THIS GAMES RACE EVENT SELECTION IN A NUTSHELL If you own a RC car and set up a race course in your driveway that's a circuit race. If you race around your street that's a location and each driveway is another circuit. In location free ride you can tear across lawns and tear up the neighbors flower bed. Go to another street you have another location with more circuit races per driveway. Driving on the roofs of houses would be hill climb and the Baja and rally events would be like if you drove your RC car across town. That's Baja: Edge of Control race selection and free roam abilities.
CONTROLS: 10 different control presets to choose from, unless using a steering wheel, which is a great way to play this game. Controls have an arcade sim quality of physics with a great sense of speed and motion from the suspension travel to vehicle bumping around. Landing wrong or crossing bumps wrong will cause your rear end to bounce out on you in a realistically way. You have air control when you go off a jump; like a motorcycle stunt rider throws his bike around, you can adjust for a better landing position. If playing with full damage on you can bottom out the suspension to many times and will lose oil and pressure leading to a damaged engine and poor performance. In career mode you call in a chopper for repairs. There are also pit stop locations for those events.
Baja: Edge of Control is a fitting title given the handling of the vehicles, which is on the edge of control. The controls require constant attention with back-and-forth movement to keep aligned in the dirt at fast speeds.
Being to fast into a turn or to slow and missing the apex of the turn is racing. Albeit on large dirt courses is slightly different than other games, but making the tight turns is some what more challenging cause this game uses the gas pedal a lot. Thankfully there are the large embankments to aid in turning and keeping momentum. You need to keep that momentum cause if you crash half way up a steep incline or at the bottom of one, you will be chugging it to the top. Breaks get little attention, it's more half gas full gas sort of racing cause most courses are wide open dirt tracks with various routes.
AI moves fast but they also crash a lot so follow with caution. Other race games AI stick rigidly to the track and never crash, here the AI crashes often and will literally run you over. I crashed once and blocked an AI vehicle, it slowed, stopped and it waited a moment, then fully gassed it into my side pushing me out of the way.
You don't really drift in this dirt racing game, you speed around corners at high speeds and get up on the embankments but not drifting it is more about you speed so much you might think you are drifting, but your not. There is a handbrake button to attempt drifts but doesn't work as you would expect. There is a way to boost. To boost you have to be holding down the clutch for a moment and be sitting still, so not much use and that is OK. Motorstorm, Super Mario Kart, among others had the boost. Here I didn't use it and it doesn't change the game pace so it is ok.
No rumble vibration for the controllers. Force feedback steering wheels work but you have limited adjustments that can be made through the game options menu, either deadzone or sensitivity. I got mine to work perfect with deadzone to O% and sensitivity to about 40% for my Logitech Driving Force GT wheel. Really cool game for the wheel you have to over steer to go where you want to go.
DAMAGE: On a few occasions I rolled and flipped about 20 times down a big hill. The damage modeling leaves you racing in a frame and roll cage on wheels and maybe your wheel (or wheels) will be wobbling, and smoke coming from your rear mounted radiator if full damage is enabled.
The body panels on the vehicles get knocked off and litter the tracks, spare tires as well. Running over them doesn't affect driving. If the panels and doors don't come off they will hang off and bounce around. If the race is long enough and your aggressive enough you may cross the finish line in a dirty roll cage shell of what you started the race with but in Career mode you will lose sponsor money if you lose a sponsor's panel.
I just watched a dirt racing show on ABC this weekend and the vehicles looked just like what is in this game. One of the panels came lose and blew in the wind just like in this game and half of the dirt trucks where covered in lots of dirt and missing body panels just like in this game. Amazing is the word I would use to explain how this game captured the real thing.
DIRT Dirt realistically appears on the vehicles over time, kicked up from others in the race or by crashing.
CAMERA ANGLE VIEWS: 4 options: 3rd person behind vehicle 3rd person off to the rear side view Over the Hood - over the engine bay watching the suspension components and wheels bounce if you lose the hood Front wheels only - with speed and RPM gauge cluster.
There is a very cool crash camera. When you crash, your vehicle breaks away from its steady position and is tossed forward of your 3rd person view. Other views do not get the crash camera break away. You can speed off a mountain and the camera will break away, then once you come to a rest just drive off without missing a beat if you landed on your wheels. There is no replay after races which sucks.
TRACK ENVIRONMENT: This game has excellent race course design. Inevitably you get off course because there are no walls. On many courses you will fall off the edge of a cliff or get to high on an embankment and go over. At first you get a pop-up sign saying "get back on track" with an arrow pointing the direction, then shortly later starts a 5 second count down, which will reset you on the track. It's a very good system. Pressing a button will also reset you at any time.
Several tracks have various routes to take, and following the course is easy. They have small arrow post signs, sponsor banners and orange plastic fences that you can run over without causing damage. In all events, especially the Baja Rally events, you also follow the tire tracks in the dirt. Amazing course design, for the most part in that you never feel like you don't know where to go.
When finished you get a quick load to a results screen where all race vehicles fastest lap times and total race times are displayed. You can restart the race in a flash. If you want to change vehicles or change race tracks the game menus remember your previous choices, so navigating menus is easy and fast.
GRAPHICS: Graphics are good. You are in desert locals so not much going on. You will leave tire tracks everywhere you go on dirt, and you even cross and spend a little time on pavement streets. Once you get into the fast racing the graphics are great at blending in the dirt race experience. The draw distance, distance you can see off in the horizon, is really far. From the top of a mountain you can see details far off in the distance, like trees and other road paths. See the second and third picture on the side of this review.
I heard the detail of the actual Baja race courses are mostly accurate. Basically you see dirt and shrubs and trees, so I guess the winding of the courses is accurate. I found if you go slow over brush it will kick up and break up around your vehicle like flower petals. There are pedestrian vehicles driving around on the streets and they will swerve to miss you. Pedestrian trucks are around some tracks and you will run into them from time to time if you get off-course. They do not get damaged and there are no people cheering you on in this game.
Gauge clusters pop up when problems begin to occur. You can also tap a button to show the vehicle gauges to see how things are holding up. Speed gauge is always on screen, and overall the other elements on screen like the mini map are really good and never get in the way. A final word on graphics is that there are games with better graphics but not with racing like this, so overall the graphics are a nice complement to the race experience and large environments, but don't expect to be blown away by the graphics. They are good and as I said blend in with the overall experience in large environments.
CONCLUSION: You race around at about 80 miles per hour average. The sim tuning stuff is probably good, the developers secured lots of popular sponsors and seems from what I read they made tweaking an instrumental part of the career mode. Gran Turismo fans might enjoy the suspension and engine tuning or painting vehicles. I would not want to tune anything after unlocking all vehicles I am happy just to be racing with the different classes and courses.
There are not many other games like this one for dirt racing with jumps and embankments. DiRT 2 was just released and has incredible damage and a bunch of different events. A word of caution there is a game called SCORE International Baja 1000, do not mistake Baja: Edge of Control for that game cause it is not good.
Baja: Edge of Control has fast load screens, plenty of events, vehicles, speed almost to a fault, cool crashes, vehicle damage, decent graphics, and the track designer should win an award. I would like one more closer 3rd person camera angle, a steering wheel drivers view and an after-race video replay option. The lack of replays really suck cause this is the genre for it and a game that needs it.
Check out the videos in the link section on the right of this review. The Damage video is great and there is also a video review of the game and for more info check out the 2XL web site it has lots of videos and pictures of all content in game. You can see the track selection screens showing the maps with the curves of the courses. Actually see how each course is laid out.
If you get the game, after putting in the cheat codes, you should pick for your first race to be in Cabo San Lucas on the La Muerte Track in a trophy truck. After that do the next race to the right on Rancho Mafianna, it's a bit more technical with tighter turns and climbs. There is a course or two that are not that good, so this way you will experience the best of this game from the beginning.
CHEAT CODES: Enable or disable them from the 'cheat code option' in the options menu. You only have to enter codes once and it saves them to be enabled or not next time you play. "SHOWTIME" unlocks all tracks and vehicles "SUPERMAX" unlocks all parts
OPTIONS - MODES - VEHICLES - SETTINGS There are six types of race modes for casual play, plus career mode, plus 4 player split screen, online play and LAN. There is a Panorama mode that requires 3 TVs to create a panoramic view; left center and right.Baja Career Mode plays out with you racing for cash to purchase vehicles, then customize and tune them in the Garage for better performance. Below are the six casual play modes.
1) FREE RIDE: 9 large, open-world locations with all the Circuit Race tracks to cross over, into, through. 2) CIRCUIT RACE: Choose from the previous 9 free ride Locations, then select between 5-10 different tracks 3) RALLY RACE: 27 tracks, either race on a single staggered stage or a longer non stop event 4) HILL CLIMB: 7 tracks 5) OPEN CLASS: 9 tracks, here each class of vehicle starts at a different time. If raced right each should cross the finish line at the same time 6) BAJA: Actual real world events <Score Baja 1000 - 3hrs <Score Baja 500 - 1.5hrs <Cabo Baja 500 - 1.5hrs <Sky Ranch Baja 250 - 1hr <Ensenada Baja 250 - 1hr <San Felipe Baja 250 - 1hr
VEHICLES: Vehicles are selectable by class and laid out in a side-scrolling way. If you press forward on the right analog stick you can instantly zoom in to view the vehicle. Licensed vehicles include VW Beetles, H3 Hummer, Toyota Tacoma, Jeep Wrangler, Nissan Xterra, F-Series Fords including the F-100, Ford Ranger and more including the open wheel dune buggy type classes. 187 vehicles in all.
Trophy Truck: 34 Class 1 Unlimited: 24 Full-size Truck: 16 Mini Truck: 17 Open Wheel: 18 4x4 Class: 17 Unlimited VW: 15 Baja Bug: 27 Bonus Class: 19 Little go-karts and mini-looking trucks: power wheels size.
Event Settings: Race Mode: Pre-Run, Single Race, Time Trial Laps: 1-14 AI Difficulty: sliding scale from easy to hard AI Opponents: 1-9 Class Restrictions: All, competitive classes, or your vehicle class only Vehicle Damage: Off, Cosmetic, Full Tree Collision: All, few Units: MPH or KM/H
Other settings options include the Garage, Stats, Traction Control, screen settings, brightness, etc..
Final Word: I don't know if it's a sim or arcade dirt racing game. After watching a tv dirt "pro2" race event I would say sim, especially how the body panels hang off but still it blurs the line with arcade cause it is just such an active suspension that will launch you off course it doesn't seem real, but the tv pro2 racing looked just like this game. I may come to regret that statement of "launching you off course" after more time playing. Even now I know it is wrong, but I want to note the opinion and then go on to say the vehicles do handle well. Be sure to start off your first Baja: Edge of Control race with my earlier track and vehicle recommendations.
So there you go. A good game.
I recommend this game. Put it on your wanted list or better yet buy it for not much. Nobody is playing online which is ok cause it is packed with so much single player content to enjoy. Check the video links, don't cause BTR's and spread the word about GameTZ.