Reviewed: December 2, 2008
Released: November 4, 2008
Racing… a national past-time that has bridged continents and generations. I’ve been fan of racing for many years and have seen everything from motocross to NASCAR to boat racing, albeit from the comforts of my living room. My favorite type of racing however takes us through the southwestern United States and across the Baja Peninsula. I’m of course talking about the rugged off-road sport known as Baja.
When anyone talks about Baja racing, one company is sure to be mentioned. SCORE International has been organizing and running its flagship event, the Baja 1000, since the 70s. SCORE is such a driving force in the Baja community that they have teamed up with Activision and Left Field Productions to put their own spin on Baja racing in video games.
Not long ago I had the opportunity to review THQ’s BAJA which was an absolutely amazing title. Now it’s my turn to review SCORE International Baja 1000: The Official Game for the Xbox 360, the title that is THQ’s main competitor in the race for the best Baja title of the year. So can SCORE and Activision top the competitor with the same cover? Read on and find out.
The Baja 1000 is one of the most grueling events an athlete driver can put themselves through. Drivers race on ATVs, Dirt Bikes, Tomcar, Class ½ 1600 Class 1, SCORE Lite and the mother of all vehicles, the SCORE Trophy Trucks through the Baja Peninsula. I will say that the developers managed to upstage THQ in presenting all of the vehicles that attend Baja events.
Unfortunately, that is one of the few things that SCORE International Baja 1000 does right. It offers much of the same locals and vehicles but BAJA is far from realistic or “official.” Personally if the box says that is an “official” anything you would expect a quality title. But that is not the case here.
Baja 1000 offers players 3 different modes: Career, Exhibition and Multiplayer for players to meander through in this off-road experience. The Career Mode puts players through 6 different racing events including Head to Head, Single Class, and Endurance Regional races. Exhibition mode allows players to choose their favorite rides, tracks and event and put their driving skills to the test. I’ll touch up on Multiplayer in bit, so sit tight.
To try and keep with a realistic take on this title, Left Field and Activision have included the SCORE Lite and Trophy Truck classes as well as several real Baja 1000 racing teams such as McMillin, Walsh, and Prather. In real Baja 1000 racing, the driver is often accompanied by a co-pilot to help them with directions or to take over driving the car. In Baja 1000, you the player have a co-pilot; however he or she depending on your selected voice choice gives you somewhat accurate directions.
But besides the few things they add to make this title realistic, they add twice as many things to yank that illusion away. For starters, every vehicle in Baja 1000 has a turbo installed on it. While it does give you a sense of speed, it does come off as a bit cheap. THQ’s Baja required the player to use pure driving skill and vehicle upgrades to come out on top.
The lack of being able to upgrade your cars and tune them to your liking is another issue that I have with Baja 1000. You can unlock more and more vehicles as you advance through the Career mode, but most of them are only minor upgrades of the vehicle you used before it and thus offer no real rewards. It’s a simple case of pick track and event, pick from the 91 different vehicle variations then select start race.
And finally my biggest beef with this title… the handling. The handling on the vehicles in Baja 1000 falls somewhere between Auto Modellista and the Cruis’n series as far as racing titles go. For one, the vehicles feel like they have no relationship to the ground and the handling is loose as all get out, especially when driving a dirt bike.
Graphically, Baja 1000 does a few things right. One of if not the biggest thing I like about the graphics is the dust effect that was near non-existent in THQ’s BAJA. The slo-mo camera replays when you wreck are actually pretty cool as well. However they get real old real fast, luckily there is an option to turn them off, leaving a split second delay after the crashes for the player to resume his race.
SCORE International Baja 1000’s sound effects to be quite honest got on my nerves real quick. Don’t get me wrong, I love off-road titles but if the vehicles sound like lawnmowers, I’m not impressed. On the plus side Baja 1000 features some cool music from groups like Powerman 5000, Styles of Beyond, Hopesfall, Celldweller and Thrice. I liked a lot of the music in Baja 1000 and it does get you in the mood to race, for what it’s worth.
The Multiplayer Mode of Baja 1000 offers the player 3 different ways to play. The first is 2 Player split screen which isn’t too bad, better than playing alone. You can also System Link two 360’s up so up to 8 friends can get in on the action. And finally you can play with up to 8 people via Xbox Live, but good luck even finding even one other person to race. I sure didn’t find anyone. Baja 1000 also lacks the extended play experience that THQ’s title does by not presenting the Baja 1000 event to race like theirs does. If you’re going to put “Baja 1000” as half your title it would probably be a good idea to incorporate the vent into the game.
All in all, SCORE International Baja 1000, was mildly entertaining as a whole. It features good music, decent graphical aspects, but its severe shortcomings slow down whatever good concept the title originally held. I recommend renting this title first before deciding to buy it. If you’re looking for a real off-road experience you better off getting THQ’s BAJA.