Author: Tomas Ratas

baja cover 2 thumb Baja: Edge of Control

The Baja 1000 is a famous off road race that takes place in Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. Known for its treacherous terrain and grueling length, it is not for the feint of heart.

THQ and 2XL has used this race as the setting for its latest release: Baja: Edge of Control. Released for both the Xbox 360 and the PS3, this game is designed with the racing enthusiast in mind.

The game features 100 square miles of track with courses across Mexico and the Southwestern United States. The tracks range from rally courses to hill climbs to baja races.

There are over forty vehicles in eight class types to choose from. Vehicles range from Trophy Trucks, 4x4s and buggies. In addition, BAJA features a full array of upgradeable options with hundreds of authentic parts that affect each vehicles performance.

Baja: Edge of Control can be played as a straight racing game, but the real meat and potatoes of the game involves the career mode, where the micromanagement of details is akin to career mode in other sports games such as the EA Madden series. So Baja can be played as a straight racing game or a more detailed sim.

Gameplay is challenging, as there are many variables to manage besides just beating the competition. Vehicle damage affects performance as well as the upgrades you gain from winning races.

As you win more races, you gain experience points, which helps to unlock new events and vehicles. Credits gained from victory can be used to purchase new upgrades and vehicles.

There is a lot of variety in Baja: Edge of Control, but unfortunately there are several drawbacks as well. The game’s AI is notoriously difficult even at the easiest settings. Plus vehicle control is not straight forward, as even on straight-aways, the vehicles tend to drift.

The game starts with the token logos from THQ and 2XL and an off road racing movie. Once on the main screen, you can choose from the various race types – Circuit Race (multiple laps to a finish line), Rally Race (a class based point to point race based on time finished), Hill Climb (a race to the top of a Hill and then back down), Open Class (handicapped racing among multiple classes), Baja (endurance races of 250, 500 or 1000 miles) and Free Ride (unrestricted free driving).

When you initially choose one of these races, a narrator describes how to control your vehicle and the rules of the event. You then select your vehicle and modify the event settings, which varies for the different types of races. Some options include – the race mode, the number of laps and the difficulty.

In career mode, you start at the bottom of the tour ladder, meaning you will start out with the Baja Bug class, which is the weakest of the eight vehicle classes. These cars lack the grip, brakes, cooling and suspension of the later available models. The irony here is to get the better vehicles with better handling; you will need to fight through races with the more difficult to drive Baja Bugs that easily sustain significant damage.

To upgrade to higher class of vehicle, you will need to win some races and gain credits and experience. You will lose a lot of races at first, so prepare for some frustration.

Another important component in Baja is vehicle damage. Cosmetic damage can affect things such as contingency sponsorship, which means, you need to finish the race with your sponsor’s logo affixed to your vehicle to gain the sponsor’s money. While physical damage to your vehicle will affect performance. Most damage occurs on how you handle your vehicle. Taking major airtime with your jumps will wreck havoc on various car components such as the oil pan, tires and suspension. Overheating is another thing to watch for as it can cause severe loss of power. Depending on the race you are in, the in game repair features will vary. In a Rally Event, a helicopter needs to be call with the radio button. Once it lands, you need to stop near it for the repairs to be carried out. The helicopter is not always available either. In a Circuit Race, there a repair stops along the route. Just stop next to one for a few seconds, then peel out to get back into the race. For flat tires, just stop and your spare will be put on. You did not lose your spare on the last jump, did you?

One of the keys to success in Edge of Control is learning how to manage all these variables and keep your vehicle in racing shape. Vehicle upgrade categories include engine, power train, tires, brakes, suspension, weight/aero, and cooling/plumbing. As you add better features, your performance gauge fills up. So having detailed knowledge about the inner working of an automobile is not necessary.

Specifications:

Baja: Edge of Control

From the core founding members of the MX vs. ATV franchise comes the ultimate off-road racing experience: BAJA. Conquer the toughest terrain Mother Nature has to offer and build the ultimate off-road vehicle in the most realistic, edge-of-control racing game ever created. Combining the best elements of the real-world sport with the right balance of arcade fun, BAJA transports players to the epic open worlds and unforgiving terrain found at the pinnacle of off-road racing. Stunning visuals, vertical environments, and unpredictable terrain are crossed in over 100 square miles of drive-to-horizon landscape. Master hill-climb, circuit, and rally races to earn career sponsorships on the path to off-road supremacy. Harness the horsepower of elite Trophy Trucks, 4×4’s and Buggies to finally compete in the definitive off-road endurance challenge, the Baja.

In BAJA: Edge of Control, players will conquer more than 100 square miles of the toughest terrain Mother Nature has to offer, including the steepest mountains, thickest mud and deepest canyons ever created. With more than 40 vehicles in eight classes, including Trophy Trucks, 4x4s and buggies, BAJA: Edge of Control features a full array of upgradeable options with hundreds of authentic parts that affect each vehicle’s performance. Players will put their off-road machines to the test in near-vertical Hill Climb challenges, head-to-head Open Class races, circuit races and the ultimate off-road endurance challenge: the Baja. BAJA: Edge of Control’s open worlds extend thousands of miles across all landscapes in races that can last up to four hours. The game’s revolutionary vehicle physics deliver unprecedented life-like handling, and a support management system allows gamers to monitor and repair realistic vehicle damage as fenders fly, tires are blown, suspension is stressed and engines overheat. BAJA: Edge of Control will support four-player split screen multiplayer capability, 10-player online and LAN as well as multiple-screen panoramic view.

* Supercharged Vehicles: Harness the horsepower of over 40 elite Trophy Trucks, 4×4’s and Buggies across eight varied vehicle classes.

* Epic Open Worlds: Stunning vistas, sheer cliffs, and towering mountains fill over 100 square miles of drive-to-horizon landscape.

* Horizontal Racing: Suspension, torque and horsepower are perfectly balanced to create the ultimate edge-of-control racing experience.

* Customization: Fine-tune the roar of your off-road machine with over 200 authentic vehicle parts.

* Multiplayer: Power past the competition in 4-player split screen and 8-player online racing.

Controls involve using the left stick to steer, right trigger for gas, left trigger to brake. For sharper turns, mastering the use of the handbrake (the A button) is necessary. To get a burst of speed, while easing off the gas, hold the clutch (the LB button) in to get the engine revving, then step on the gas. You can finish the courses without the use of the handbrake or the clutch, but your finishes in the top three will be severely limited without them.

One of the biggest problems with Baja: Edge of Control is that the Artificial Intelligence (AI) is challenging even on the easiest setting. The AI drives realistically and aggressively. Knocking an AI driven car is next to impossible and you invariably end up spinning out when trying this maneuver. Strangely, if AI driven cars gets ahead of you, they are still reachable no matter how far behind you end up.

Racing games are definitely more enjoyable against human competitors and Baja is able to be played with up to four people using a split screen or with ten players if online. You can even play Baja events which can last from one to three hours from start to finish. One nice feature in online play is the ability to let the AI take over. So if you are interrupted for whatever reason, the flow of the game does not get ruined.

Personally, I enjoyed the Free Ride mode best, since you can head off road and not worry about any time limits or AI driven vehicles running next to you.

Images / ScreenShots

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Conclusion:

The graphics in Edge of Control are not ground breaking, but the environments look fine while tearing around the racetrack. The frame rate is acceptable. The sound of car engines is the predominant audio in the game; so if you have a Dolby Digital hookup, prepare to hear a lot of vroom, vroom. Baja: Edge of Control has a lot to offer the player. It can be a deeply immersive experience, especially for the racing enthusiast. Unfortunately, the tough AI, makes the game more frustrating than enjoyable at times. Like most racing games, there is a fair amount of repetition involved. The Rally Race is as much a test of endurance as it is driving skill. Baja is an ambitious attempt at a console racer that is most likely going to appeal to the hard core off road racing crowd.

Pros:

-Multitude of courses

-Plenty of vehicle choices

-Highly detailed off road racing Sim

Cons:

-Repetitive

-Difficult even at easiest setting

-Steep learning curve

Grades:

Overall: score 7 10 thumb4 Baja: Edge of Control

Design: score 8 10 thumb7 Baja: Edge of Control

Performance: score 7 10 thumb5 Baja: Edge of Control