Ready for high-flying off-road action in a huge assortment of the world's most rugged trucks and SUVs? Wanna get your groove on with intense pedal-stomping, fender-bending vehicular mayhem? Dying to check out exotic and dangerous courses all over the world? You are? Really? Cool. Now all you've gotta do is wait for a game that delivers all that stuff - because Test Drive: Off-Road 2 sure doesn't.
In all fairness (and I'm always fair, right?), off-roading might not be the ideal sport to try to base a game around - or at least not in the hyperfrantic over-the-top style Accolade chose for Off-Road 2. Most of your time is spent with the accelerator smashed to the floor as you bounce all over the track, brushing up against invisible walls and careening back onto the course. Yeah, you get to ram other trucks and jeeps, and you get to make some really big jumps - but so what? It's an empty feeling no matter how much air you catch or how many times the rad commentator says "Awesome!" or "Sweeeet!"
But even if extreme off-roading would make for a great game, Test Drive: Off-Road 2 comes up short in so many different areas that it wouldn't matter anyway. There's a total of 12 tracks, but it's really six times two - running a course backward is counted as a separate track. Only four of those can be raced until you place high enough in competition, but when you do that, the first new track that's revealed is - you guessed - one of those four in reverse.
There's a whole mess of cars here - some are locked out until you prove yourself, of course - but absolutely zero specs on what you can expect out of them when you hit the dirt. Terrain graphics are a woolly tangle of polygons and pixels, and the cars are plain-Jane renderings on a par with the pickup truck at the start of Redneck Rampage. Get an eyeful of this stuff, and you'll be wondering how the same company that put out the great-looking Test Drive 5 could try to pawn this outmoded PlayStation game on unsuspecting fans of arcade-style racing. Toss in some high weirdness with the frame rate - it's either really choppy or the graphics just make it seem that way - and engine sound effects that sound like Keith Emerson's first attempt at playing a Moog, and you've basically got nothing worth watching here unless you want to admire the digitized 2D images of lifeguards or Arabs on camels.
Topping it all off is one of the laziest interface designs I've had the displeasure of dealing with in a long time. Want a first-person perspective? Fine - you don't get a hood, wheel, or speedometer, just a ground-level view of those dubious terrain graphics. That worked OK in Test Drive 5, but in Off-Road 2 it makes it look like you're tearing through the desert on a jet-powered luge.
Then again, you might have trouble finding that first-person perspective because the manual doesn't tell you what the views (0-7) are; you've got to load up a race and check it out until you get the one you want. Feel like changing button assignments? Too bad - there's no option to assign any commands to keys or buttons. I know, you want to check out the instant replay and savor some of those killer jumps you made in the last race - but you're out of luck again because there's absolutely no instant replay whatsoever.
And a word of warning to you fans of hard-core metal and industrial rock who might be tempted to pick this game up for the soundtrack tunes by Sevendust, Gravity Kills, and Fear Factory: Don't bother. There's a total of four tunes here (guess it matches the measly number of available tracks at the start of the game), and only one of them is worth a listen.
Some games are so good you never forget them, and some are so bad that you can't wipe them from your memory no matter how hard you try. Test Drive: Off-Road 2 obviously doesn't fall into the first category, but it doesn't qualify for the second either. Instead, it's one of those very, very special games that's almost completely forgettable from the moment you hit the Quit button. Maybe if they'd put some guns or flamethrowers on the jeeps or put land mines on the course... nah, never mind. It would still be bad.