As a former Jeep Cherokee owner, I appreciate the ability to go off-road. I lived several years on the Mississippi Gulf Coast (Gulfport) and the weather conditions would toss obstacles into roads.
Having the ability to go off-road was a blessing in those times. Now, with fuel forecasted to hit $4 a gallon, I would prefer finding a moped or a Yugo.
Thankfully, for the price of 15 gallons of fuel, a gamer can go off-road without the worries of burning gas or running up high insurance premiums.
The Codemaster release, 'DiRT,' (360/PC/PS3) feature real-world locales (Spain, Colorado - but unfortunately, not the South side or the Sandias) and a lot of getting down and dirty.
But ... good mudslinging isn't just on the 360 and PC. (Or the 2008 campaign trail as well) Sony hit pay dirt with their smash PS3 hit, 'Motorstorm,' an off-road rally that is full of rides, but lacks numerous tracks. Sega jumps into the next-generation gaming fray with 'Sega Rally Revo' for the 360 and PS3. (Remember - Sega knows off-roading - their 1995 offering, 'Sega Rally Championship was a hit) And the newcomer, 'Grand Raid Offroad' by Asobo Studios, looks very, very promising.
Even last generation consoles had more than enough games (Gran Turismo 3 and 4 for the PS2, RalliSport Challenge, ATV Quad Power Racing for the Xbox) dedicated to getting down and dirty.
Yet, in my humble opinion, the off-road only games are really for die-hard fans of the sport. The best games to go off-road, for me, are the games that allow gamers to go off-road, but only as a distraction. For me, the top games to go off-road are:
1. Test Drive Unlimited - (360, PS2) Talk about awesome views of Oahu? What I love about this game is ... if you see it, you may have to find a way to get there, but you can. The developers allow you total freedom to go off-road, if you choose. I would cringe at the idea of taking an expensive Saleen S7 or a Ferrari 612 off-road ...
2. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas - (Xbox) There is nothing funnier than driving a go-kart or an RV up Mt. Chiliad and driving it right back over the mountain. Sweet ...
3. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City - (Xbox, PS2) Driivng a golf cart is nice. Doing doughnuts in a golf cart on a golf course is even sweeter.
4. Halo - (Xbox, PC) Master Chief and the Warthog - for the uninformed, the Warthog is a cool off-road military vehicle that is hard as the devil to handle. But once you get the hang, it's a trip to drive.
5. Motorstorm - (PS3) The target render at the gaming mecca called E3 sold me. The actually game wasn't even close to the rendering, but it's still good looking and the muddy windshield effect really rocks.