Cabela's 4x4 Off-Road Adventure 3 offers 18 off-road vehicles equipped to deal with the hazardous conditions found during the rough and ready world of off-road driving. Environments include Baja, bayou, north woods, artic circle, mountain, dry riverbed, and a secret level. Players will choose from over 12 interchangeable parts including skid plates, bumper guards, lights, and tires to find a working combination for each course. Mechanical breakdowns -- broken axles, cracked engine parts, and electrical problems -- will afflict drivers and must be fixed.
As far as I can tell, the Cabela's 4x4 Off-Road Adventure series isn't particularly popular. I'm not exactly sure why that is. This latest adventure is a lot of fun. Having not played the first two, I couldn't tell you how similar it is to those titles, or what has been improved or added. As a standalone title, however, Off-Road 3 offered me a great time. It's flawed, yes, but that didn't halt my overall enjoyment with the game.
The game is just oozing with originality. There are so many titles that feel like they were slapped together in a couple of weeks for a quick buck, ready to be left collecting dust on any customers shelves within a short amount of time. I'm happy to report that this isn't the case with Off-Road 3. The game successfully mixes elements from driving games, hunting games, and even tosses in RPG-like stats for progression. It's an interesting setup that makes for a constantly fresh experience.
There's also a lot of tuning and upgrades that can be done with your vehicle. You can tinker with it's settings, add parts, or change things like tires and suspension. There are a number of different available paint jobs, too. You can earn parts by buying them or receive them as rewards. Cash can be earned by completing "missions" that are offered to you throughout the game by certain NPC's. Most of them involve you transporting a person or goods from Point A to Point B, and while these can sometimes feel tedious, they give you the opportunity to explore more land.
Exploring is something you'll find yourself doing a lot in this game. It seems to come naturally. The levels are usually pretty well designed, offering believable terrain. It can sometimes be hard to get around, though. The rugged landscape gives you many opportunities to get stuck, fall, or have your car flipped over. Sometimes you'll find yourself in a pathetic situation where you managed to get stuck between two small rocks and can't get out. Thankfully, there is an option to pull your car out of the situation and back on good land - but it'll run you ten bucks. This usually isn't a problem, but it will run your wallet down if you aren't careful. Also, it can be particularly annoying when you run out of cash. When you try to get out, the game sends you back to the garage (IE: Main menu). You can go right back to the map exactly as before, then - but if you flip your car again, you still don't have cash, and you have to go back to the garage again. This could have been avoided by reducing the fee for this feature, or simply making it free.
Nonetheless, driving is fun. The game utilizes an interesting control system that takes a while to get a grip on, but makes for nice driving experiences. You have four keys, such as arrow keys, set up for acceleration, steering left/right, and braking. There are a couple of other keys for things like switching on Four-wheel-drive; you'll probably want that on most of the time, though, anyway. The mouse is used to control the camera - an interesting touch for a driving game. You can move it behind you, above you, or to the side, manually. This takes some getting used to, and there isn't really a good way to have the camera stick in one place, especially in a game where you're driving all over the place. I found myself really liking it after I got used to driving. But if you're driving manual, good luck. Shifting in this game is a nuisance. Simultaneously steering, applying gas, and shifting, while controlling the camera is a real pain. Stick to automatic and you'll be fine.
The hunting portion of the game is fun. At any point when your car's stopped, you can hop out with the press of a key. This puts you in a first-person perspective, where you can walk around at will. You can pull out your gun with another key, or hold a different one to enable a run. It would have been cool if there was a little more depth to it (how about a jump key?) but as it is, it's not bad. You can shoot any of the animals that you come across, making the game more than a pointless driving game, but a hunting game. I was really excited the first time I came across a grazing cow. I parked my car in the brush, snuck behind a small mound of earth, and took aim at the poor fella. I was proud of myself!
The graphics in the game aren't particularly breathtaking, but they certainly are good. Environments generally look nice, with good texturing and some neat touches here and there. Occasionally you'll come across little villages or waterfalls or whatnot. Your car will also get pretty banged up if you don't take good care of it. You'll see major dents from smashing into things, cracked windshields, and even lost doors. There are also subtle effects like a smattering of dirt on the paint. You can always repair your car in the garage to make it look brand-spankin' new, of course.
Sound isn't too bad, but it's nothing to write home about. The engines sound good, and that's really the standout here. There's no voice-acting, but then, I'm not exactly sure if this game needs it. There's some dialogue, but nothing really dramatic or terribly intriguing that it needs to be spoken. The background music isn't exactly wonderful. You're probably better off turning on some music to listen to. Overall, not a bad job, but it could have been better.
All in all, I had a good time with Off-Road 3. It's refreshingly original, a lot of fun, and really cheap at twenty bones. There's a lot to do, too - there are more than a dozen maps, which are all quite large, and lots of items to find - not to mention the opportunity to raise your stats, making you better at the game. If you're looking for a driving - or a hunting - fix, look no further. It has it's share of flaws, but after figuring out the controls, this game is really a lot of fun.
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