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If you’ve no idea what Baja is, our first preview covers the basics: it’s deserty, it’s off-roady, and it involves racing. It’s brown, with cacti, and mesas, and cloudy skies. It looks a bit like MotorStorm, Colin McRae Dirt, MX vs. ATV, and the others.
But having been done before isn’t a reason to avoid a genre – at no point in the near future do we expect Epic and Bungie to call it quits on sci-fi shooters because they’re “getting a bit old.” It does, however, provide some motivation to be different.
While becoming familiar with our preview copy of Baja, we picked out our six favorite parts of the experience. These are what we believe will help Baja stand out from the other off-roaders in what is becoming an increasingly crowded desert.
6. Exploring the giant maps
It took a minute to set aside the instinctual feeling that we were going to hit an arbitrary barrier. Hard as we looked, we couldn’t find a magical checkerboard wall anywhere. Baja’s real life locations contain miles and miles of rough terrain (not like, “they put a rock texture on it” rough, actually, physically rough).
That mountain back there isn’t just a static backdrop - it's just a small part of this particular area.
So, naturally, we decided to drive up it.
If navigating inclines thrills you as much as it does mountain goats, the hill-climb races let you compete in just that. While not entirely new to games, Baja does the hill-climb event particularly well.
The hills contain multiple routes, and aside from speed, you've got to avoid damaging your vehicle. Not easy considering the complexity of the terrain, and made worse when there are nine opponents in your way.
Once at the top, you'll inevitably want to charge down the mountain in the most Dukes of Hazzard manner possible. Given the extent of Baja’s terrain, it’ll take you a while to run out of cliffs to throw yourself over.
In races, you're not particularly rewarded for catching air. You lose speed, and bottoming out upon landing damages your precious vehicle and slows you down. Doesn't mean you can't enjoy a few Evil Knievel moments anyway.
The crashes may not be as spectacular as MotorStorm’s, but the vertical distances involved in the spills are epic enough. Also, just as in the real-world rally races, civilian traffic is one of the most challenging obstacles. We’d never run into anyone intentionally, of course.