Baja: Edge of Control HD comes in as a remastered version of the original off-road racer from 2008, containing more than 1,000 miles of the “toughest terrain” that ranges from steep mountain passes, foot thick mud, and the deepest canyons known to man. Having never played the original, or ever even hearing about it for that matter (too busy playing World at War) I was naturally excited to get stuck in. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll give any racing game a good go, but I much prefer harsh terrain over smooth asphalt. So there I was installing the game and waiting ever so patiently for the install to finish, and then it hit me. Why haven’t I heard of this game before? Surely if it was a hit I would have heard of the game in passing at least? Taking to the world wide web I took it upon myself to do some research before the install completed, and after five minutes of digging, I sat back wondering why the hell has this been given the treatment of a remaster? It didn’t seem to do overly well in 2008, so what’s changed since then other than a fresh lick of paint? Installation complete, I jumped in to get a first hand account of Baja HD.
Baja: Edge of Control HD offers up improved controls, a better implemented UI, and an easier career start, all of which is tied up with more detailed visuals that supposedly run at super smooth frame-rates in up to 4K screen resolution. The game takes place in Mexico’s Baja Californian Peninsula, in which you’ll be taking on challenges such as rally races, circuit racers, head to head racers, hill climbs, and the iconic Baja 1000. The most alluring aspect of the game is easily the extensive career mode, something that dishes up the ability to upgrade a wide range of off-road vehicles from varying classes, all of which come with their own set of events. As you work your way through said events, you’ll gain sponsors, cash and experience which can be reinvested into your career path.
The actual racing feels both responsive and fluid, and when you group this with the staggering amount of tracks, there’s a great deal of fun to be had within. There’s a light damage system in place to ensure that you don’t too drive angry, and I say that loosely because if you do find yourself in a tough spot due to too many high-jumps or frequent collisions, you can roll yourself into a pit-stop to gain a quick repair quite swiftly. Racing in Baja: Edge of Control HD doesn’t come without a challenge due to the off-road nature of play. Tracks often house wide open track-side banks and harsh corners that will test your racing skills to the limit, let alone the dangerous T800-like AI that will bash your vehicle or take you out at every chance they get. It’s a solid experience regardless as to how you play, and a nice break from the more casual racing games in recent times.
Although the career mode hardly leaves much to be desired, it can wear thin before long. There’s no denying that Baja HD brings the content, but to uphold a massive career path like this, there could have been more events thrown in to keep the staleness at bay. The further you climb through the ladder of races and events, you’ll unlock a heap of new vehicles to use through the entirety of play. In any case if you do grow tired of the career, there are other modes on offer to dive into. Baja HD supports multiplayer online and offline, with split-screen for up to four players included.
Outside of this you can take a nice spin in any of your unlocked vehicles at your own leisure via the massive open world tracks that are available to you. There’s a few hidden surprises in here too, such as secret tracks and secret jumps, but there’s nothing really overly enticing to keep you thoroughly engaged. My major complaint sits with the customisation, being that there isn’t much thought put into the vehicle tuning. Car parts are priced almost equally and many of the better parts can simply be purchased from the get-go, taking away that sense of progression by a slight degree. It’s a shame really because in a game as big as this, progression is key to ensuring that players feel like their moving toward something, rather than simply completing events to unlock new vehicles.
There’s also a tutorial mode to take to, but the core mechanics are so straight forward that this is practically a pointless addition. Obviously with this being a remaster there’s a great bump in the visuals and performance in comparison to the 2008 counterpart. It’s nowhere near as crisp and stunning as a AAA racer such as Project CARS 2 or Forza Motorsport 7, but Baja HD is detailed well enough to see the experience through nevertheless. Furthermore it’s half the price of any given AAA racer, weighing it at $29.99 / £23.99. Is there enough content on offer to justify that price tag? Easily, but the real question is whether or not you can forgive the repetitive gameplay and somewhat weak upgrade system.
Baja: Edge of Control HD is more of an arcade racer than a sim racer, and comes jam packed with plenty of content to sink into. Sadly the sheer length of the career does wear thin before long, and the overly simplistic upgrade / tuning system takes away that feeling of progression that’s present in any given standard racer, but it’s a solid entry nevertheless. The visuals wont stand out particularly well next to recently released (and soon to release) AAA racing games, but there’s a clear bump in both detail and performance in comparison to the original serving. Throw in online multiplayer with split screen four player support, a heap of unlockable vehicles and a massive portion of tracks, and it’s hard to grumble at what you’re getting in return for the well set price point.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.