Almost a full decade ago, during a time when PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 owners were gearing up for yet another World War II shooter in Call of Duty: World at War, Forza Motorsport 3 and Gran Turismo 5 were still yet to be announced by Turn 10 Studios, and the whole racing simulator market was basically a genre exclusive to hardcore PC enthusiasts, THQ and Rainbow Studios took a major gamble and churned out BAJA: Edge of Control – a radical departure from their predominantly motocross based games, packing a comprehensive, semi-realistic off-road racing experience into a title which received practically no mainstream exposure, and in some cases was completely misunderstood by those tasked with reviewing it.
Save for the abysmal framerate on the PlayStation 3 copy of the game, and the admittedly simplistic visuals – which sucked all kinds of ass, even back in 2008 – Edge of Control featured a surprising amount of depth to the package and came with vast array of content, turning it into a cult classic of sorts; those who bought it knowing exactly what to expect from a desert racing quasi-simulator, were quite frankly blown away by just how much shit there was to see and do. The game boasted a lengthy, open-ended career mode with an appropriate amount of vehicle customization and upgrade options, nine massive landscapes, eight of the most popular four-wheeled vehicle classes combining for a grand total of something like 170 vehicle models, and over one hundred total tracks, with the point-to-point stages lasting upwards of fifteen minutes. If all of this sounds spectacular on paper, that’s because it certainly was.
THQ Nordic, of MX vs. ATV Supercross fame, have announced that they are in the process of re-mastering BAJA: Edge of Control for current generation consoles, anticipating the title to hit the online marketplace in the second quarter of 2017 – or in other words, very soon. Though PC sim racers will obviously feel left out of the festivities, most of us own at least one current generation console and a wheel that is fully compatible with said console, meaning a whole bunch of people who missed out on the greatness that was Edge of Control back in 2008 will be able to experience it in a significantly refined fashion.
According to WorthPlaying, THQ Nordic will make no fundamental changes to the vanilla Edge of Control experience, with only three main adjustments planned:
- Greater immersion via various graphical improvements including better textures, higher framerate and increased details
- More authentic racing by improved rendering techniques for shadows, lighting and dust effects
- More accessible gameplay due to improved controls, user interface, and an easier career start
As I mentioned above, the game’s framerate was simply not up to standard on the PlayStation 3 version of the game compared to the Xbox 360 rendition, so it’s nice to see this will be bumped up to what will most likely be 60 FPS. Lighting and special effects will also be refined, though the simplistic vehicle models and environments most likely won’t do a whole lot to help with the game’s obvious lack in visual fidelity – a primary drawback of the original title.
However, THQ Nordic plan to make a second pass on Edge of Control’s ironic lack of control, which contributed to the steep learning curve that turned a lot of people off. In my opinion, this is a very good move for THQ Nordic to make, as the game indeed had problems when driving at maximum attack. As someone who invested a lot of time into BAJA back when it was a brand new title, partaking in multiple online 1000-mile races with a buddy to help kill boring evenings, trucks could enter an uncontrollable death-wobble with the right combination of speed and uneven terrain, where the vehicles would rapidly shift weight laterally from side to side until the truck shook itself into a spin or violent roll. This lead to situations where driving at a moderately quick pace was an absolute crap-shoot, because a control stick was simply inadequate at keeping the vehicle in a straight line. It was as if the moment you started pushing, the truck always exhibited mass body roll to one side and you constantly had to treat the never-ending body roll like an elongated grind as if you were playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. It was weird as hell, but you got rid of it by backing off the throttle and driving conservatively.
THQ Nordic are supposedly going to fix this, so that’s nice.
Career Mode will also see a bit of a makeover, which is probably a good design decision in the long run. The original BAJA: Edge of Control forced you to start in the slowest class available in the game – the lightly modified Volkswagen Beetle hobbyist championship – meaning the first few hours were spent in a car that was simply painful to drive, and that’s before we mention the car had no upgrades whatsoever, therefore putting you at a huge disadvantage to the AI.
Most of the tracks and locations in Edge of Control were designed to compliment the two fastest vehicles on the roster – Trophy Trucks & Class 1 Unlimited Buggies – so early championships were the equivalent of taking a Spec Miata to Spa-Francorchamps in iRacing, or the Honda Fit to the Nordschleife in Gran Turismo. I tried many times to sit down for the single player campaign, and I simply couldn’t. It was unbearable to drive the slow stuff, so it’s nice to see THQ Nordic have recognized this as a weak point and are making an effort to change it.
I’m extremely excited to see how Baja 4K will turn out, as it’s truly a unique title that is unlike anything the world of sim racing currently has to offer, even if I’m forced to bust out my PlayStation 4 to play it. Edge of Control was a comprehensive off-road racer; a literal encyclopedia of modern desert racing that was created by a team who were obviously passionate about the sport, but simply released at the wrong time, and unable to fully capitalize on the power of either gaming system it was created for.
Thank you, THQ Nordic, for bringing this game back. I’m hoping we eventually see this on the Steam platform as well, because there are a whole bunch of sim racers who would love to try their hands at this stuff.