Dakar 18, I had my eye on this one for a while, the long distance off-road navigation aspects intrigued me quite a bit and I was looking forward to getting my hands on it and giving it a go. The game features huge open maps with five vehicle types, Quads, Bikes, Cars, SxS and Trucks on offer to tackle the enduring terrain.
There’s three game modes, with the ‘Adventure’ being the main single player campaign, Multiplayer that features both splitscreen and online, and Explore, here you can do some training in your current vehicle, these are basically extremely short stages. Replay the tutorial that’s given at the begging of the game and finally Treasure Hunt. Here you go off in search of collectibles, with a general area to search given on the map.
The singleplayer Adventure consists of 14 stages, you have to make your way from the starting point to the finish in the fastest possible time hitting the checkpoints along the way. Stages can take around an hour to complete making them quite demanding, there’s more than just navigating the terrain to deal with too, as your vehicle can take damage and consume fuel. selecting different difficulties will alter how much help you get with navigation on the HUD although the co-pilot is always talking about which way you should be going, how far til the next nav point etc. Unless you are using a bike or quad as there’s no co-pilot while using these, making them much more difficult.
Unfotunately quite a fair bit of the game needs addressing, the physics, controls, and visuals are all sub par. Control wise the default setting make the game pretty unplayable with huge dead zones on the steering making it almost impossible to make the most simple of steering corrections without the vehicle going full-lock. I did manage to make some changes in the controller options to change the steering for the better but this should be right from the get go. Physics wise everything just feels stiff, from the body roll of the vehicles to the sand of the terrain which at times feels more like driving on concrete, which in turn also damages the vehicles like they’re on concrete, the slightest touch of body work in the sand will cause no end of damage and also set off the overly emotional co-driver who will berate you for every little bump.
It all make the game unpleasant and a chore to play, especially if you are 50+ minutes in and you take a tiny bump at the bottom of a sand dune that utterly destroys your vehicle, while you can restart from a previous checkpoint the game will keep the damage sustained right before you ‘crashed out’ previously, making it more sensible to start the whole stage again. I know the developers are working on patches, with other platforms having received them already, however at the time of writting this the Xbox One version has yet to get any. It is an ambitious game and I applaud Bigmoon for that, however it should have been tidied up before release not rushed out like it has.
Visually the game looks OK, it’s not got that polish that makes it stand out, and there’s a few visual bugs that let it down too, mainly one where the camera seems to bug out for a second, giving off flashes of white on screen. I touched on the audio a little already with mention of the co-driver, you will be hearing them more than anything else in the game and it should feel right, but it doesn’t. They are so overbearing it’s uncomfortable, as I mentioned earlier the slightest bump will have them shouting at you, the same goes for changing direction for the next waypoint, if you’re not heading in that direction pretty much as it changes you’ll get berated for this too.
the other modes don’t really entice you to try them out, multiplayer is dead online, and the treasure hunt mode is quite boring. I’d like to see something more of a scenario mode, something like how the tutorial plays out, where you are shown a fellow competitor stuck in the sand and you can get out and winch them out of the sand they’re stuck in. (This is also the one and only time I encountered the ability to use this feature throughout my time playing). Something to liven the game up just a little more and of course those all important fixes that are needed.