Growing up around dirt track racing, I was super excited to get my hands on THQ’s revived World of Outlaws franchise. The World of Outlaws is like the pinnacle to dirt track fans. As a kid I had my Jeff Hewitt t-shirt at every race the Sprints ran in Indiana and Kentucky. I couldn’t wait to relive those steamy Saturday nights from my childhood in my own virtual sprint car. But just like getting a flat on your trailer on the way to the track, things start looking bad early.
You ever heard that you get what you pay for? The person who made up that phrase would certainly agree that it applies here. The best thing about this game is the budget price THQ slapped on it, and the price being the best thing is almost always a bad sign. From the way the cars glide almost above the ground to the generic guitar rock that would make Sonic Team blush, this game is budget.
Besides a soundtrack that will have you reaching for the mute button in a heartbeat, the visuals fail to impress. While the flinging mud “effect” is neat, it looks like a rough build. Anyone who has actually been to a dirt track race (30 million people a year do) knows that some mud will sling, but not the way it’s animated here. After several heat races, the tracks should become dark brown and slick versions of a small oval. But instead of the track morphing like it should on a hot summer Saturday night, we have a track that our winged midgets never make contact with. Somewhere between the developer trying to imitate the way sprints drift through turns and simulating the speed effect, everything went wrong. How wrong you ask? So wrong that the cars don’t even appear to be touching the track. The end result is something that looks barely above the quality of a PS2 or Xbox title.
Adding insult to injury is the way in which World of Outlaws caters to the core fans this game is targeted at. As mentioned before, dirt track fans are amongst the most loyal sports fans in the world. I still hate Jeff Gordon to this day because of the bad sportsmanship he displayed at a rare sprint car race at Florence Speedway in Kentucky when I was like twelve years old. I don’t drink Pepsi because of him. If you think that’s odd, you have no idea the lengths dirt fans go for loyalty. But the racers they’re buying this title for are barely represented. You’ll see your Outlaws in small avatars at the end of races during the results screen. For those sprint fans out there who pick this up, that may be a letdown.
The boring red and black interface and menus match the boring feel of everything else perfectly. You can tweak your racer for different tracks like the mighty Eldora. But it won’t make a difference as it seems like nothing can make your car handle well. While I’ve never been behind the wheel of a winged sprint, I know what the developer was going for with the controls. They just happened to miss the mark incredibly. Because of the bad controls, you’ll be finishing next to last almost every race. Your insurmountable challenge is only made worse by the great driving AI in the history of racing. No Outlaw would stand a chance against the AI in this game. It’s ruthless, unforgiving, and can’t lose.
Do yourself a favor and get another racer like Dirt 2 or a Sega Rally title. Both are pretty cheap these days. While other racing titles won’t offer the same familiar cars as the ones Outlaw fans want to see, you won’t enjoy this game anyways. Save your twenty bucks and wait till the season starts up around April and head to your closest dirt track. You’ll get more out of your money sitting on some old wooden bleachers, eating bad nachos, and smelling burning alcohol – than you could ever get playing this game. If you are the uber-fan of the World of Outlaws, pick it up when it drops to $9.99 in the value bin at Wal-Mart.