Baja • Page 2

1000 miles without stopping.

On a straight, you're constantly adjusting your trajectory, all the while keeping an eye on the mini-map and the vanishing point to measure your way into difficult turns, not least because flying off the outside doesn't send you into a wall; it sends you into the brush, where you'll take some damage and probably have to manually reset yourself to the track.

Baja doesn't penalise you too much for this, and will actually let you explore off-course, providing you're only running parallel to the track and not cutting corners; and while damage is a problem, at least you've got that helicopter. By holding a button (Y on 360, which was the only version demoed) you can order it to land somewhere up ahead and fix you up; all you have to do is work out where it is on the mini-map or by keeping your eyes to the sky, and then pull up alongside it. Cars can't be terminally damaged anyway, but the inefficiency of taking longer to recover from a deep landing makes the repair delay worthwhile.

You also have to be mindful of taking damage because at least part of your winnings comes from sponsors, who pay you to cover your car in fancy stickers and logos, which will not survive being ground against a muddy bank or barrel-rolled into cactus. They will not pay you if you can't see what's being advertised by the time you cross the finish line, obviously. On the plus side, you can spend some of their money reducing the likelihood of problems, by upgrading suspension, roof kits, aerodynamics and so on between races.

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Everything about the cars has been modelled from real life, with particular emphasis on the pummelling vehicles take from below and how that influences handling.

Those races include Hill Climbs, Rally races, Open Class and Circuit races. Circuit is pretty obvious, and Rally is point-to-point, with 2XL explaining delightedly that the Baja never closes off the regular roads that cross its path, so you need to watch out for civilian traffic.

Hill Climb is as it is in other rally games - epic climbs where you need to maximise your RPM and manage gears to ascend the summit and then descend again without spilling violently - and Open Class races mix the field up completely, pitting trophy trucks and 4x4s against bikes and buggies, where the greater the horsepower the further back you begin, with the idea being that everyone achieves parity only at the very end, intensifying the pressure as you close in on the finish line.

Beyond that, four players will be able to take part in split-screen races, and there is online and network play for up to 12 drivers. One option that might appeal here is the Free Ride, which simply lets you explore the vast game world with your friends, and 2XL promises that there will be hidden treats to help you make your own fun - one example being a giant golf course concealed in the dunes and canyons, with a giant ball to knock around. And if that doesn't appeal, you could always go out and buy some more plasma screens and consoles, obviously. It's what your family wants for you. Discover that for yourself when Baja comes out on PS3 and 360 in August.

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