Well this is what Off Road - Wide Open promises.

· Top developer: Angel Studios (Midtown Madness)

· Full 3D environments, total freedom to explore - The landscape is the Playground!

· Complete Off-Road experience - Racing, Hill climbs, jump tests, Free-ride mode, and more

· Highly detailed and officially licensed vehicles including Hummer, Jeep, Dodge and the brand new European Mercedes and BMW 4X4's

· Real locations with 30 tracks and A to B courses in vast, living and open environments, plus 10 bonus events

· 2-player split-screen

Can't say I'm impressed after playing it though, and believe you me I spent a good four hours on this - just to make sure and pray that I might be wrong. I really am disappointed in all areas of this game; it's just so dull.

When I don't like a game I try and find some nice things to say about it regardless, usually I'll like the graphics or the feel of the game itself. But I have to admit (and I'm probably going to get hell for this) I cannot find a single redeeming feature about Infogrames latest published offering from the developers of Midtown Madness. I'm sorry but this Off Road - Wide Open is an unadulterated pile of crap. It's nothing new and it's sub standard in the areas of gameplay.

Sure the graphics are quite nice and the idea of free roaming around these environments is great, but it's all put together so boringly. There's nothing about it that really reaches out and grabs me shaking my collar and saying. "WAKE UP THIS IS GOOD!"

Wow! I can drive some 4x4s that I've never even heard of around some dusty environments that aren't all that great all to the tune of yesterday's songs. Bands like Metallica with their song 'Fuel' and others make up the pounding relentless beat of this utter snore-fest. The control and the feel of this game is purely arcade, which I can understand and even sympathise with to some extent. But there are better games out there, which you can spend your hard-earned cash on.

The constant drone of the game's engines that makes up a large portion of the sound is the only thing that keeps you awake during a race. I have to admit I might have felt my heart pound a little (like Montgomery Burns) when I was playing the single player portion of the race. But that soon wore off like a case of heartburn or another malady - it really is quite lack lustre for a so-called top developer to make. Then again I was no great fan of Midtown Madness.

The graphics are nothing to write home about, the PS2 is capable of much better detail, effects and a decent frame rate. I find this title doesn't live up to expectations at all and is a thorough letdown. You're better off buying another racing game like Burnout - which knows how to be a racing game. Now fans of this title might point out, but it's freeform and you can race around the landscape. I have to admit that this gets bloody boring after a while and I did honestly give the game a fair shot at the end. Bits fall off your 4x4 but that's about it, dirt collects on the surface of the paintwork and can be washed off if you drive down a river or through some water.

A nice touch - but that's all it is, the drivers AI on the other vehicles is astoundingly crap as well, they shove and push like a bunch of demented badgers who're seeking to be the first to build the dam, but they don't drive intelligently at all. You're left just tear arsing around the track chasing the high-speed leader and there's no real use of tactics at all. So far I've seen a few race types, normal race mode, flag run and a scramble, these are also lack lustre and ultimately boring.

I'd like to write more about it but I feel I can't, there's not much to say, if you've played Smuggler's Run and Smuggler's Run 2 you'll know the kind of game this is and steer clear of it like a wet icy road in rush hour. If you actually love this kind of game then it's not bad for your money. But I'd rather recommend a frontal lobotomy than this tried and tested drivel.

To conclude - this game is a weak entry into the field of the PS2 racer and should be avoided unless you're desperate. I find no redeeming features and the two-player mode is just a little better, but in the end it leaves you feeling like a flat tyre. If Gamesxtreme had a turkey-award then this would qualify, lock stock and two smoking barrels for it.