This remaster comes at a strange time for THQ Nordic. Formerly Nordic Games, the publisher stepped in during THQ’s downfall, picking up various properties as they were auctioned off. A few years later, and Nordic sought to revive the lifeless husk of THQ, adopting its name and logo to bring the brand back from the dead.
Although slow to start with, THQ Nordic has been steadily putting its properties to work, drumming up excitement for another Darkstalkers and re-releasing PS2 titles such as Red Faction and Destroy All Humans. Next to established series such as these, Baja: Edge of Control seems like a bizarre candidate to undergo a current-gen remaster.
Released in 2008, it was a decent yet under-polished off road racer that felt a little freer and more open than its competitors. It was fun, though only in smaller doses or when playing splitscreen. That may sound unfair, but 2008 was a killer year for the genre, bringing us Burnout Paradise, GRID, MotorStorm: Pacific Rift, and Rocket League predecessor, SARPBC.
Having played all four of those games recently I can tell you they all hold up remarkably well, and it was certainly THQ Nordic’s hope that the past nine years had been equally as kind to Baja, if not allowing it ferment over time. Unsurprisingly, that isn’t the case. It’s exact same racer now as it was back in 2008, albeit slightly prettier.
Despite boasting a wealth of options when it comes to tuning the various stats and upgrades on each vehicle, Baja has more of a snappy arcade feel as opposed to being a driving sim, and it can work rather well. You can bomb around each track without having to put much thought it as long as you don’t completely veer off course.
There’s a scrappiness to Baja with vehicles often looking to shunt and clip one another, sometimes leaving an impact. While an interesting concept, vehicle damage is something that doesn’t really add much to the experience. Take enough hits and you may want to pull over at a repair stop, though I never needed to do this once while playing. It takes inspiration from the real endurance Baja 1000 race, but it’s an added layer of gameplay that simply gets thrown away.
As previously mentioned, Baja can be fun in small bursts, though I simply couldn’t bring myself to play it for more than twenty minutes at a time. Split-screen with four players remedies this, but wading through Baja’s career mode on your own can be a mighty slog. It’s basically a huge ladder of races, each series introducing players to a newer, better vehicle class.
It sounds pretty typical of any racer, however the repetitive flow of Baja’s races will start to grate. This is perhaps worsened by the lack of visual variety on show. Aside from the occasional building and other signs of human life, you’ll be trekking across a vast mounds of dirt, barren plains, and silent mountains. Simply put, it’s devoid of any character and there certainly isn’t anything here that will wow racing fans in 2017.
Rated purely as a remaster, Baja is fine. It looks fine, and it runs fine, bolstered by improved lighting and some pretty skyboxes. The original version for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 really wasn’t much of a looker, so a gorgeous off-road showcase was never on the cards. The menus haven’t been glammed up much sadly and are still a pain to navigate, especially when it comes to vehicle upgrades.
Baja is about as middle of the road as remasters get. While it’s great to see Nordic paying attention to its stable of dormant THQ properties, exhuming an average racing game from 2008 seems a tad misguided. Baja hasn’t aged particularly well, but it’s far from bad and there’s still some fun to be had taking to the track. You just have to question why this remaster even exists.
Version Tested: PlayStation 4 Pro