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Freeware Friday: Off-Road Velociraptor Safari

Welcome to Freeware Friday, a weekly column showcasing excellent games that you can play free of charge!

This is a first for me. Over the past few months, I have espoused the virtues of a wide variety of freeware games, from shooters to strategy games. Never, however, have I talked about a browser game. This week marks the first, and definitely not last, time that I'll be showcasing a browser game. When a game is as good as Off-Road Velociraptor Safari, one must share it with everyone. Plus, with most of our staff at E3, Off-Road Velociraptor Safari is perfect for them! Just don't expect many browser games to make it onto Freeware Friday.

To describe Off-Road Velociraptor safari in only a few words would be difficult. The best classification one can ascribe to it is "physics racing sandbox arcade game". And that's not even touching upon many of the other things you can do in the game world to rack up those precious points. From stunts to murder, it's all available to you from the very start. You must just experiment to figure it out.

The basic gameplay revolves around driving an off-road jeep with rather bad balance. It's okay, though, as the light weight of your vehicle combined with the abnormally high center of gravity leads to some hilarious scenarios. But I am getting ahead of myself. You can use WASD or the arrow keys to drive, whichever is your personal preference. Your vehicle is also partially destructible, being able to lose doors and its hood for extra points. Pressing B will give you a good boost to your speed as well, which is great for chasing down the errant raptor or hitting a sweet jump.

The initial gameplay you will most likely fall into is dragging raptors into the extraction points. In order to do this, you must first kill the raptor in any fashion, then get the corpse back to the extractor. To aid you in your endeavor, you can press space to release a ball and chain out the back of your vehicle. The ball will stick to any raptors and drag them along, although be warned that a sharp impact to the car, ball, or chain can accidentally detach it. Thankfully, you have an unlimited supply.

For those more oriented towards exploration, the game has a wide variety of places to find orbs. There's one hundred in total, and can be found everywhere from behind rocks, between trees, or off cliffs. Each one nets you a small amount of points, although getting multiple ones back-to-back will get you more per orb. Once you collect an orb, if you go back into the game for another session, the orb will be blue and can still be collected. This sort of persistence in a browser game is excellent and much appreciated.

For the stuntsman, there's all sorts of jumps laid around the environment, from natural to completely man-made. Luckily for you, doing a crazy stunt is the best way to destroy parts of your vehicle, netting you a large amount of points for both stunts and destruction. The farther you travel, the more you spin or flip, and various other factors increase the amount of possible score you can get from a stunt. However, like real life, there's no in-air control, so no starting a flip mid-jump!

Off-Road Velociraptor Safari's true brilliance, though, lies in the complete openness of its game world. While there may be specific goals you may wish to accomplish, in the end you can just goof off for no reason and have fun. The environment is large, you have a lightweight, overbalanced vehicle with good speed and a turbo boost, and raptors are running around everywhere. It's the first sandbox browser game I've ever personally run across, and it's extremely impressive. The ton of little additions, such as the realistic modeling of the raptors and the real-life raptor tips add a lot of charm to the game on top of it as well.

If you get tired of playing to just fool around, there's a few things you can do. The immediate one is to compete on the leaderboards for the highest score. There's two seperate leaderboards as well: one for that day's scores, and one for all-time high scores. Even if you can't get high up on the all-time list, there's still a good chance of doing well on the single-day leaderboard. What may be in the ten thousands on the all-time ranking may be in the hundreds on the single-day ranking.

Besides the leaderboards, you can also work on achievements. They range from the simple (Kill 20 raptors in one round) to the impossible (Kill a raptor by landing on it after a 50m jump). Because you must register an account to play the game, though, it keeps track of any and all achievements that you have unlocked, even if you play from a different computer or delete your cookies.

If I had to complain about one thing, it's how poorly the game runs on medium-end and low-end machines. This is accentuated by the fact that there is no ability to scale the graphics up or down like there is for most normal 3D PC games. There's more faults than just that, though. An annoying camera system that sometimes phases into the ground and a lack of music all stand glaringly obvious in the light of the games incredibly simple and compelling gameplay. An options menu would be greatly appreciated as many things, such as always having slow-mo when you hit a raptor , feel like they could be toggled off based on personal preference.

Despite the flaws in optimization and execution, Off-Road Velociraptor Safari is easily one of the best browser games we've ever played. With its sanbox physics gameplay, easy accessibility, multitude of goals, and various extra ways to judge how you are doing, it's a wonderful game to play anywhere. You can play the game online at the Flashbang Studios site. You must have the Unity web player in order to play the game.

For another look at freeware games, take a peek at Joystiq's Free Game Club weekly feature!


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