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Off-road racing has recently become a very popular subgenre of PC driving games. The first Monster Truck Madness game from Microsoft proved that the PC-gaming community was receptive to the idea of monster cars driving into and over each other while negotiating the terrain and trying to cross the finish line. Although the Monster Truck series and other similar games have been successful in conveying certain aspects of the off-road experience, they have failed to truly deliver a sense of exploration. Instead, these games keep you on a direct route to a checkpoint or a finish line with little freedom to find alternate routes. Codemasters hopes to change all that with its upcoming off-road racer, Insane.
Developed by Hungary-based Invictus, Insane offers a wide array of features to complement the off-road racing experience. One of the more intriguing features is the jamboree mode where you must race to multiple checkpoints and place first as many times as possible in order to win the race. This may sound easy enough, but in fact, the jamboree mode requires a surprising degree of strategy. You must take into consideration the track you're racing on and what kind of topography it features, because you can and will do some serious damage to your off-road vehicle if you're not careful.
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On one jamboree track, you start the race at the top of a steep hill, with the first checkpoint clearly visible off in the distance. Assuming you don't have a tremendous amount of off-road experience, your first instinct will be to drive straight for the checkpoint with total disregard for your positioning on the hill. However, this reckless strategy will usually result in your car tumbling uncontrollably down the hill. A tire could fly off, your steering abilities could be severely impaired, or your car could just flip over. Just about anything can happen to your car if you're not careful, but since this is an off-road monster car game, there will always be situations where you might have to risk damage to your car to win.
Insane includes a number of other modes that require the same line of thinking but with added twists. In keep the flag mode, a flag is placed near the starting line of a track and after the signal is given, you must quickly race to pick up the flag and drive to the first checkpoint. Strategy is also important here - you need to find safe routes to each checkpoint or risk serious damage to your car, which in turn could give your opponents an opportunity to seize the flag and continue with the race. Of course, if you lose the flag to an opposing car, your strategy may change entirely as you frantically race to regain the stolen item.
Insane also offers a more traditional off-road racing experience with its off-road race mode. Like Monster Truck Madness, you're given a number of checkpoints along a defined route; however, it's still possible to take advantage of Insane's enormous levels and take small shortcuts in between each checkpoint.
After honing your driving skills, you'll want to jump into the championship mode. Here you race through a tournament consisting of the other modes of play, winning points based on your performance in each of the three different modes. The competition gets a little tougher in championship mode, and you'll have to adjust your strategy to compensate. During jamboree races, you may even want to avoid racing toward some checkpoints if it looks like you're not going to make it there before another car does. The onscreen map quickly becomes a valuable tool because it will tell you the position of your car in relation to opposing cars and to which checkpoint you need to race.