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4×4 Evolution 2

4X4 Evolution 2 is one of those games that I purchased thinking it looked pretty good, and then was disappointed with once I started playing it. You’d think working in a video game store and being a frequent review reader that I would have know better before actually going to the counter and spending my cash on it, but oddly enough I’m not when it comes to making decisions on my own purchases. 4X4 is no where near as bad as it could have been, but the call the mechanic because this one needs some serious work.

I played the original 4X4 Evo for PC a while back and I remember just enjoying driving around and exploring the huge levels. Fortunately, this has all been kept in the sequel. You can drive basically in a straight line across a level, traversing treacherous canyons, high cliffs and flying through the air. I also remember having to go through annoying check points when racing, forcing me to stay on a linear track the entire time in hopes to progress farther. Unfortunately this has all been kept.

4X4 Evo tries to be the Gran Turismo of 4X4 games. Quite honestly, in terms of cars and car parts, the game gets very close, offering a wide-variety of vehicles from the likes of Nissan, Jeep, Lexus, Toyota, Mitsubishi and others. You are also given a great selection of accessories that you can purchase to customize your vehicle, from tires to mud flaps to seats. Too bad you can’t really notice many of these advancements on your vehicle in-game, but the benefits are noticeable, such as increased horse-power and a reduction in weight.

But all the this stuff doesn’t put the game on the same level as Gran Turismo, and the reasoning behind that is simply because the game isn’t very realistic. You see, sometimes you can drive your SUV up 90 degree slopes, with no trouble at all. Other times, you’ll run your vehicle into a tree about 3 feet high, and come to a dead stop from 60 miles per hour (100 KPH). Other times I drove underwater for good lengths of time. This is unacceptable. Perhaps the car manufacturers didn’t want their vehicles portrayed rampantly destroying the environment, but I would have taken company-created cars that destroyed all rather than licensed vehicles that don’t behave properly.

The basic concept behind the racing is that you are an armature trying to make it big in the 4X4 racing business by attracting sponsors with your skills. And even if you aren’t that good, you can just drive the same car that they do and as long as you pass a few races then they’ll ask you to join them, adding to your reputation and allowing you access to items that you couldn’t previously get.

The only problem with that is that the actual racing really isn’t that much fun. The other opponents put up a pretty good fight to beat you, but it’s the actual tracks that are the problem. You see, the game tries to be all about the great outdoors, but the tracks you race on are all just big glaring dirt trails in the middle of the woods. Venturing off the tracks is where the game gets fun; hitting big jumps and rushing through the water, but none of this excitement is found in the actual races. Fortunately, there is a “Free Roam” mode (which is where I spent most of my time) that allows you to randomly explore without opponents.

Graphically, the vehicles look phenomenal, often getting filthy when run through the mud. They don’t take damage though, no matter how many times you flip them. The environments of the games over 25 tracks are great looking too, though the graphics seem very much like the PlayStation 2’s. My favorite tracks would have to have been the Arctic Wasteland and the Restricted Area. Both tracks offered interesting areas to explore with my vehicle and provided unique driving challenges.

The game sadly limits the camera views to three options, none of which I felt comfortable with. For one, the “Hood” view limits your view too much; you can’t see anything when you aren’t moving in the “Inertia” view, and the final view, the “Sky Cam,” makes the game look like old-school Grand Theft Auto. I found the Inertia cam to be the best one, but it would have been better if it were a standard chase camera.

The developers got a bit lazy with the audio though. The in-game soundtrack is bland, generic crap-rock. The game does support custom soundtracks, however navigation and use of said feature is irritating and limiting. The sound effects are generic engine roars and generic crushing noises when you roll over, though no actual crushing occurs. A paradox indeed.

Overall, 4X4 Evo doesn’t reach the level that it wanted too, but I think it’s a pretty fun game to play simply to randomly explore. It’s not the deepest game that you can play, but considering I got it for a pretty low price and I’ve played it quite a bit, I think I more than got my value out of it. Pick it up if you want a fun little game that you can play without too much of a challenge and if you want a game you can put away without remorse.

6 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2003.

Gentle persuasion

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