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4x4 Evo 2

Score: 85%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Rockstar
Developer: Terminal Reality
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:

While a far cry from the kind of graphics we've come to expect from modern racing games, the 3D engine used in 4x4 Evo 2 is pretty good. The scenery, especially trees and shrubs, is attractive, and since most of your surroundings are destructible, the environment feels fairly realistic. But driving through mud and water doesn't feel very convincing, and falling rain or leaves requires a good suspension of disbelief in order to appreciate them.

The trucks and SUVs look good, and the fact that you can choose the brand, type, and color of your vehicle adds a nice touch to the visuals. There are a total of seven camera views available, although only three can be cycled through while driving. The most useful views seem to be the in cockpit or over the hood ones, although during instant replays, the other views are fun to check out.

Compared to games like F1 2001, 4x4's graphics and sound are pretty crude. Engine noises and other sounds are not varied, nor do they really reflect the kind of dangerous driving that is occurring. Crashing into objects, as well other vehicles, just doesn't have the kind of sonic or visual impact one would expect from an off-road racing game. There are environmental sound effects like wolves, birds and planes, and they do add a bit of atmosphere to the game.

The in-game music is basic rock'n'roll, and there are fourteen tracks to choose from. The music suits the game style, but if you turn it off, you really don't miss it. Since the game supports playing music off of the XBox's hard drive, most people will probably prefer rolling their own soundtracks.


Gameplay:

Although vehicle handling is greatly simplified and only barely resembles reality, driving the various trucks and SUVs in 4x4 Evo 2 can be quite enjoyable. Comparing it to F1 2001 again, turning corners and otherwise maneuvering is a breeze compared to the fairly realistic Formula One cars in that game.

Career mode, which is the meat of the game, offers the ability to buy vehicles from quite a few manufacturers, and in addition, you can buy parts and upgrade just about every aspect of your truck or SUV. It is unfortunate then, that the various vehicles don't seem to really differ very much from one another, and parts don't seem to greatly impact performance.

There are several modes of play, including Time Attack, which lets you race against a ghost truck and even record your own best laps and try to beat them at a later date; Free Roam, which gives you the opportunity to discover the various race tracks without having to worry about the competition; and Career Mode, which allows you to race alone or as part of a team, or even complete missions, all to earn money so you can buy and upgrade vehicles. Altogether, there are 120 vehicles from 9 manufactuers, 32 different courses, and over 125 different upgrades.

4x4 Evo 2 supports vibrating the controller, but it's not really used to good effect. This is a shame since you will not only be jumping through the air, but also ramming into barrels, poles and other vehicles, traversing through water and mud, and generally abusing your vehicle. Not only will you never feel the effect of these collisions, but the vehicles will never show any sign of wreckage, probably due to licensing issues.


Difficulty:

4x4 is a joy to play with the standard XBox controller. Since braking is not really a consideration (you only have to brake if you need to stop or turn around), you can basically keep the left trigger fully depressed the entire time, and then gently nudge the left thumb stick side-to-side to steer the vehicle. Maneuvering your vehicle isn't exactly easy, and staying on the road, out of the rubbage or trees, and in the groove, is somewhat difficult.

The game doesn't offer difficulty levels, but as you progress through the Career mode, the tracks begin getting progressively more challenging. There are six vehicles in every race, and finishing in the top three is very hard to do. The other trucks and SUVs always seem to be faster, and better able to make the correct decisions. Often, when you're in second place and looking good, something will happen that will derail you, and you're back in sixth place!


Game Mechanics:

Loading times are unfortunately quite long for just about anything you attempt to do in 4x4 Evo 2. If you exit out of a race early and wish to rerun it, for instance, then it seems the entire track has to be reloaded. In addition to long loading times, the user interface is quite clunky. When changing settings, buying or selling items, or otherwise making decisions, you have to first confirm the action, and then dismiss a message after the action has been performed.

The program provides multiple controller layouts, and allows you to separately disable and enable vibration. You have full control over sound settings, as well as a number of in vehicle visual cues. When driving, an on-screen map shows your current location, as well as the location of other cars.

All in all, 4x4 Evo 2 offers an enjoyable mix of features, but if you take your off-road racing seriously, you will probably want to avoid this game. The numerous makes and models of two and four wheel drive vehicles, as well as the customizations available, and the various modes of play, really offer a lot of value for your money, but considering the infancy of gaming on the XBox, better off-road racing games are likely on the horizon.


-Gordy, GameVortex Communications
AKA Gary Lucero

Windows Wizardry 8 Microsoft Xbox Apex

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated