Game Over Online ~ 4x4 Evolution

GameOver Game Reviews - 4x4 Evolution (c) Gathering of Developers, Reviewed by - Adam Fleet

Game & Publisher 4x4 Evolution (c) Gathering of Developers
System Requirements Windows, Pentium 200, 32MB Ram, 300MB HDD, 3D Accelerator
Overall Rating 89%
Date Published Monday, November 6th, 2000 at 08:02 PM

Divider Left By: Adam Fleet Divider Right

When I first heard about 4x4 Evolution, I must admit I really didn't get it. The title sounded like it should be a game about trucks that evolve into, I don't know, other trucks or something. Catch 'em, train 'em, breed 'em; sort of a testosterone laden Pokemon. Then I found out it was just a racing game. So the trucks evolved into what then? Trucks that can race? Okay, I guess that makes sense, because when I think trucks, going fast isn't exactly the first thing that comes to mind. I think more along the lines of soccer moms driving around in SUV's the size of oil tankers, and guys who are afraid to take their pickups off-road because they might scratch the paint.

When I sat down and started playing 4x4 Evolution, I finally got it. This isn't your typical drive around the track racing against other cars game. This is down and dirty off-roading. To win the race you've got to go through a series of checkpoints around the course faster than your competitors, any way you can. Think you can win by sticking to the track, give it a shot. Think there's a shortcut over that hill, between those trees, and down the railroad tracks, go for it. All that matters is that you hit the checkpoints, and that you do it faster than everyone else.

4x4 Evolution features four different racing modes. First up is Quick Race. Pick a truck, pick a course, pick the conditions, and race. Next is Time Attack mode, where you race against a best lap time. You can choose to race against a ghost racer of the best time so you can see where you pick up and lose time doing things a little differently, and it's a great way to test out your latest shortcut. Where most people will spend their time in single player is Career mode. In Career mode you start out with enough cash to buy yourself one truck, and then it's up to you to make more money racing so you can buy upgrades and more trucks. Last, but certainly not least, is Multiplayer. Once you're tired of embarrassing the bot racers in single player, you can test your skills against other human beings using either a standard truck, or one you've been working on in Career mode. As a cool extra, 4x4 Evolution allows people playing on PC's, Macs, and Dreamcasts to all play against each other online.

Simply stated, 4x4 Evolution is a great looking game. Turn up all of the graphics options and you can almost feel the branches swatting against the side of your truck as you slice between the trees and into the lead. But since turning up all the graphics options also made my computer stutter and twitch like a bad break-dancer, I was pleased to see the wide selection of graphical options to improve performance. Even with a lot of the extras turned down, the game still looks great. The sound effects are, for the most part, very solid. Tires squeal when you peal out on asphalt, and gurgle sickly when you spin out in mud. Most importantly, the engine sounds stay in sync with the game so a keen ear tells you when to shift without having to constantly look down at the tachometer. The music is a blend of techno beats and guitar riffs, and makes for pretty decent racing music. If you don't like it, you can always turn it off.

But the proof is in the racing, and 4x4 Evolution is pure pudding. The fifteen or so courses are diverse and extremely well designed, with lot of little nooks and crannies to explore and exploit. In single player, the level of competition scales with the quality of your vehicle, and puts up a pretty good fight at any level. The wide array of trucks feel different, not just like one truck model with a bunch of different skins slapped on, and making the right modifications can significantly change the way they race. You can race your truck through three views: cockpit, near chase, and far chase. The cockpit view puts you in the drivers seat, but without any graphical representation of the front of your truck in the display, it leaves a lot of be desired. The other two chase views are adequate and useable, depending on your tastes. Different weather and lighting conditions also drastically change the feel of the game. Try taking a course with lots of tight turns when it's pitch black and raining and you'll find that thirty miles per hour just became a lot faster than it used to seem.

If there's one place where 4x4 Evolution falls down a little bit is in the squirrelly physics that pop up. A little bumping tends to slip by without problems, but frequently during real collisions you'll experience some strange teleporting behavior and other such oddities. Trucks in this game, much like big, gas guzzling cats, seem to almost always land on their wheels, no matter what crazy stunts you try. There is a definite move toward a more arcade feel here, and it works very well for the most part, but if you demand only the most realistic physics from your driving games, look elsewhere. Another small gripe is with the racing series in Career mode. You win prize money based on how you finish in each individual race, but there's no big prize for the whole event and no standings that carry over to the next race, nothing that makes it feel like more than just a bunch of individual races.

4x4 Evolution is not the typical racing game. But this game slips between the cracks of the standards used to classify the typical racing game, and what comes out the other side is a very solid racing experience. It's not totally a simulation game, but it's not really cartoony either. This is one race game that isn't instantly won by having the fastest vehicle. There's a lot of creativity available in how you approach each race, and each situation. If you've got a truck that can really burn on the straightaways, maybe you don't bother with as many short cuts, or maybe you're so far in the lead that you can just play is safe. But there's always another shortcut you can try, always a move riskier than the next, and if you can pull it off, you just might pick up some precious time on the leader, or extend your lead going into the final stretch. 4x4 Evolution is a very good-looking offroad racing game that is just plain fun to play. It's easy to get into and there's plenty to master once you get some dirt on your tires. A few small flaws don't ruin this gem, pick it up and give it a drive.

[ 45/50 ] Gameplay
[ 09/10 ] Multiplayer
[ 09/10 ] Graphics
[ 08/10 ] Sound
[ 08/10 ] Control
[ 10/10 ] Bugs


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