By: Jared Black
a new console is launched, three key components must be in place for
a successful (both critical and sales-wise) launch.
- There must be
enough available units to at least look like youíre attempting
to meet demand. Whether this requirement was filled or not (no
one outside MS knows how many systems were shipped on launch
day), itís clear that the Xbox is doing brisk business now.
- The console
needs to have one or more killer-apps. In the PS2ís case the
killer-app was hype (or perhaps SSX),
but the Xbox had a true killer-app in the form of Halo.
- The launch
lineup must have several genre fillers. Not as important as
having a killer-app, itís still important for any system these
days to launch with a variety of games that cover a multitude of
genres. Somewhere, someone wonít buy a new console unless it
has a NASCAR game on it.
4x4 EVO 2
definitely falls into component #3. Every console needs several
different types of racing games at launch, and 4x4 EVO 2
fills the off-road racing subgenre. Unfortunately, itís clear that
thatís all it was meant to beÖuninspired filler designed to reap
the benefits of being released at launch. Either that, or they lost
their direction after producing the excellent original 4x4 EVO.
It all starts
out promisingly enough. The meat of the game is the career mode. Itís
here that youíre handed $30,000 to buy a vehicle with, and then
you set out on your racing career. Youíll race to earn money,
which in turn will allow you to buy new parts and vehicles. There
are 32 courses in all to race on, ranging over a variety of
different environments and obstacles.
In addition to
having 32 different courses to race in, money can also be earned
from completing a variety of different missions. These missions are
quite diverse, ranging from something as simple as crossing a narrow
bridge to finding specific items and other secret locations. Some of
these missions are extremely frustrating (imagine trying to find a
raft in a level so big that youíre given 45 minutes to do so),
while others are well thought out and challenging.
There are 120+
different real vehicles to choose from that come from manufacturers
like Chevrolet, Dodge, GMC, Infiniti, Jeep, Lexus, Mitsubishi,
Nissan, and Toyota. These vehicles can be enhanced with over 125
different upgrades, each modifying the vehiclesí performance in a
realistic way. For example, winches can be installed (and are
practically required given the rough terrain) to help the car handle
tough climbs more efficiently.
modes include Quick Race, Time Attack, and Free Roam. Quick Race
allows the player to race any track with as many as 20 laps and 5
different opponents. Time Attack has the player trying to get the
fastest lap time possible, including obligatory ghost trucks to race
against. Free Roam is exactly as it sounds Ė no time limits,
checkpoints, or opponents. This is designed for those who enjoy just
driving through the countryside or seeking out secrets hidden in
sets this game up to be a blockbuster racing title, but in the
actual execution the game fails. The racing itself is hampered by
the facts that youíre racing 4x4s, the opponent AI, the camera
system, and the lack of a damage model. Since you are racing 4x4s,
the action typically isnít as fast-paced as what youíll find in
other realistic racers. The result is that there is no real sense of
speed, although admittedly a lot of people (not me though) will
enjoy conquering the various types of terrain.
The AI is
primary problem with this game however, as its way too aggressive.
You would think that in a racing game your opponents would actually
be trying to win the race. Instead, theyíll often specifically
target the player and bang on them, cut them off, etc. if you get in
their way since they take pre-determined paths. And since they do
take pre-determined paths, whenever one gets stuck on an obstacle
the others will usually pile up with them. There are few things as
hilarious as seeing four 4x4s bumper to bumper just sitting there in
the middle of a race. Not only that, but the AI has a tremendous
ability to catch up to the rest of the pack after falling behind.
This tactic has been used in numerous games in the past (most
notoriously in Mario
Kart 64) to keep each race tight, but the result is that
upgrading your vehicle results in very little gain. Even if your
vehicle is far superior to the rest of the competition, races will
stay close due to the catch-up AI.
system is just awful. There are three different camera settings,
including a first-person view, a behind the car view, and an
overhead view. None of these is really ideal, as each has itís own
problems. The first-person view is so close to the ground that itís
often impossible to see over small hills before youíre right upon
them. The chase camera, which should work the best, actually works
the worst. Not only does it lag behind whenever your vehicle is
barreling down a hill, but also for some bizarre reason itíll
switch to a close overhead view whenever you get stuck on an
obstacle or youíre going up a steep hill. Both of these result in
the player not being able to see where he/she is going, which will
destroy any racing game. I donít care what racing game youíre
in, having most of the screen taken up by your roof isnít a good
thing. The overhead view is OK, but the playerís view of their
vehicle is often obscured by tree canopies in-between the camera and
the ground. Plus itís nearly impossible to discern small changes
in altitude (leading to getting stuck on something) from that
distance. As you can imagine, this inefficient camera system results
in a lot of frustration as the player fights it every single race.
lack of a damage model is particularly bad in this game because itís
off-road racing. Every object in the environment acts virtually the
same, so regardless of what you hit your vehicle will come to a dead
stop. Hit a fence? Dead stop. Barely nudge a boulder? Dead stop. Hit
a tree? Dead stop. Not only is it frustrating to barely hit
something and come to a complete stop, itís also unrealistic. Same
thing with not having a damage model, as your truck wonít get
damaged regardless of how much punishment it takes. It isnít
necessary for a racer to have a damage model to be a good game
(particularly in an arcade racer), but in a game so focused on
realism the lack of one just seems out of place and jarringly
EVO 2 shows a lack of polish found in a lot of launch titles.
While each level has a good amount of objects in it, each is so
large that they invariably end up feeling sparse. This is
understandable, as Terminal Reality would want to keep pop-up to a
minimum and too many objects on screen would hinder that effort.
What isnít acceptable is that there are still a good bit of
textures popping out of nowhere and some bad draw-in. The draw-in is
usually hidden, but occasionally itís obvious and really detracts
from the experience. No Xbox title should ever have objects on the
horizon being drawn in front of the playerís eyes. Not only do
textures often pop up out of nowhere (like on hills around the
course), but theyíre also mostly low-res and very drab. Everything
looks OK from afar, but the closer an object is the blurrier it is.
The car models all look good, with some excellent reflection mapping
used on the rear window and high-polygon models.
are a mixed bag as well. The music is good enough, with the
country/rock tracks that youíd expect in this kind of game. Each
of these tracks sound OK, with only a couple of them becoming
annoying after extended play. The sound effects are decent, but not
memorable. Engine noises sound OK, as do the various environmental
effects scattered throughout each area. However, aside from the
music there isnít a lot of sound other than the constant whine of
your truckís engine.
- With 32
tracks and a slew of vehicles (each of which can be upgraded),
thereís plenty to see and do.
- The musicís
good, and fits the mood of the game well.
- None of the
camera angles provide a great view of the action, forcing the
player to constantly shift to the best one for a particular
- The AI is too
brutal and unrealistic.
- A bunch of
other minor annoying things, like being stopped by tiny rocks
and glancing blows.
4x4 EVO 2
has some redeeming qualities, but it also has too many problems to
be a recommended purchase. The great selection of tracks and
vehicles lends plenty of replay value to the experience, but youíll
probably get tired of all the gameís problems long before you see