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4x4 EVO 2

Review By:  Jared Black

Developer:   Terminal Reality
Publisher:   Gathering of Developers
# of Players:   1-2
Genre:   Racing
ESRB:   Everyone
Online:   No
Accessories:   Memory Card
Date Posted:  

12-20-01

Anytime a new console is launched, three key components must be in place for a successful (both critical and sales-wise) launch.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Other gameplay 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 each level.

So everything 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.

The camera 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.

Finally, the 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 unrealistic.

Graphically, 4x4 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.

Aurally, things 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.

Highs:

  • 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.

Lows:

  • 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 situation.
  • The AI is too brutal and unrealistic.
  • A bunch of other minor annoying things, like being stopped by tiny rocks and glancing blows.

Final Verdict: 

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 it all.

Overall Score: 4.9

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