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4x4 EVO 2

Review By:  Jared Black

Developer:  Terminal Reality
Publisher:  Universal Interactive
# of Players:  1-2
Genre:  Racing
ESRB:  Everyone
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Card
Date Posted:  11-13-02

Nearly a year ago I reviewed the Xbox version of 4x4 EVO 2, and derided it back then for it's sloppy physics, poor camera angles, and terrible A.I.  Nearly a full year later the game has arrived on GameCube, and unfortunately it does so in almost exactly the same condition.

Like the Xbox version, the primary part of this game is the Career Mode. Here the player starts out with $100,000, which they must use to go out and purchase a vehicle and parts to upgrade it with. This is thankfully up from the $30,000 provided in the Xbox version, which proved to be barely enough to get started with. Once a vehicle has been purchased, the player then participates in a variety of series, qualifying events, and missions to earn additional money to upgrade and buy new cars with. Like the Xbox version, there are over 30 tracks to race on including four exclusive to the GameCube version. There are also four exclusive GameCube race trucks, although the overall number of available vehicles seems to have been reduced by almost 40 (from 120+ to 80+) for some reason (disk space?).

Other gameplay modes include Quick Race, Hot Lap, Multiplayer, and Free Roam. Quick Race allows the player to race any track with as many as 20 laps and 5 different opponents. Hot Lap 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. Finally Multiplayer again only supports up to two players in this version as well, which is the same as the Xbox version.

Like the Xbox version though, the game falls apart once the actual racing begins. In fact, all of the same problems with that game are present here as well. 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. I'm not holding this against the game though, since it'd be unfair to judge this game's speed versus something like Wipeout or NASCAR.

The AI is the primary problem here, 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. I have yet to find an example in this version as bad as the Xbox version's (where they would literally line up in a row and then stay there for eternity), but it's still terrible. 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 reward until you get up to the highest upgrades. 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 still bad, but not as bad as it was before. 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 and shows so much of the hood that itís often impossible to see over small hills before youíre right upon them. It does provide a better view than before, but not by much. 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 either. 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 result 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 wrong? Dead stop. Hit a tree? Dead stop. No bouncing off of objects, no careening in a realistic manner, just a complete stop. Not only is it frustrating to nudge 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.

The graphics are still as bad as they were on Xbox, but at least the draw-in isn't. Make no mistake though, there's still a lot of it hereÖit's just been improved slightly. Often times the environment will literally draw in front of the player's eyes, and secondary details like shrubs and trees fill in very close to the player. Truck models still look good, but the environment is of mostly Dreamcast quality with somewhat blurry textures, obvious seams, and not nearly as much detail as in a game like Smuggler's Run: Warzones. Warzones proved that the GameCube can easily handle large environments without having to sacrifice graphic quality too much, and 4x4 EVO 2 looks outdated by comparison.

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 engineÖincluding when your truck interacts with the environment around it. Banging into different objects results in virtually the same sound effect, if you're lucky enough to hear one in the first place.

Highs:

  • A number of real-world vehicles to choose from, each upgradeable with a variety of different parts.
  • Over 30 tracks, including four exclusive GameCube ones.
  • Some minor graphical enhancements over the Xbox version, although these enhancements are really just "less bad stuff".

Lows:

  • Same questionable A.I. that piles up on itself and sticks to a pre-determined path.
  • Lame physics, as small boulders result in the same grinding halt as a big stone pillar.
  • Almost a year later and GameCube owners are getting essentially the same game?

Final Verdict:

What took them so long? 4x4 EVO 2 arrives on the GameCube nearly a year after the Xbox version, and yet the only difference is four exclusive tracks and trucks and some other minimal graphic upgrades. My guess is that the publisher switch caused the delay, because Terminal Reality definitely didn't use the time to polish the game more. It's still the same mediocre racing title as before, although it's lucky enough to fill a sub-genre (Off-road truck racing) that may warrant purchase among the hardcore.

Overall Score: 5.4

Additional Images (Xbox version):
 

 



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