Game Review - by James Allen
It seems everyone has an SUV. Be it for tackling the jungles on the way to school, or the icy slopes the grocery store is guarded by, there couldn't be a more utilized vehicle on the et. Nevertheless, 4x4 Evolution provides an impressive list of vehicles to recreate our everyday activities: racing through checkpoints in an airport. Will the off-road driving adventure roll over the mountains, or are we just relegated to yet another poor descendant of an arcade racing game?
4x4 Evolution has a very reable list of features. The number of vehicles is quite large (although some are just variations of one model), including the Chevrolet Silverado, Dodge Durango, Ford Explorer, and the Nissan Xterra. Driving each type of vehicle is half the fun: it's a test drive without the annoying sales representative! If the stock model isn't up to your high standards, there is an equally notable number of parts that can be added to your vehicle of choice. Anything from carbon metallic race brake pads, fog lights, a winch, and a fiberglass body can be implanted onto your vehicle. There are also fifteen tracks to test your mettle, ranging from traverses through oil refineries to mountainous adventures.
There are four main modes of play: single races, time trials, career mode, and multiplayer. Thankfully, all of the tracks and vehicles are unlocked upon install, so you can check out the next vehicle on your career list. Time trials are, simply, races with you against the clock. Career modes is the most intriguing single player mode. You enter the competition with some change in your pocket, and no vehicle. You can buy any of the vehicles and parts in the game, assuming you have enough money. You gain money by entering either single races, or multiple events. The purse for each events is split among the competitors, and increases for each successive race in a series. An interesting twist is the vehicle specific events: for example, you must own a Tahoe to enter the Tahoe event. This makes it necessary to purchase more than one vehicle over your career, so you can engage in all the possible events. This is an interesting concept which gets high s. Sadly, racing is the only mode of play in 4x4 Evolution; there is not any capture the flag or king of the hill present in such games as 1nsane. This makes playing the game too repetitive much too quickly, and is the only blemish in the otherwise stirring features.
And to top it all off: the groundbreaking online play of 4x4 Evolution. It's not noted for its revolutionary game modes or impressive list of extras: it's possibly the first game where owners of the PC, Dreamcast, and Macintosh version can race against each other. This is an amazing feat if you think about it, as all of the versions had to play exactly the same, as not to give a certain platform a distinct advantage. Stellar. The dazzling features of 4x4 Evolution are hard to match.
Sound just isn't impressive. A blaringly loud soundtrack dominates the noise scene, and mutes any other audio that may be present. You'll hear engine, engine, loud music, engine, and that's just about it. Obviously, the focus of the peripherals was on the graphics, as the run of the mill sounds take second stage.
Gameplay in 4x4 Evolution is surprisingly disappointing, and makes all of the great graphics and features almost for naught. First off, the best aspect of the gameplay: realistic speeds. Whether this is a good thing or not is up to you, but it's the only remote sense of any realism in 4x4 Evolution. Now with that out of the way, let's talk about the physics model. They could have made all the car models ping-pong balls, because that's the best analogy as to what you are driving. The cars hang in the air far, far, far too long, and since most of the tracks have an emphasis on big air, you'll be left screaming, "LAND ALREADY!" Tied into this is the very poor collision modeling. If two vehicles come into contact with each other, you might (a) have no repercussions, (b) bounce off with no ill effects, or (c) fly up into the air, only to be reset moments later in a very apparent snap. Any other these results are truly frustrating, and we have another drop in the bucket of poor gaming.
The climax of the gameplay is the fact that 4x4 Evolution features very little off-road racing. After playing all off-road titles such as 1nsane, the levels in 4x4 Evo are so contrived it's sad. It is sometimes faster to divert from the paved/dirt road and take a scenic shortcut, but these are so clear is takes any possible challenge away. Usually, each track has one or two shortcuts which you must use, and it takes no time at all to discover them. 4x4 Evolution features more off-roading than many SUVs undertake, but not by much.
The graphics are unbelievable. The car models are so crisp, so accurate, you may shed a tear. Unlike some racing games, you can tell exactly which car the others are piloting without a second thought. 4x4 Evolution really made the most of the vehicles licenses, except for one area. There is no damage. That's right, after an intense race of bumping and grinding your competition into the ground, you leave without a scratch. It seems the manufacturers wouldn't allow Terminal Reality to code damage to the vehicles, and they perpetually stay in showroom condition. Doing unhealthy damage to your vehicle is most of the fun in racing titles: I routinely drive backwards in NASCAR Racing 4 at Talladega, just to see the carnage. The missing torn sheet metal is strange and eerily depressing in 4x4 Evolution. The environments your race in are also very good, though not nearly at the level of the cars. They'll do, since most of the time you'll be distracted by the astonishing vehicle models.
4x4 Evolution is a good game negated by meager gameplay. Despite the awesome vehicles and innovative multi-platform multiplayer game, the physics and collision models are just too awful. This is very sad, as racing with real-life 4x4 vehicles is very fun, just don't try it in 4x4 Evolution.