Written by  :  Kasey Chang (4623)
Written on  :  Mar 30, 2005
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3.2 Stars3.2 Stars3.2 Stars3.2 Stars3.2 Stars

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Offroad racing not as attractive as it first seems

The Good

Lots of vehicles, lots of makes, career mode allows vehicle upgrades, 15 different tracks have plenty of different challenges, multiplayer support (cross-platform too!), mod tools that allow new tracks and new vehicles, multiple game modes (quick race, career, hot lap)

The Bad

Some major manufacturers absent (most notably, no Jeep, but also no Mercedes, Land Rover, Subaru, Isuzu, etc.), car upgrade trees are quite obscure (pre-requisites are not stated clearly), 15 tracks can only be combined so many ways (and they cannot be mirrored or reversed), AI are very weak on some tracks but strong on others (and scales with your vehicle!), no limit on money, just repeat the race again and again, no cruise mode where you can just drive around on a level and look at the scenary.

The Bottom Line

4x4 Evo gives you the chance to do what no one would dare to do with their SUV... do a 150 ft jump and that sort of crazy stunt. Other than that... It's pretty much just another racing game where the optimal path is not that obvious.

You have multiple game modes: quick race (randomly picked vehicles of same class), hot lap (race against ghost car), career (start with some money, buy a vehicle, race to win more, add vehicle and/or enhancement parts, repeat ad infinitum), and multiplayer. Quick race and Hot Lap and obvious, so it's career where you will spend most of your time.

You start with 30000, and you can choose a vehicle from those available. There are over 150 to choose from, but many are just different trim levels of the same vehicle.

If you have any money left over, you can buy parts to be installed on the vehicle. The parts range from simple things like bush guard and fog lights to Racing grade ECU and extremely tall suspension upgrades, and everything in between. Don't have money now? Just win some races and you'll get more!

There are 15 different "levels" available in career, and they are combined in various ways (and various weather conditions and time-of-day) to get you both special events and special series (which is basically multiple races one after another). The simple series win very little, while the big series can net you a LOT of money if you win.

Once you get in the race, you'll realize there is no cockpit. All the gauges are in a virtual cockpit style overlay. The gauges are quite easy to read, and it even tracks your mileage on this vehicle. Graphics are quite good and nicely detailed The suspensions flex and bounce convincingly as the vehicle settles and bounces on their heavy loads. On the other hand, vehicle damage is NOT modelled. The worst that can happen to your vehicle is it tipped over or rolled (which is actually VERY HARD to do). In that case, hit H (for Help) will upright you at the last checkpoint you passed through.

Each of the tracks has a lot of shortcuts. As the 4x4's don't really need roads, you will be going offroad a lot. Cut through the corner and through the woods, across the river stream and over the hill, you will do it all. In fact, on many tracks you MUST use the "shortcuts" just have a CHANCE competing against higher-level AI.

The AI are randomly generated vehicles in the allowed class that have the name "BotRacer". As they are random and with randomly amount of upgrades, they can either be pretty good (and outrace you) or be a complete flop. There is no way to tell how they will perform against you.

The 15 tracks vary from very short 4-point star pattern in Laguna del Sol to extremely long and twisty tropical island to snow-bound Antartic to freeway construction zone. While the terrain is varied, and rather entertaininig, after a while it really gets boring.

While the vehicles can be tweaked, many of the advanced tweaking options require part upgrades, such as brake bias controller, rack and pinion gearset for transmission, even race-grade adjustable shocks. All require some hefty upgrade fees.What's worse, used parts cannot be sold separately, and must be sold with the entire vehicle. It is also not possible to transfer parts from one vehicle to another, which can be frustrating as you DO lose money due to vehicle's depreciation.

All in all, 4x4 Evo is a solid racing title that has a learning curve that ramps up dramatically as you near the end. However, with lots of vehicles, lots of parts, and 15 tracks to play with, it should be a while before you get bored.