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Review: 4x4 Evolution



(IDG) -- If you've always dreamed of taking your expensive sport utility vehicle off-road for some 4x4 racing action, now's your chance to see what it's like with 4x4 Evolution, the latest off-road racing game from Terminal Reality and Gathering of Developers.

4x4 Evolution sports the usual racing options. You can try out the various tracks and vehicles in Quick Race, where you can also tweak racing conditions, including time of day, weather, and number of laps. Time Attack lets you race against your own ghost cars and try for the best lap times. The Career mode, meanwhile, starts you off with $30,000 and has you compete in a multitude of events to earn money and upgrade your vehicles.

There is a large selection of well-designed tracks and because this is 4x4 racing, they offer plenty of shortcuts and opportunities for off-road excitement. The huge areas range from snow covered mountains and Louisiana swamplands to junkyards and even a Bermuda Triangle-style wasteland of crashed airplanes. Ambient traffic crops up occasionally, like bulldozers in the construction zone and big rigs on highway 101, and everything is sharp and detailed, from the roads and fences to the tire tracks in the snow and mud.

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The graphics are definitely the highlight of 4x4 Evolution. A ton of licensed trucks and sport utility vehicles from manufacturers like Chevrolet, Dodge, Lexus, and Toyota make an appearance and look just like their real-life counterparts. Particular care has gone into the look of the suspension systems and cars realistically bounce and wobble on their axles. More realistic damage modeling would have been appreciated, but this is more likely a licensing issue than a design decision.

A generic rock soundtrack backs up the sound effects, which consist mostly of engine noise and the crunch of gravel under your wheels. However, a few more loud collision thuds and some licensed tunes would have added greatly to the thrill of the game.

Even despite the slightly lackluster music and audio, this would all add up to a great racing game, except for the fact that the physics in 4x4 Evolution make you feel like you are racing on the moon. Lacking is the feeling of speed that makes racing games exciting and when getting air from a jump (though the developers claim this to be a perceptual illusion) it feels like you are floating in space. The tracks seem to be covered in a layer of grease, which isn't helped by the bumper car-like collision physics. Actually trying to drive on a snow-covered track in the dead of night is about the least fun you can have in a racing game.

Much was made of 4x4 Evolution's cross-platform multiplay (PC, Mac, and Dreamcast owners can play together online) and getting a game started is easy with the in-game matchmaking through GameSpy. The multiplay, however, isn't any more exciting than the single-player experience.

If you absolutely have to experience driving off-road in your Lexus RX300, 4x4 Evolution is your game. The tracks are fun and the Career mode will keep you busy, but if you want to experience the thrill of pure speed, you'd best look elsewhere.


  • Shortcuts aren't always faster, since driving up hills will drop your momentum significantly. Oftentimes, it's better just to stay on the track.

  • Time Attack mode is good for exploring the maps and searching for shortcuts and other surprises.

  • Your tires are the key to staying on the tracks. Use deep cut tires in the rain and studded tires in the snow.

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Terminal Reality
Gathering of Developers

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