Even my inner child is disappointed.
Psychologists theorize that each of us have a collection of inner beings that regulate our actions. The most popular is the inner child; mischievous, curious and often in need of attention. Well, today we are focusing on our more rash assertive side, or as I like to call it, our inner 4x4 offroad SUV. This is the side of ourselves that makes us selflessly charge over and through the bogs, swamps and general rough terrain of life. Sometimes we lose traction and slip down the hillside of determination and other times our drive and ambition is so great it feels as though we're a fully upgraded and unstoppable Land Rover.
So on those days when your get-up-and-go has seemingly got-up-and-went, it's often fun to plop down on the couch with an offroad game and do what you can't do in life - be an unstoppable juggernaut. All you need to do is find a good game to facilitate this. Too bad the Xbox's new SUV sim 4x4 Evo 2 is not one of those games.
4x4 Evo 2 is the sequel to the mildly popular 4x4 Evo on PC, Dreamcast and PS2. While the PC and Dreamcast versions had their share of frantic mud splashing fun, this Xbox sequel is more like the watered down PS2 port. You get a lot of game modes and plenty of customization optionsk, but the gameplay elements just aren't well thought out and it looks no different than the Dreamcast and PS2 versions.
You're given $30,000 with which to buy your first monster. Unfortunately, you won't be able to pass the first track without earning some dough and properly decking out your ride. It's kind of retarded that your truck needs to be upgraded just to place on the first Career track, which leads me to the importance of Missions.
The Mission mode is a new addition as well as a necessity since you need to earn money for upgrades prior to entering the Career. Here you will do a series of very basic missions. After the mission briefings and a few long, frustrating moments staring at two different maps (both are equally unhelpful) to find your objective's location, you get to do brief deliveries, pick ups, checkpoints and other rote racing concepts. This might not be so painful if there was one decent map to reference instead of the two mind-bending pieces of a cartographer's nightmare.
One hundred vehicles, a plethora of upgrades and thirty tracks (including forests, bogs, plains etc.) add a ton of depth, but they still managed to screw this game up. The upgrade system is lame. It's required that you upgrade with specific parts before you can do a more interesting upgrade like a simple carburetor change. This greatly limits the extent of customization, vehicle uniqueness and subsequently, the fun.
The game isn't particularly interesting to watch. Sporting last years PS2 4x4 Evo graphics, this game looks old. I thought it would look at least as good as the PC version. I was wrong. The visuals aren't bad, but we've seen it all before. Open vistas, an airplane overhead, some side traffic - been there, done that. Still, the textures hold up well and are nicely detailed, and there is a bit of environmental bump mapping to add realism.
Vehicle AI isn't the best, either. All racers follow a prescribed path and never deviate. There is a real lack of aggression on the NPC's part. I want guys to at least attempt to run me off the road. Don't be so nice! If I wanted to make friends, I'd play Chatting Parodius.
The best part of 4x4 Evo 2 is the control, but even that is marred by the ridiculous camera angles. Controlling your vehicle is pretty simple and it responds very well to your commands. You're able to switch your wheel drive from rear-wheel drive to four-wheel low and four-wheel hi drive modes. It's up to you to determine which is best for a given situation.
The problem is the camera. You can choose from three different camera angles: top-down, first-person, and a weird third-person. But great control isn't worth spit if you can't see what the heck is in front of your face. The first-person and top-down views have their obvious problems; it's the third-person view is the one that really boggles the mind. When going up and down hills the camera will move just enough to let you look down on your hood instead of up or down the hill. This is particularly frustrating in races since seeing where you need to go is sort of vital.
4x4 Evo 2 is plagued with too many flaws to be recommended for anything other than a brief rental. The graphics are old, NPC riders aren't very fun to race against, the maps are dumb and the camera's a joke. I suggest you continue to search for other ways to virtually express your inner 4x4 offroad SUV.