Terminal Reality brings its popular PC based freewheeling 4x4 racer to the Playstation 2 courtesy of Gathering of Developers. The game has made its way to a number of platforms over the last number of months with the last stop on the fading Sega Dreamcast. In that incarnation the addition of online play made the game much more attractive than it appears without any such mode on the PS2.
4x4 Evolution does not sport the crispest models or the most detailed terrain but still has some visual splendor to it. Collision detection is quite noticeable and seems to have been overlooked by the QA department. Trees, fences and other vehicles do not always have a consistent effect on the vehicle. I do not know of many trucks that can go straight through a tree without some sort of damage. Nighttime driving and weather effects leave a lot to be desired and could have used some polishing to take advantage of the PS2's superior lighting tricks. Playing the game from the third person view is uninspiring and quite boring. Where this game really screams is in the first person mode. The difference between third person and first person views is like night and day. The third person mode tends to be slow, whereas the first person mode moves along at rapid pace. Unfortunately as fast as things move along, the framerate suffers at points and draw-in is quite evident.
The soundtrack is quite impressive as it features an eclectic mix of rock, techno and progressive house tunes. Each fits the onscreen action appropriately. The sound effects are quite standard fare and can be quite repetitive early on in the game. The sounds of mud sliding and rocks cracking sound at times out of place. A little more attention to these nuances could have avoided such issues.
The gameplay is unbalanced. As mentioned already, the third person mode is uneventful while the firs person mode offers the best part of the game. The problem is that in both modes controlling the SUV vehicles is near next to impossible. This especially holds true in the first person mode. The vehicles tend to bounce too much and most of your time will be spent trying to recover from a mistaken turn or trying to drive up a small hill. As a result the pace is inconsistent. On the bright side the competitions are structured in such a way that even the loser gets a little bit of money. Regardless, many will find it laborsome to work their way through the game in order to get enough money to upgrade their vehicles to more powerful models. The competition is also unbalanced. They are ruthless and will bump you off the road. Trying to get back into the race is difficult if not at the same time frustrating. There is a "relocation" feature for those who get disoriented and need to get back on track.
Evolution consists of 15 courses with fully licensed SUVs and trucks from Chevrolet, GMC, Dodge, Jeep, Ford, Toyota, Lexus, Nissan and Mitsubishi. Game modes include quick race, versus, career, time attack and multiplayer mode. Absent is online compatibility that gave the other iterations of the game replay value. It's absence here is sorely missed. Although you can drive anywhere with no predetermined track, it would have been nice if GOD had included a mode dedicated to a wandering free run mode. It will take a lot of patience and luck in order to go through and unlock every vehicle and track.
4x4 Evolution is a half decent game and concept. However it is hard to get past the feeling that it has been ported to the PS2 without any major retooling. It is clearly a case of stretching the game onto another platform in an attempt to ride out some more profit. The problem is there are much better games for people to purchase such as ATV Offroad Fury. The flaws show through too clearly. A rental will suffice those with any curiosity.