Among gaming fandoms, racing games tended to divide itself into two schools; the overhead racer and the behind the wheel/car racers. Among the former, a whole lot of great examples can be found on the Commodore 64. But that's not to say there weren't a good selection of the kind that places you behind your car... or inside it.
At the risk of sounding picky, finding a game on the Commodore with proper 3D enviroments was often a problem. Even great games like Pitstop 2 had its problem with flat, relatively uninteresting tracks and some pretty harsh controls, while Power Drift's roads rose and descended like crazy, all its turns were the same. And unfortunately, 4x4 Off-Road Racing kind of falls between these two; for being an off-road game, the surroundings fall rather flat save for the occasional hilltop put in purely for effect. The remainder of the time, you're racing across flat surfaces with the odd choice of design where road hazards are put inside the road instead of on the side.
Granted, this works for an off-road game, and you'll probably have some fun watching your car tip onto the two weels on one side, bounce all over the track, or even do barrel rolls as it flies gracefully in the air. (Don't worry; you always land on your wheels.) In the hope of a challenge, the game wants you to recognize road blockages and hazards and keep any speed-reducing delays to a minimum.
And really, the game controls generally well. It takes some time getting used to, but it's not utterly terrible. Really, your one goal is to get through the track in one piece, and to do so, you have to actually plan ahead and make sure you bring enough supplies for any unexpected situations. It's the best part of 4x4 Off-Road Racing, where you pick your car, attach things you need, like winches, and select the right tires. Then, you proceed loading it up with necessary supplies like gas, water, spare parts or even an extra mechanic. It helps turning a fluff game to a more indepth experience. And really, with its average driving feel and dull graphics, it needs that help to catch your interest.
Before you race, you get your pick of four different racing areas, with gravel, mud or snow. Mostly, though, it's a matter of utilizing palette-swapped backgrounds, the only difference being the mountain range in the back, the color of the ground and maybe a couple of roadside objects, which makes it a little bit silly when you choose the wintery track and still have to use the winch to pull yourself out of the "river of blood". No, seriously; it's red. I guess racing on the fringe of Armageddon isn't what it was hyped up to be.
It's an alright game, really. There's certainly a whole lot of worse racing games out there, and for those who love to sit down and plan the race in advance will find even more to sink your studded tires into. It's well worth a try. Just remember to stock up a little extra on gas. Trust me; you'll need it.
Downloads: Music, Advert
|GRAPHICS - 5/10|
|The background graphics are incredibly plain, and the small hill bumps make for some pretty unconvincing rough terrain. The car itself is a lot of fun to watch, though, as it bumps and bounces along.|
|SOUND - 4/10|
|Not much to speak of, I'm afraid. A relatively unremarkable main tune and a monotonous engine drone that may or may not get on your nerves. The tires -- that is, the ones lying on the road as obstacles -- make a hilarious BOIOINNNNG sound when you run over them, though.|
|PLAYABILITY - 6/10|
|The game is relatively easy on the controls, and the tracks are at least twisty enough -- and littered with road obstacles enough -- not to make the racing events too boring. The pre-race preparation sequences will also make the game even more interesting for some, but I don't really know whether it matters which tires you choose, since the surface of the road tend to be the same all over each track.|
|OVERALL - 6/10|
|There aren't a whole lot of off-road racing games of this kind that I know of, at least not ones this involving. What we have here is basically a game that introduces a whole lot of interesting ideas and elements, but doesn't meet entirely with success on execution. Still, there's some fun to be had here if you're willing to put your mind to it.|