4x4 Evolution was released for the Dreamcast last year to positive reviews but disappointing sales. There doesn't seem to be enough Dreamcast-owning off-road fans to support such a title, so Gathering of Developers decided to give 4x4 Evolution another chance on the PlayStation 2. The biggest draw in the Dreamcast version of 4x4 Evolution is the ability to build a truck and then take it online for some competition. With no network play available in the PlayStation 2 version, will 4x4 Evolution provide enough motivation to trudge through the daunting single-player mode?
4x4 Evolution takes a unique approach to off-road racing. Most off-road games from the past feature arcade gameplay complete with turbo boosts and weapons. 4x4 Evolution makes its mark as a simulation by allowing you to purchase new parts to upgrade your vehicle. There are 70 licensed trucks in 4x4 Evolution from manufacturers like Dodge, Nissan, Lexus, and Ford, and you may upgrade your truck's appearance, chassis, engine, suspension, electronics, and drivetrain. The upgrades are expensive, and you often have to invest in several prerequisite parts before you can purchase a significant upgrade. For instance, in order to jump up to a new engine size, you must first install a high-capacity fuel pump, a new air filter, and a race exhaust. This ridiculous amount of customization is impressive, but it really only motivates you to save your money and buy new trucks altogether instead of piddling it away on parts.
The heart of 4x4 Evolution is its career mode. You begin your career with $30,000 to buy a truck and a few parts for upgrades. The cash will get you into trucks like a Chevy Blazer or a stripped-down Pathfinder, but little else. Once you've chosen your truck and a paint job, it's time to hit the dirt. The career mode is split into two parts: series and special events. In the series mode, you compete in a circuit of races, and a new series is unlocked after placing first overall. Special events are one-shot races that have specific requirements for the trucks such as engine size, horsepower, or make. Money is awarded to all competitors who cross the finish line. So, even if you place first in all the races, it's difficult to build up a large amount of money for new trucks and parts.
To truly enjoy the career mode, you'll need to put forth a lot of effort , but Terminal Reality has made sure to include gameplay modes for everyone. The quick race mode allows you to choose one of the better trucks in the game and take it for a spin on one of the game's 15 tracks. The time attack mode is handy for testing improvements in your truck while racing developer ghosts. The most disappointing mode is the multiplayer mode. While the Dreamcast version allows you to go online with your customized truck and race three other people, the PlayStation 2 version only allows split-screen multiplayer for two competitors. Considering that the major motivation to play the single-player mode in the Dreamcast version was to customize your truck so you could go online and duke it out with other players, the omission of this mode cuts into the motivation to play 4x4 Evolution on the PS2 considerably.