Friday, April 15, 2011

Definitely not ho-hum material

4x4 Hummer
Game Category: Racing, Off-Road, Rally
Developer / Distributor: Avalon Style Entertainment / 1C Company
Release Date: 15 Jun 2009
Rating: ESRB - Everyone, PEGI 7+

I firmly believe that Russian games have improved a lot in their standards as evidenced by some of the more recent releases from 1C Company - the premier Russian company dealing in computer and video games. In fact 1C Company has been pretty busy in Russian news, they have been absorbing all the smaller developers such as Buka Entertainment and Avalon Style Entertainment (ASE). They have now become a giant in their own right and can eventually contend with other heavyweights such as Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts, and Ubisoft.

1C Company have in recent times been praised for their incredible strategy game series such as Theater of War, Men of War, Fantasy Wars, and King's Bounty - all winners in their own right. I have all of these great games and will feature them in upcoming reviews.

There is however, a particular 4-wheel drive racing series also from 1C Company that is not as well known. This series of games from 1C-Avalon (as they are now called) comprises of UAZ Racing 4x4 and the more recent 4x4 Hummer. I shall be reviewing the latter game today.

The Hummer looks really cool in black

What's under the hood
Pure unadulterated fun is what you will get when you start up 4x4 Hummer. The game uses the Chrome Engine 2 (a 3D game engine licensed from Techland), and it will take you on a grand journey through some of the most desolate and rugged terrains in the world.

Allow me to put before you the stats for the game before we proceed further:

  • You get 15 vehicles from General Motors - all immaculately clean in glorious 3D when you access the shop to preview or purchase them.
  • There are 13 worldwide locations to race, with each location providing you several different racing events to contend with.
  • There are 6 types of racing events which I describe later.
  • For those who love to customize their vehicles, you'll be glad to know that there are 3 groups that can be tuned. They comprise a total of 22 different locations that can be upgraded using 125 automobile parts.

Travel the world to exotic locations

When you create your profile in the game, do pay attention that you can either select Arcade or Simulator mode.

Arcade mode makes for an easier game by giving you more durability, simplifying physics and making it much more easier for you to change gears.

Simulator mode on the other hand throws everything that real life driving could possibly bring your way. This mode truly elevates the difficulty a lot, unless you were an off-road rally driver in your past life, you are going to find it a bit too challenging for your tastes.

Ready to sprint in winter?
The main menu offers you the choice of selecting Championship or playing a Single Race.

Championship takes you on a career as a driver competing in an international series of competitions that brings you from USA to various parts of Russia as well as other obscure locations such as Iceland and Egypt. When you win a particular race in Championship, you will get rewarded once for Rating points. You can always run the same race again if you want to earn cash and bonus points to buy new cars or to repair and upgrade your cars.

The Single Race is when you want to race at any of the locations you have unlocked in Championship mode. When pressed for time, the easiest is to select Quick Race and the game randomly determines you car, the racing location, and the racing event. Otherwise you can customize your race to your heart's content.

Where shall I race today?

There are six racing events in 4x4 Hummer. They are:
  • Trial - complete a trial that tests your off-road driving skills to the limit. In this mode you will have to navigate narrow and bumpy sections of track bounded by guard tape. You get penalty points for breaking the guard tape in special sections or knocking down sign posts, for wasting time unnecessarily, for trying to get out of a rut by moving backwards then forwards, for missing special sections entirely, and so on.
I've accumulated too many Penalty Points
  • Trophy Raid - You must beat your rivals in a fierce race to pass all checkpoints and reach the finish line. There are easy sections and difficult sections in the race that you can traverse. If you complete the difficult sections of the race (marked as orange on your map), you get bonus time that may just allow you to win the match.
Get ready now...

  • Off-road sprint - You must first complete a qualifying lap which determines your placing in the actual race. The actual race has you racing for all checkpoints and the finish line. Miss a checkpoint, and you won't get to win the race.
  • Night sprint - This is a variation of Off-road sprint.
Sprint for it
  • Orienteering - You must reach a set number of checkpoints within a specified time. Checkpoints are marked by tyres as well as a huge hot air balloon with the letters ASE printed on it as a decal.
  • Night Orienteering - Do the same as in Orienteering, but only difference is its held in the middle of the night.
I thought I saw a UFO flying in the night sky
After a race is complete, your car may be in a pretty bad state. Fortunately, you can head straight to the garage to repair and tune your car with new upgrade parts. There are three types of tuning groups:
  • Exterior tuning - for example you could add a roof rack, place a stronger front bumper to your vehicle, and so on.
  • Interior tuning - tweak your engines, gearboxes and more with this option.
  • Wheels - change your tires and rims and improve your traction.
If you get tired of your vehicle, you can always use the cash you've earned to purchase new ones. Some of the 15 cars however require that you also have enough Bonus points before you are allowed to purchase them. 

Just hit the magical Repair All button

The vehicles are the true stars of 4x4 Hummer. The 3D models are detailed and the textures applied to them even reflect the clouds in the sky. And as you drive through the mud and sand, the back splatter makes your car look terribly dirty by the end of the game. The terrain, trees, and debris littering the ground is very nicely done. There's lots of details everywhere on the map. Every time I race down a track, I feel that the sights are very authentic, and it helps to immerse me into the spirit of things. 

All this and more, with thanks to the mighty Chrome Engine.

I'm driving a submarine!
The sound in the game is by Gaijin Sound. Even the music is licensed by them; with performances by Red Elvises, Offroad, Black Obelisk, Hula-Hoop, Repentance, Perfect, and Leningrad. I thought the Hummer sounds were pretty authentic, but then I've never seen a real Hummer up close before - Youtube is my only source.

Don't be surprised if you run into a race that has you stuck on some rock or outcropping. Despite what you try, you will never seem to be able to escape from the spot. You can try engaging rear drive, reverse gear, engage and disengage 4WD, and so on - all this is usually to no avail. That is until you realize there is a winch that you can purchase during the tune ups of your car. Winches aren't necessarily useful though if there are no anchor points nearby. 

You will also want to upgrade your tires to a better grade as it makes your vehicle more responsive. Moral of the entire story - if you want to reap all the fun that you can get from 4x4 Hummer, make sure you upgrade your car generously.

This could be tough
There are six views in the game that you can toggle through with the F2 (default) hotkey. Not all views must be used throughout a race, and certain views are more useful than others - for example the camera behind the car view may get obstructed by trees, so switch to another view to better appreciate the lay of the land. I guess this is inevitable in such a game. 

All these features could have been explained in some form of tutorial. Unfortunately, all you have are dialog boxes explaining the different modes of the race, and that's about it.

The AI of your opponents are not too good. There were a couple of instances when they could not complete the race and had to resign from it. So all I had to do was to take my time and complete the race with the gold medal firmly in my grasp.

Of course, where is multiplayer mode?

I win again!
4x4 Hummer is an interesting racing game that is in a niche all of its own. You should get this game if you like the idea of driving huge Hummers from General Motors. There is also quite a lot of race events in the game that will take you quite a while to unlock and to complete. The lack of a tutorial means you will have to spend some time reading the user manual or experiment with what is made available to you. Furthermore, the game gets old pretty fast, but at least all the locations, racing tracks and variety of events do make up for it. My final verdict: Get this if you are looking for something different in a racing game. 

The Russian Revolution is here with 4x4 Hummer, and their hard work deserves our attention!

Daily PC Game Review Score: 7 / 10
Review Date: 15 Apr 2011


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