"Not another off-road game we groaned," when a preview of 4x4 Evolution was spotted in the Gathering Of Developer's paddock at the recent E3 games show. And at first glance you'd be forgiven for thinking the same. But there's a twist.
Going for a simultaneous launch on PC, Mac and Dreamcast, 4x4's boast is that it's going to be the first game that allows you to play head-to-head with up to eight players regardless of the platform they're running the game on.
If there's any better reason to purchase a game than the opportunity to show spectacled designers and console boys who the real gamers are, we'd like to know what it is.
The pedigree of the developers also points to the fact that 4x4 might be more than an also-ran. Terminal Reality has previously been responsible for other driving notables such as the Monster Truck Madness games (not exactly refined, but still fun to play) and the more serious CART Precision Racing (which went down a storm).
4x4 is sticking to an arcade model, and there are 50 trucks on offer and 16 different courses with no walls or invisible limits. You basically plough your own furrow, so to speak. And, if you own a PC or Mac, you can download extra tracks and extra vehicles to parade in front of the spotty Dreamcast brats who have to make do with what they're given in the box.
Win a race and you get cash. You can use the cash to upgrade your vehicle with add-ons like heavy-duty off-road suspension, brush guards, performance exhaust and special off-road racing tyres.
It all sounds very nigged, doesn't it? Unfortunately though, due to the fact that all the trucks are licensed, the game won't feature physical damage, which takes a bit of the macho sheen off the proceedings. We've never quite worked out why this is a stipulation for these licences. Are the manufacturers trying to make us believe that their trucks are invincible in real life? We're not all from the Deep South you know.
The big question is whether it's actually going to work as it's intended. There's a serious lack of decent racing games on the PC that you can play online, and as this is the first that's promising cross-platform play, we're going to keep our fingers crossed and pray. We should be able to uncross them next month when we'll have the full review and demo for you.