Micro Machines v4 Review
Some games seem to fall under the radar but still command a loyal and respectful audience. The Micro Machine games are just that type of game simply because of one ingredient, fun. It’s never been about creating a realistic racing experience or having the largest amount of custom options to tune your car. This review is based upon the PS2 version but V4 has been released for all major consoles and handheld systems.
In case you’re wondering just what in the heck is a Micro Machine just think of Hot Wheels. Yes, the little cars that you had (or have) as a kid, Micro Machines are the same just under a different name. Now imagine you take all of the tiny cars you’ve got laying around your house and put them in a race around your house, yard, library, or other urban settings. That’s the premise of Micro Machine V4. Race, race, race and have a blast.
The game is broken up into several single-player and multiplayer modes. The single-player modes are separated into several different divisions: Learner, Rookie, Hero and Legend Division. In order to advance to the next level you, of course, have to win all of the races in one division. Each division is composed of a variety of different races, with a mixture of unique races for a particular division. However, the majority of the races are broken into two categories: Battle Cup and Race Cup.
The Battle Cup is where you race against other cars and whoever wins the most “points” wins the race. Competing in this race for the first time can be quite a shock simply because the race stops once someone scores a point. Points are scored by outracing your opponents to a certain point on the track. Someone scores a point, the race stops temporarily and then the race starts again until the next point is scored. The race could be over just as fast as it begins if someone jumps ahead of the rest of the other three cars. But this brings up a point that I witnessed during the majority of the Battle Cup races, the computer will give up to keep the points balanced.
I would notice the AI cars driving like maniacs, firing off weapons, bumping into everyone to get ahead only to slow down just to let me score a point. It wasn’t just one car it would happen to every car in the race. At some random point the computer would give up, especially during a very close race, and I would jump ahead to score a point. I even noticed it happening to me occasionally where my car would slow down for no particular reason but to let another car jump ahead to score a point. If you finish ahead of the pack you score a point, but if someone else scores a point you can lose a point. This point system can keep the Battle Cups going on forever because if everyone scores point consistently then no one will earn enough points to win the race. Even with the strange AI moments the Battle Cup was a blast to play especially when you turned the tide to come back from a huge point deficit.
The Race Cup is where you actually race against three other cars and whoever finishes first wins. Of course, that sounds easy enough but once again some strange AI makes this mode very hit or miss. I noticed that if I didn’t drive a perfect race that I didn’t stand a chance of winning. My car was always slower than the computer controlled cars. Even trying to select a different car didn’t help because you’re locked into one specific car for a race. Thankfully the assortment of power-ups included in the game helped offset what my weaker car (or computer AI) did to my chances of winning.
The game includes a nice assortment of power-ups that you can use to pummel your opponent during a race. The power-ups range from the standard car-combat weapons such as the machine gun and missiles to the more unique weapon such as the dice bombs. Besides damage power-ups, health and other power ups are included in the game. One power up called the equalizer reduces everyone’s health to the same level of the car with the lowest health.
Besides the Battle Cup and Race Cup the game includes a variety of other modes. One mode is a team game that has you racing against a team of cars; another is the classic time-trial mode found in practically every racing game. A track editor is included that allows you to build your own track from three different environments. Unfortunately your custom-built tracks are only playable in the multiplayer modes. The Garage option allows you to view all of the cars you’ve collected in the game. The game includes a massive number (750 in total) of cars that you can collect. To collect (a.k.a. unlock) a car you have to win all of the races in the single-player modes. Once you start unlocking cars you can even trade the cars to other players in the multiplayer mode. Another unique mode is the ability to link up the PSP version of V4 to unlock additional tracks only found in the PSP version.
The Multiplayer Mode is where the game really shines simply because of the gameplay. You can get three of your friends together to race against each other in the multiplayer races. The Team Game allows you to form a team with another player to race against the other team. The trading option kicks in since you can choose to Play for Keeps and win cars from other players. All of the custom-built tracks created in the Track Editor are playable in the multiplayer game as well. One unique feature available in multiplayer is the Shard Controller setting. Two gamers can race two cars from one controller. One player controls their car with the left side of the controller and the second player uses the right side of the controller. The player using the left side of the Dual Shock 2 controller steers with the left analog stick while using the directional pad for gas, brake and hand brake. The player using the right side of the controller uses the right analog stick to steer and the square, triangle and circle button to gas, brake & hand brake. The shared controller will surely lead to some strange arguments about cheating if one of the players tries to move the controller too much. But let those arguments begin because it’s all about having fun!
Micro Machines V4 isn’t the best racing game on the market nor does it offer the most features in a racing game. However, Micro Machines V4 gives you plenty of fun in the multiplayer mode, which is something missing in some of the other big-name racing games. The cars might be tiny but the excitement they pack is still top notch especially with a bunch of friends. The single-player mode would have been even better if not for the weird AI issues.
Review Scoring Details for Micro Machines v4
If it wasn’t for the strange AI the gameplay ranking would be at least one point higher. The controls are tight and responsive at all times with every car you use in a race.
The graphics won’t impress anyone with their lackluster colors and low details on the cars. The game is presented in a top-down 3D view that stays centered on your car during a race. But the graphics get the job down and never interfere with the gameplay.
You get some background music in the menus but during a race you only hear the cars and sound effects of the stage. The sound effects and music are not too exciting but, once again, nothing that takes away from the gameplay.
With three different difficulty categories and then four different divisions to play through the game offers plenty of options when it comes to difficulty.
The shared controller is a great way to make multiplayer even more interesting. The modes are almost identical to the single-player game but much better since the computer doesn’t have to be involved in the races. Sadly no online option is included in the Multiplayer mode.
It’s a sequel so the ideas aren’t completely new but the game still has some unique ideas. The shard controller, trade options and PSP connectivity are some nice features included in the game.
The single-player mode is where the game seems to stutter along with a few longer than necessary load times. As I’ve mentioned the computer AI in the single-player mode does some crazy things that will have you frustrated and puzzled. Try the single-player modes to unlock all of the cars in the game but stick with the multiplayer for the best gaming experience. You will definitely have a fun time with Micro Machine V4 and a few buddies.