Burnout

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Supporting one and two player modes, 4WT is certainly lots of fun whether you're alone or with company. In the Single Player mode there are Practice, Indoor Arcade, Outdoor Arcade and Championship modes. Indoor and Outdoor Arcade challenge you to come first in a series of races to progress and unlock new tracks, which can then be accessed in Practice mode. There isn't much to differentiate the two styles of track, except that outdoor courses are frequently longer, and indoor ones have more tricky right-angle turns and hairpins. In Championship mode you must come either first or second to progress, and subsequently you are exposed to yet more tracks and options. The multiplayer aspect is where things really come alive. Unless you play with the smaller vehicles, the split-screen windows can seem far too small for the context, but you get used to it. The four normal modes are available, but in multiplayer you can also take part in the Special Modes; "Bomb!", "Bomb Race", "Balloon" and "Tag Mode". Disappointingly, Bomb! And Tag Mode are essentially the same as one another. In the former one of you starts with a bomb and it's a bit like Hot Potato, you have to get rid of the thing before time ticks down or… boom! I won't spoil the surprise, but it's good fun when the timer does tick down. Tag Mode on the other hand places a trophy in front of you and it's the person who has held onto it for the longest at the end of the 60 seconds who takes the victory. So both modes focus on evasion of the other player, only with different props. Bomb Race is a clever variation of the Bomb! mode. The player in second position is given possession of the bomb, and if that's you when the clock ticks down, you're out of there! As for the final option, Balloon, you have to race round the track as fast as possible, popping balloons of your car's colour on the way to extend time. If your timer ticks down before the other player, you lose, even if you're ahead. Despite plagiarising one another for inspiration, the four multiplayer modes really extend the lifetime of 4WT. Whenever my sister pops her head around the doorway to inquire about the screams of joy, she sees my little bro' and I slamming away at the pads into the early hours. It's not all two-way traffic though. If you're on your own, you can have fun with 4WT's single player modes. It's a shame you can't "botmatch" against the computer in the multiplayer modes, but I have yet to see a title do that decently enough to win me over yet.

Painted Man

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As previously stated, the graphics are lush. Even the menu screens are suitably rusty looking and metallic. It isn't until the camera pans around the track at the beginning of a race and you observe the intricate architecture though that you realise just how much effort must have gone into the production of this title. Rocky outcrops look rocky and sandy roads look sandy. It's hardly Shen Mui, but it's in line with other racing games like Crazy Taxi, perhaps even more so. Also like Crazy Taxi, the game excels in terms of audio. While there's no pumping punk-rock soundtrack, the game's sound effects and rough-tough image are upheld superbly. Control-wise, the game is as intuitive as any other. 4WT makes use of the usual right-shoulder-button to accelerate, left to break system that is familiar to any Dreamcast owner. Picking up red and blue crystal-like power-ups along the way supplements your "boost" bar, so that when you depress the B button, you are given a nitro-boost for however many seconds-worth you've collected. All the cars move at approximately the same speed, so this is often the deciding factor. I say approximately the same speed because the AI cars seem to move moderately faster. In fact, that's my only real gripe with 4Wheel Thunder, it's actually very tricky from about the second track onward. Unless you make very good use of your nitro-boosts, you won't be winning anything without a fight.

Conclusion

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I'm surprised at how much I like 4Wheel Thunder. I'm not usually a big off-road racing game fan, but the Dreamcast seems to be sticking a lot of my premonitions where they belong. Ultimately, 4WT uses a lot of tried and tested ideas, but does them well for once. The graphics are sumptuous, the control system intuitive and the multiplayer modes addictive. If it weren't for the AI being somewhat too strong, 4WT might do even better.

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