Hardcore 4X4

Hardcore 4X4
Game Name: Hardcore 4X4
Media: 1 CD-ROM
Publisher(s): American Softworks
Developer(s): Gremlin Interactive
Genre(s): Racing
Release Date: December 1996
Serial Number: T-12303H-50
Region: PAL

Hardcore 4X4 Sega Saturn  ScreenshotIf you were anything like me back in the mid-late 90’s, a relatively slow paced, American 4X4 off-road racer would be about as much interest to you as an over 50’s health plan.
However over the past 15 years or so (goodness I’m old!) Hardcore 4X4 has become one of my little guilty pleasures, you know, that title that all your friends think is terrible you play when nobody is around.
It’s far from perfect, but can be great fun for a quick thrash…

So lets go straight for the obvious, graphics wise HC4X4 doesn’t look like it was ever going to set the world alight, however when you consider this was a game fought with development issues and from a 3rd party developer, it’s none too shabby.

Hardcore 4X4 ScreenshotBoth the vehicles and terrain have been well modeled to a standard you would expect at the time, and unlike many 3rd party Saturn titles HC4X4 makes some effort to push some pixels, you’ll find almost no visible clipping and a respectable draw distance.

With this in mind it’s a great shame that the texture repetition and lack of course-side objects on a lot of the courses can make them visually confusing when you get close to the terrain, indeed you will often find yourself driving straight at walls or in the wrong direction as a result of poor texture placement and lack of landmarks.

There’s a nice array of trucks to drive which all feature real independent suspension! (possibly a video game first) and a number of good varying courses to race, including atop an active volcano, and you can vary the weather conditions for all courses from the main menu.

To boot HC4X4 has Sega Rally style realistic interacting terrain, yes you’ll slip in the mud, sink in the snow and rather spectacularly slide on the ice while you bounce around like a drug fueled raver on a bouncy castle.

After you’ve had a good thrash you’ll realise that HC4X4 isn’t easy to control  at all! If you’re used to arcadey racers you’ll be in for a real shock in that department. However once you acclimatise to the the controls and handling, which granted due to the independent suspension and terrain effecting the handling is no mean feat,  you gradually come to realise it doesnt play that badly!

Hardcore 4X4 Sega Saturn Screenshot

After this hilarious fun you will almost certainly want to grab a friend for some laugh-a-minuet multiplayer action, but you cant you fool! hahahaha… because there is no multiplayer.

Yes it’s almost a travesty, the game would actually be a good laugh with a mate, but no split screen player-on-player goodness whatsoever, it would even be a great candidate for some 4 player multi-tap fun, but alas it was not to be.

So are the hard to settle with controls, lack of multiplayer and a few texture issues Hardcore 4X4’s only downsides? sadly no…

While a great deal of the game seems to be well programmed and stand up to a lot of geometry on screen at once, the drops in frame-rate throughout the game are both unforgivable and impossible to ignore, indeed with the more complex courses or when battling it out in big groups of vehicles, the frame-rate can drop so much that the game looks like an early stop-motion animation.

Hardcore 4X4 Snow Level

There’s not a great deal to cover sound wise, the engine sounds are nice and feel realistic, music consists of some generic rock guitar background hum which is neither particularly obtrusive or annoying, however the random shouts of stuff like “whoa that’s hardcore!” during the game WILL drive you batshit insane with prolonged play.

It’s a shame that a Saturn title with so much potential falls at the final hurdles, some polishing could have made this a great title. That said I still think that there’s a lot of fun to be had from Hardcore 4X4 if you’re willing to persevere and invest some time. The terrible drops in framerate are often overshadowed by how ridiculously fun the gameplay is once your comfortable with controlling the trucks, and all other shortcomings aside the most significant letdown here is still the lack of multiplayer.

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