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4 Wheel Xtreme

For: Mobile

Four-wheeled fun and games in the dust and dirt

Product: 4 Wheel Xtreme 3D | Developer: Xendex Entertainment | Publisher: Iplay | Format: Mobile | Genre: 3D, Racing | Players: 1 | Format: J2ME | File size: 531KB | Reviewed on: W810i other handsets | Version: Europe
4 Wheel Xtreme 3D Mobile, thumbnail 1
Matchbox cars figured large in my childhood; the glossy, bright paint jobs that were designed to catch a seven year olds' eye did their job perfectly and I had a garage that could boast of Ferraris, Porsches, Jeeps and, best of all, a monster truck with enormous wheels.

While the road-going examples of my collection stayed safely on the blackstuff, that monster truck went everywhere: in the sand pit, through the flower beds, over the dunes at the beach and into the sea. But best of all was the dried-up patch of earth under the tree in the back garden.

In the summer the mud would turn to a fine brown dust that would plume satisfyingly when a certain toy car was run through it, coating my arm and the truck in a thin earthy veneer.

It was a simple, reliable pleasure and an immensely entertaining one, and it's into this vein of messy four-wheeled fun that 4 Wheel Xtreme taps.

Set across four wild and windswept locales in the good ol' US of A, you and a bunch of similarly lunatic chums have decided to let rip in a collection of off-road vehicles. Racing, rallying and general automotive rough-housing is the order of the day as you progress through a series of timed and ranking-based challenges, with new races and rides awaiting those who are fast or ruthless enough to succeed.

Even without the petrol fumes, this would be a heady mix, especially considering the route that 4 Wheel Xtreme takes. Rather than being another off-road mobile phone racer that actually never enables you to leave the metalled surface on which you're constrained by trackside barriers or conspicuously circuitous mounts of dirt, here you really can go off road.

In fact, it's encouraged. Only in the time trials and races do you need to remain in close proximity to the track, and that's because you need to pass over indicated checkpoints that stop you from simply driving as the crow flies, heading from start to finish in a straight line.

Otherwise the route you take is up to you. Well, subject to the rules of the contests that gradually open themselves up to you as you progress.

The Checkpoint Combat and Capture the Flag modes are best, the former pitting you against one other racer in a fight to race through the greatest number of checkpoints before the time runs out, and the latter testing who can hold onto the flag for the longest in a reversal of another backyard favourite, tag.

Here you're able to go where you want: up hill, down dale and anywhere in between the two. And don't for a moment think you'll be tearing across featureless plains; each of the four landscapes is littered with trees, rocks, worn pieces of fencing and other desert detritus.

It's thrilling stuff and no mistake, a sensation that's heightened by the different handling and feel of each of the seven cars that become available through the game. More than just looking different, the cars have their own traits that make them better suited to some people's driving styles than others, as well as to different surfaces and challenges.

The visuals are equally magnificent, rendering all of this high-octane action in a pleasingly chunky yet detailed 3D manner. The camera is flawless, behaving in such a way that you never actually think of it. There's enough slack in its attachment to your car's rear that even if you momentarily lose control upon landing a jump, it continues pointing in the direction you were going (that is, down the track) instead of reflexively jerking in the direction that your motor's nose is pointing, even if it is for just a moment.

This level of quality and attention to detail pervades 4 Wheel Xtreme, meaning that there's very little to criticise.

If anything, it's a bit too easy; you'll breeze through the first two landscapes (comprising 15 events and two bonus challenges if you win all the initial ones with a gold) with nary a care in the world. It's only when you arrive at the snow and ice-bound Alaskan series that the competition really toughens up.

But even that isn't enough to spoil the party; in a way the soft start helps, because you're able to unlock the best buggies and cars in relatively short order. And as we all know, the bigger the collection of toy cars you've got to play with, the better.
4 Wheel Xtreme
Reviewer photo
Mike Abolins | 27 April 2007
Redefining the off-road racing genre, 4 Wheel Xtreme is, in a word, marvellous
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