Micro Machines V4

by Mallika
author awarded score: 60/100

Micro Machines V4 review
Developer: Supersonic Software
Publisher: Codemasters
Platform reviewed: PS2
Reviewed by: Mallika

When you're no bigger than a thumbnail, even a simple thing like navigating a patch of beach becomes an adventure all its own, with mundane objects transformed into looming obstacles and death traps; adding into the mix a lust for speed within a controllable vehicle not only cranks up the fun factor but also gets the adrenaline pumping while experiencing the game world from a unique perspective.

Micro Machines V4 is all about racing from a tiny vantage point. The game follows in the footsteps of previous Micro Machine incarnations and puts the player in command of a tiny vehicle, zooming around creatively designed racecourses that use everyday places (such as a kitchen) and everyday items (such as a clothing iron) to brilliant effect while mimicking traversable obstacle courses.

As you steer your vehicle along the course, avoiding dangerous objects littering your path and trying to keep up with (and pass) the A.I. competitors, you'll find and use little ‘power up’ bubbles filled with weapons that provide a racing advantage. There are almost thirty different types of available weapons that range from missiles to machineguns, to a giant hammer. Each vehicle has a health bar, so shooting at an opponent (or getting shot yourself) will inflict some damage on the vehicle, but because using the weapons will cause your own vehicle to slow down it becomes a matter of timing things just right to get the most effective results.

Micro Machines V4 contains variety in terms of both items and gameplay. Numerous kinds of 'terrain' exist for the racecourses, such as pool tables, kitchen counters, and toy cities. One issue, however, is how although there are dozens upon dozens of racecourses, some feel repetitive, almost as though the courses were only aesthetically modified while everything else remained pretty much the same. In the same vein, although collectors will obsess about unlocking all the available vehicles (there are a total of around 750) quite a few vehicles are exactly the same save except for being a different colour. Even so, there are a large variety of vehicles, ranging from little Volkswagen Beetle-look-a-likes to vans and trucks. In addition to the normal racing modes, players can also choose to create their very own race course, putting curves here, placing ramps there—and the course can also be test driven in order to tweak it to perfection.

All is not fun in the world of Micro Machines, however. The loading times in the game are very noticeable and will quickly become a source of extreme annoyance. Each time you go to the Garage to look at or choose vehicles, it takes around fifteen seconds for the image of the required vehicle to even show up on the screen. Additionally, loading each racecourse eats away at player patience, as the courses take almost half a minute to load. It may not sound like a lot, but it will soon add up and leave you drumming your fingers against the controller.

The high load times are not particularly representative to the level of graphical power displayed in Micro Machines V4, however, which is basically quite low. Although there are some nice textures and everything is quite colourful, the graphics themselves are clunky, which is most evident in the cars themselves. There is a distinct lack of finesse in the game, with some cars (such as the truck) looking as though they were made by slapping together rectangular shapes and painting them with various colours. Detail is also lacking, the graphics are lacklustre, and the game's presentation itself is under whelming. It's a shame, as the game sports a fun, slightly cartoon-like theme that could have been carried off well with the proper care and attention.

The sounds and music in the game are forgettable. Much like the graphics, they are minimal and slightly dull, although this could be viewed in a different light if seen as just one less point of distraction while zipping around the individual racecourses. Deaf and hard-of-hearing gamers can enjoy the game without missing any important narrative audio or central character dialogue—because there isn’t any.

As with all racing games, Micro Machines V4 is much more exciting if played with another willing gamer. Sure, it's pretty fun playing alone, but there are times when the game can become a little frustrating due to long load times and other issues. Though playing with a friend doesn't make these issues go away, it does up the fun level while slightly making up for other points of detraction. Besides, it's great fun to try and foil your friend's racing skills by releasing a heat-seeking missile on their trail, or edging their vehicle right off the course.

Being a racing game, there isn't much to report on with regards to the girl-gamer angle. You control the cars from outside and directly above—and the drivers within are never alluded to.

Micro Machines V4 is a fun but flawed game. It doesn't bring anything new to the franchise, and the long load times may have your blood pressure rising. Racing game aficionados would do well to choose another title, as the short courses, repetitive feel, and rather dull presentation do nothing but bog the game down. If, however, you're in the mood for quick bursts of racing and have someone to play with, the game could make for an entertaining enough evening—if only for the unique perspective that is presented within.