Monster 4×4 World Circuit

We were going to start this review by pointing out that apart from Red Steel, this is the only exclusive title in Ubisoft’s eight-strong Wii launch line-up. That was until we discovered that it isn’t a new game at all: it was first released on Xbox back in April, albeit only in the US. So technically speaking it’s a European Wii-exclusive. Which is something.

4x4body.jpgAs you may know, both this and GT Pro – which is a conversion of GT Cube, incidentally – are packaged with a steering wheel attachment. It comes in three pieces that have to be clipped together to form a sturdy beast made of strong black plastic, with a space for the Wii remote to sit snugly in the middle. You can play just fine without it, but it does make things more comfortable. We found it best to hold it like a plate piled with food, for want of a better comparison.

Our biggest worry was that the controls would be all over the place, this originally being a game designed for a joypad and all, but the oversized vehicles steer almost flawlessly. When flying off ramps the idea is to twist and shake the pad to perform stunts, such as air donuts and somersaults, which are rewarded with nitro boosts and points. These points can then be spent on upgrades, and there’s the option to change the colour of your rims and various other car parts. Token customisation, there.

It looks perfectly fine – nice and sharp, like the Xbox game it is – with some nice effects such as fireworks during race celebrations. The problem is that it’s all so very bland. As the title suggests, the tracks are set all over the world, but they’re in the dullest of places – a snowy wasteland, a dusty featureless desert. By far the best track is set in a theme park, although there’s no interactivity aside from a couple of trackside flame throwers. There are barely any shortcuts to discover, and the tracks get repeated in the World Tour mode far too quickly. The generic rock soundtrack is so quiet that it’s almost inaudible too, although that’s perhaps a good thing.

The developers have at least tried to spice things up by including power-ups – such as a metallic shield to protect from fire – and exploding barrels, but they’re few and far between. Ramming the barrels into rivals is an utterly bizarre experience: as soon as you make contact they whiz around the track like homing missiles. Or a red shell, if you prefer. In all respects it’s a perfectly acceptable racer, but once Excite Truck makes it out it’s likely that it will only be remembered for coming with a freebie steering wheel.

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