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Micro Machines V4 PC DVD-ROM & PlayStation 2

Published by Codemasters
Developed by Supersonic Software
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £19.99 (PC) £29.99 (PS2)

Micro Machines V4, an introduction.

On the original PlayStation console the Micro Machines series was enormously popular. The game was an arcade racing game where you raced a variety of miniature vehicles around all kinds of wacky circuits such as a classroom, a snooker table and even a breakfast table complete with cereal bowls and spoons etc. Part of the game's charm was that it was easy to get into and had a meaty single-player component that kept you coming back for more. It's been a while since we last had a Micro Machines game from Codemasters though, so it's about time that we had a new addition to the series.

What's the game about?

Micro Machines V4 is an arcade racer that doesn't just concentrate on normal races. Like the previous titles in the series, you have to drive numerous miniature vehicles around train sets, museum tables, kitchen's etc. Of course with the vehicles all being very small these environments you drive around all seem a lot bigger than what you would expect. You'll have a variety of weapons (dice bombs, machine guns, missiles etc.) and power-ups (damage multipliers and health items etc.) scattered around each of the courses that can be collected and used to give you an edge.  For the single-player the game offers a Micro Tournaments mode, a Practice mode, a Track Editor and a Garage mode where you can look at all of the vehicles you've unlocked. You can also take part in multiplayer races (offline only for the PlayStation 2 version) and it's possible to trade cars and compete for each others.

What's good about the game?

As we've just mentioned, Micro Machines V4 doesn't just feature normal races. There are three types of races in Micro Machines V4. You have the 3-lap races that simply require you to finish first, the battle races that require you to amass a specified number of points and the checkpoint races. The 3-lap races would be pretty straightforward affairs if it weren't for the fact that your opponents are continually using weapons and power-ups to make sure you don't win. The battle races require you to drive off so far in front that your rivals actually disappear out of view. Your rivals won't make this easy though and they'll be trying to do the same to you. Once again the use of weapons and power-ups are permitted. Finally there are checkpoint races where you race solo having to complete a few laps of a circuit whilst reaching the checkpoints within the required time. To add extra spice to the events there are numerous hazards on most tracks. You'll have to steer clear of the heated cooking rings whilst driving over the kitchen oven, dodge the snooker cues as you drive around the snooker table and drive very carefully when passing through the chicken coop. Steam irons, grinders and numerous other dangerous objects await you in the game's 50 courses. Your vehicles do take damage and it's possible to have your wheels pecked or blown off which effectively puts you out of the race so you'll have to be careful.

Micro Machines V4 comes with 750 vehicles and the aim of the game is to collect them all. As you complete challenges in the Micro Tournaments mode you'll unlock vehicles. You can trade the vehicles you've unlocked too. The PlayStation 2 and PC versions of the game offer different ways to trade. The PlayStation 2 allows you to trade between user profiles and offers connectivity with the PSP version of the game whilst the PC version allows you to trade online. The PC version also allows you to race online but unfortunately the PlayStation 2 version doesn't. It's also worth mentioning that V4 adds a 'dynamic' camera angle which gives you a raised, behind the vehicle view. This is actually much better than the top-down view  that appeared in Micro Machines V3 (it's still not perfect though), although you can opt to return to the original camera angle if you wish.

What's not so good about the game?

Whilst Micro Machines V4 is a great game when played in short bursts, it's not a racer that you'll want to play for hours on end. Sure there are a load of vehicles to drive and a generous amount of courses and weapons but in the end it boils down to three different race types that you'll race over and over again. There's also a fair amount of frustration that can creep in whilst playing the game. Most of the time you're heavily punished for coming off the track or taking a corner incorrectly. Should you fall off the track even once you've practically no chance of finishing first. What you'll find is that some events will require several attempts to master the track before you can even hope to finish first. This adds to the challenge of course and I daresay there are gamers who love the testing nature of the game but most, I suspect, will not.

Whilst it's great to see a track editor included with the game it's a shame it doesn't allow you to design courses from scratch. Essentially you'll pick a location and connect the waypoints you desire (along with picking the power-ups you desire) to form a circuit. To be fair the track editor is OK (and easy to use) but it's a shame you can't create original locations using the objects that are within the game. The PlayStation 2 version doesn't have any online racing which is unfortunate as it would have extended the life of the game. The PC version could have looked better. Whilst the new dynamic camera angle feels more natural there are still moments on some of the tracks where it just doesn't feel right, although personally I think it's better than the camera that was used in V3.

How does it look?

Naturally Micro Machines V4 is the best looking game in the series to date but that's not to say the game looks impressive in any particular way. Those of you who have a choice of which format to purchase the game for might be disappointed to learn that the PC version doesn’t really look any better than the PlayStation 2 version. Sure there are reasons for purchasing the PC version over the PlayStation 2 version (such as a lower asking price and online play) but it certainly can't claim to be graphically superior. Neither version is anything special in terms of graphics though. The vehicles have kept their 'toy' appearance and although they do take damage, the damage modelling isn't as extensive as you might think.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

There are no problems for deaf gamers with Micro Machines V4. There are no captions for the horn and weapon sounds but this won't cause you any real problems. All objectives are given in text and there is no speech in the game so there is no need for subtitles.

Final thoughts.

If you are a fan of the previous Micro Machines games you'll enjoy what V4 has to offer. Likewise if you didn't enjoy the previous games there's a good chance you won't appreciate V4. However, if the reason you didn't get on with previous games was because of the rather awkward, top-down, camera angle you might want to give the game a try as the new dynamic camera angle is much better. On the whole Micro Machines V4 for both the PC and PlayStation 2 is a good arcade racing game. It can and does get repetitive at times and there are plenty of races that will severely test your patience. However, it can also be very enjoyable in short bursts.

Overall Game Rating: 7.0/10

Deaf Gamers Classification:

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Micro Machines V4 is an enjoyable arcade racer. It doesn't alter the formula, that made the previous Micro Machines games from Codemasters so enjoyable, too much and fans of the series will no doubt appreciate what the game has to offer.