I’m starting to have fun with these games. 4×4 Off-Road Racing is another gem with surprising depth for the theme. The game was released by Epyx in 1988.
As can be guessed from the title, this game is about racing in a 4×4 car. There are four courses to be chosen from, among which a rally through the deserts of Death Valley or one through the snowy lands of Michigan. These races are hundreds of miles long, and you’ll not only be up against other drivers, but also against the rough terrain and your own brittle car.
The 16 other opponents all have a headstart on you for some reason, so you’ll have to make some speed if you want to catch them. But it’s not as simple as just going top-speed and overtake the other cars. On the roads are various obstacles, ranging from loose tires to rocks and animal skulls. Hitting these causes slowdowns, jumps, or worse, damage to your car.
As can be seen on your dashboard, damage comes with various effects: brakes or transmission malfunction, general breakdowns, flat tire, etc. To properly repair these, you need to have the right parts with you, which you can buy before starting the race. Yes, racing requires some preparation.
Your vehicle only has limited storage, so what will you stock? If your transmission is malfunctioning, you might be able to reach the next checkpoint to repair it, but can you risk not getting there? Of course, repairing it along the way also costs time… How far is that checkpoint anyway? Would you lose 10 minutes checking the map? You did buy a map, didn’t you?
This game, however, carries a message. A message you might all recognise now, but at the time it must have been prophetic in nature. A message you might even be tired of hearing, but I shall repeat it anyway. SUVs use fuel. A lot of it. They swallow fuel like a cheap hooker swallows… Well, continue that yourself. Stock your entire car with extra cans of fuel and you’ll barely be able to make it. Keeping your engine’s RPM under control is mandatory if you don’t want to run out of fuel before being able to refill at a checkpoint. And that’s with the most economical of the 4 vehicles.
4×4 Off-Road Racing is equal parts strategy and driving and both parts are enjoyable. If someone would now just make a nice remake which brings modern graphics (some sense of speed would be nice), decent physics and a bit more eventful racing, that would be one game I would be willing to pay money for. Going for 7 out of 10 now.