4x4 Jam (iPhone) Review
Posted by Sam Pow on 07.17.2009
4x4 Jam brings off road racing action to iPhone, letting you blaze your own path through this enjoyable game.
Title: 4x4 Jam
Developer: Invictus Games Ltd.
I'm generally not a big fan of racing games. The goal of them seemed to bore me for two reasons. One, I didn't like the linearity, and two, I always found losing frustrating. The only racing game I bothered to pick up in the last few years was Burnout Paradise, and I loved it for one reason: the open world. I am a HUGE fan of sandbox/open world games, and the idea that I could spend hours exploring Paradise City instead of racing enticed me into buying the game. Now I'm setting my sights on Fuel, an even more ambitious racer in regards to open world, and I'll probably end up buying that soon. The problem is, both those games are on consoles, which leaves me with nothing to do when I'm on the go. Luckily, Invictus Games has released 4x4 Jam, an off road racing game for iPhone. One of the games three modes (with more on the way) allows you to freely roam the game's large maps. Even on an iPhone, this is fun and engaging, and has kept me entertained longer than most of the iPhone games I review do. The other two modes are both unique too, and offer a distinctive challenge. This game will be staying in my "now playing" area for a while. Read on.
Gameplay in 4x4 Jam boils down to three control methods. Accelerometer controls come in two flavors: tilting to steer with manual acceleration and brake, and the simpler scheme in which you just steer and brake, while acceleration is automatically handled. There's really no reason to go with the latter, as manual accel gives you much better control over your vehicle. The second control arrangement allows you to use touch controls to steer, handling acceleration on its own and giving you manual brake. This one works better than the simple accelerometer control, but still doesn't allow manual acceleration (as steering requires two fingers).
The three game modes are jam, off road race, and free roam. In jam, a gate appears somewhere on the map, and it's your job to get to it before the other AI do. Whoever gets to the gate first gets a point, and then another gate appears. There is no set track, and the game allows you to get to the gate however you see fit. Finding the best path around hills and mountains can be a challenge, and adds strategy to the race formula. The second mode, off road race, is a much more traditional race type mode, in which there are close checkpoints, and you race through them, trying to get to a set lap point before all the others. The last mode, free roam, is my clear favorite. Free roam lets you explore the map, doing cool jumps, climbing the hills, and just exploring in general. It's actually really fun, and a great diversion from the normal action packed racing. It also doubles as the coolest screensaver you could possibly have for your iPhone. Just switch the controls to accelerometer with auto acceleration and leave it somewhere on your desk. Your car will just keep going, jumping over hills, rolling around, and making cool engine noises. In general, all the game modes are fun, but for me this one really stood out, and will undoubtedly keep me coming back to the game.
The content in the game varies. Although the developer has promised new cars, maps, and modes, right now there just isn't enough (only two cars and two maps are availible). The game modes are good, but I found myself wanting more maps and a much larger selection of vehicles. Luckily, the makers are supporting it, adding content in free updates instead of abandoning it like so many other developers do.
Graphics in the app also work out fairly well. The environments look better than I expected, with believable bumps and mountains, and trees that look good, as long as you're not right next to them. The cars look good too, and they even go as far as to have reflections and shadowing. Even with the four possible cars on-screen going at it and zipping across the map, I never experienced any slowdown or framerate issues. The game runs as smooth as a trout in a greased pipe. Another good point is the visibility, which is fairly high, and the pop-up you'll experience isn't at all bad for an iPhone game. Physics are of course a big part of the game, and work perfectly. You car controls well, climbs hills like it should, and performs rolls and crashes correctly.
Audio is the lowest point in the game. It has one forgettable menu song, and the sound effects during races aren't that special. Engine noises and crashing are ok, but the voicing is laughably bad. This one won't suffer at all without the sound on.
The game should last you a while, with multiple levels of difficulty, and the greatly replayable free roam. New content that is being released soon should prolong the games life even more, and keeps things fresh. Ultimately, this is one of those iPhone titles that I would play when I'm bored. It's very accessible, yet deep enough to sustain long play periods.
This game has managed to grab my interest with fun modes and gameplay. The free roam is something that I think should be included in all racing games, and works well on the iPhone. Good graphics and physics bring the game even higher, although it is weighed down a bit by the audio, which isn't quite up to par. Overall, though, it creates a fun experience that’s definitely worth the price.
The graphics are good for an iPhone game, and the framerate never skips a beat
All the modes are fun, and the game controls well
The sound effects are pretty bad, and the voice work is terrible
The modes are fairly replayable, and new content is on the way, so this should last a good bit
The free roam in particular stood out to me as a fun idea that had not been previously attempted on iPhone, and is very enjoyable