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1 Reviews

Micro Machines V4

Pint-sized racing revs up on PC, but MMV4 proves small isn't always beautiful

Back in 1991, millions of Britons sang along to Bryan Adams' warbly ballad Everything I Do, clapped eyes upon Mr Blobby for the first time, walked around in what we then thought to be fashionable puffa jackets - and if you were lucky, tried out Codemasters' new top-down racer Micro Machines, based on the toy cars of the same name. Eventually appearing on 15 different platforms in seven different versions, the series was a huge success with its frantic racing, brilliantly conceived microenvironments and excellent multiplayer.

Now, 15 years on from the original's release, Codemasters have released v4 of the series. Packed with the same top-down racing, they may have thought that they'd stumbled across an old-school title ripe for updating, but as we've seen before, revisiting an old classic isn't always a clear-cut formula for success.


If you're a fan of the series, you'll instantly notice that the first thing to go missing is the cartoon-style character selection screen, replaced with, well nothing actually, as developers Supersonic have just done away with this entirely. And so begins the long list of problems with the diminutive racer's latest outing.

The wildly inventive, small-scale tracks have always been a strong point of the series, with tracks offering the chance to race round kitchen surfaces and pool tables while avoiding obstacles that only a 4cm toy car would find problematic - salt spills, glue drops and pool balls. Although Micro Machines v4 does offer a varied selection of tracks complete with their own tiny obstacles, most simply don't feel anywhere near as inventive and colourful as you'd expect from the series. Old favourites like the pool table make a welcome return, but some levels such as the sewers and the museum feel especially lacking in terms of content and polish.

Graphically, things aren't exactly up to scratch either. Despite using the engine from Supersonic's previous title Mashed, things somehow don't look as good as they did in that two-year-old title. Cars are crudely modelled with little to no detail, the lo-res textures show a lack of care in the conversion and the water texture looks so bad that we at first mistook it for a graphical glitch. Winning levels rewards you with cars, of which there are 750 to collect, but you can't choose any to use in races and they serve no real purpose other than to offend your eyes with their blocky design.

The game consists of a variation of three basic modes; races, timed challenges and battles (who can get to eight points first by destroying or beating their rivals). Imaginative power-ups are liberally sprinkled around the level too - from our favourite, the carmounted hammers, to health boosts.


However, while three different difficulties are on offer, even on the easiest settings, the single-player isn't as simple as you'd expect. Pushing and shoving matches should be avoided as you always seem to come off worse, and winning can sometimes feel a bit random, like when a pool ball shoots out of the bottom of the screen, inadvertently propelling someone onto victory.

More worrying is when your AI opponents just appear to give up completely, their engine note lowering in your ears until they disappear off the bottom of the screen for no apparent reason. Supersonic don't appear to have done much to sort out the camera issues from Mashed either, with your view of the road ahead becoming practically non-existent once you're in the lead, putting you at a massive disadvantage for being good.

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