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Monster 4X4 World Circuit
Preview By: Andrew Joy
Developer: Ubisoft
Publisher: Ubisoft
Genre: Racing
ESRB: Everyone
# Of Players: 1-4
Online Play: No
Accessories: Thrustmaster Wheel attachment
Estimated Release: 11/19/2006

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The real beauty of the Nintendo Wii, as I’m sure anyone will tell you, is in its controller. Of course, the real beauty of the controller, as I’m sure anyone will tell you, is in its versatility. While developers will likely be finding new ways to use the Wii-mote years after the system comes out, some of the concepts were far more obvious. Right from the beginning, it was simply a given that racing games were going to be big on the platform, if only for the novelty of physically turning the controller in order to steer your vehicle. And, sure enough, with the Wii launch under a month away now, no less than five racing titles are headed to the system on day one, including games like Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam and those with racing elements including SpongeBob SquarePantsCreature from the Krusty Krab. Among them, though, some are destined to be standouts, like Nintendo’s own Excite Truck, which takes even the simplest concept and puts a twist on it (no pun intended). But we won’t be talking about that game now, because sometimes your games just need to be normal, and of Ubisoft’s planned Wii launch titles, they have two racing games that fit the bill. Today we’ll be talking about...Monster 4X4 World Circuit.

Monster 4x4 World Circuit

It is no mystery that a lot of Ubisoft’s Wii launch titles have been or will be on other systems, but games like Splinter Cell, Far Cry and Blazing Angels have been more or less swept under the rug during all the hubbub surrounding some of the bigger ones, including Red Steel and Rayman Raving Rabbids. That said, a lot of people might not know that Monster 4x4 World Circuit has already been released on the original Xbox, where it received some rather poor reviews. Of course, there have been some changes since then, with the controls being the most obvious, but we also know that while the original ran at only 30fps, the Wii version will run at a silky 60. However, given the Wii’s understated power, we are hoping it holds out – after all, a steady 30 looks much better than chugging, up and down frame rate. We don’t expect that will be too much of a problem, though, as the few screens available more than imply that we won’t be seeing anything along the lines of some upcoming Xbox 360 and PS3 racers. Instead of realism, Monster 4x4 World Circuit seems to be all about putting up a good show, with lots of flashy lighting effects and the like. Still, it does seem to suit the game's larger-than-life feel.

Of course, the whole game seems designed around that entire aspect. I mean, it is a game about monster trucks, so you really don’t have to put too much into the title apart from, well, a few trucks with big wheels and a handful of dirt tracks littered with obstacles. While I won’t say Monster 4x4 World Circuit goes above and beyond the call of duty (after all, they obviously had to do something to make the game worth buying), it does seem like they had a little fun with the title. The exaggerated vehicle designs include everything from the classic monster truck to even the most mundane vehicles, such as ambulances and school buses, all tricked out with giant wheels and the like. And the tracks look to be a lot of fun, too, with lots of variety. Tracks are located all over the world, including condensed versions of Egypt, Russia and many popular U.S. landmarks, so it all seems a bit like racing RC cars through a mini-golf course. Between those two aspects (both of which include new content not found in the original Xbox version), this game will likely be a blast to play with friends, whether they are all taking part or simply watching you make a fool of yourself on the couch.

For the most part, the freedom of the Wii remote allows you to remove sloppy analog stick controls and give you a more natural setup. By now, most people reading this likely understand the basic controls in a game like this. As I mentioned up at the top, this game screams of simplicity. But just to make sure you know...you turn the Wii remote left to turn left, right to turn right, and use the 1 and 2 buttons as your brake and gas, respectively. Of course, the Xbox version had a few more buttons mapped than that, and likely other functions such as preparing for a trick, using items and that sort of thing, will all be mapped to the D-pad (or perhaps the B trigger on the back). Like Excite Truck, the key to winning the race in Monster 4x4 World Circuit may not be what happens on the track, but what goes on above it. When you hit a jump, you naturally build up massive speed and air, but instead of trying to lineup your wheels for the landing, you will twist and turn the Wii-mote to perform a variety of aerial stunts. Doing so will earn you a boost, which can be used at any time (by thrusting the controller towards the screen) instead of at the moment you land.

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Posted: 2006-10-25 18:20:49 PST