Recent Playstation "racing" games haven't focused on racing, but rather on weapons (Impact Racing), futuristic spacecraft (WipeOut XL), and cartoon opponents (Street Racer). TNN Motor Sports Hardcore 4X4, however, is truly a racing game. For that reason, and that reason alone, Hardcore 4X4 is a refreshing addition to the Playstation racing game library. However, the same solid racing focus that makes Hardcore 4X4 stimulating is also the game's biggest downfall: There are no surprises, no changes in gameplay, and nothing to work towards.
Once past the cumbersome options screen interface, you can select one of six different trucks (each varying in speed, tension, and suspension), and race on one of six different courses (with terrain ranging from dirt, mud, sand, grass, and rock, to ice and snow). Weather conditions, including sunny, overcast (fog, sandstorm), and severe (rain, snow), greatly affect your visibility in both day and night racing. Race types include single race, championship (race on all six courses, vying for points and ranking), and time trial. The performance of your ride is not customizable, except for alterations to the steering response level.
The game handles well enough - the action is fast and the control responsive. Graphically, the tracks have a realistic look and feel, with endless bumps, hills, curves, and jumps. One of Hardcore 4X4's primary selling points is that it's the first racing game to have vehicles with independent suspension. And while it's unique to have all four wheels respond differently to the terrain, it really doesn't make the game any more exciting (more realistic, perhaps, but not more exciting). Still, the vehicle physics are impressive, with the trucks handling each surface differently, going slower up hills, faster down hills, and so on. Take a turn too quickly and your truck will flip and roll. If nothing else, the game feels right.
One of the game's primary problems, however, lies in track design. The courses, usually deep down in high-walled canyons (and their surrounding environments), often consist of the same slightly drab colors and textures. This makes it impossible to see the track ahead - an overhead map or directional indicator would have greatly reduced the time spent crashing into walls. The long, winding courses are also far too narrow, and much like the claustrophobic speedways in the original Destruction Derby, there's little room to maneuver. And there's nothing to run over or crush with your truck - just lots of dirt and rocky roads to navigate.
Simply, you drive a truck over dirt roads and race against a handful of faceless opponents. With only six courses and no new levels or hidden tracks, Hardcore 4X4 is worth a weekend rental, but has little long term replay value.