The Micro Machines series has always been radically different from other racing games. It's not about tweaking your ride or searching for a sweet spot on the track to zip ahead of the pack. Hell, most of the time it's not even about crossing the finish line in first place. For the most part, you're just supposed to beat the other cars to the edge of the screen to win a point. After so many points, you win the match, no laps or checkpoints involved at all.
The issue with this unique racing style is that once you do rocket ahead and score a point, the match stops, has a little car-dancing animation and you're lined back up to continue the race. Sometimes it's hard to keep a sense of momentum and speed with all the sudden halts, but once you get used to it, v4 quickly evolves into a multiplayer dream.
It's all about the unknown - the camera hangs so close to the cars that you really can't tell which way the track is going to go. And as you're screaming through the kitchen counters, pool tables and classrooms, it's entirely likely that all four of you will careen right off the track together.
Sounds annoying, and yeah, being forced to memorize the track layout is harsh, but with such bizarre course designs and power-ups like lasers, machine guns and oversized hammers, the unpredictability of multiplayer turns out to be the best part of the game. It's when you start playing solo that the intrigue starts to vaporize.
Once your pals all head out for the night and it's just you and the game, you're probably better off leaving it alone. The computer opponents have the tracks memorized and rarely scoot off the track into oblivion, and you don't get the same exhilaration from creaming soulless, AI-controlled cars and trucks as you do when you're blasting wheels off your friend's mini-bus.
The many modes of play, both single and multiplayer, mix things up but come in styles you're well aware of: time trials, checkpoint races and regular lap races. Nothing too fancy, but all get the job done. Again, it's mostly the miniaturized charm of the courses and the variety of tiny cars you're racing that make v4 worth returning to - with three friends, of course.
This series has been around for some time now, so if you've tried any of the previous games you already know what to expect. Micro Machines v4 doesn't stray one bit from its own gene pool and certainly doesn't impress on any level other than mindless, guilty arcade racing, but sometimes that's vastly preferable to all the stat-heavy, mod-crazy options out there.