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ATV Offroad Fury (PS2) Review

Background Info

Screens(14)
The first time I saw screenshots of this game I immediately noticed the uncanny similarity to Motocross Madness 2 on the PC. It came as little surprise then, when I discovered that ATV Offroad Fury was developed by the same team behind Motocross Madness 2, Rainbow Studios. However, rather than simply making a direct PS2 port of MCM2, Rainbow Studios have modified the game engine to accommodate racing with ATVs and added new tracks and racing environments. The result is a solid, action-packed, racing game that stands with SSX as one of the best sports games on the PS2.

Presentation/Graphics : 88
Graphically, ATV Offroad Fury (ATVOF) is a unique title. Its visuals don't immediately stand out and dazzle you like those in EA Sports' SSX, but the more you play and the more you see of the environments, you begin to appreciate the wonderful little touches that make ATVOF one of the most deceptively beautiful games on the PS2.

The best aspect of ATVOF's graphics is definitely the brilliant course models. The game features three types of courses/environments; outdoor Nationals tracks, indoor Supercross tracks, and Freestyle venues that also serve as Cross-Country Enduro environments. The various Nationals locations range from desert canyons, to lush temperate forests, to frigid arctic pipelines. In each the textures and trackside details are perfect. For example, the Lexington Trail course takes place in a beautiful forest during fall, and surrounding the track are some of the best trees and shrubs I've ever seen in a videogame with beautiful green, brown and red leaves. The wonderful vegetation is complimented by the requisite trackside hoardings, tire-walls, and ad boards. Since the course is in a forest, the ground textures are a mixture of dry soil and grassy areas. Put together, the entire package really conveys an incredible of realism without being too flashy. The rest of the Nationals tracks are just as impressive and not only are they all located in unique environments they can also take place at different times of day, and racing on the 'Salem's Backlot' course at night under a blanket of stars with a full moon in the night sky is a thing of beauty.

The indoor Supercross tracks are also modeled well with all the requisite details you'd expect such as banners, bales of hay, ad boards etc. However, stadiums that house the tracks could use a bit of work, as could the crowd graphics. The outdoor cross-country Enduro environments are incredible and range from the area surrounding a military base to a huge railroad yard. Not only are these environments large, they are also packed with both man-made and natural structures. For example, Fort Roberts (the military base) contains not only dense forest, but also command buildings, training grounds, and aircraft hangars. While you're racing around the area you'll also notice fighter jets and helicopters flying overhead. About the only thing missing from the Enduro/Freestyle environments is the brilliant dynamic traffic activity that was found in Motocross Madness 2--why Rainbow Studios left out such a great feature is a mystery.

The game features 11 different real life ATVs from manufacturers such as Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha and Polaris. Each of the ATVs is modeled well and you can see minute details such as the shocks independently moving up and down with the terrain, the grooves in the tires, and even the engines. The rider models are reasonably well done and you can choose various color schemes for your rider's clothing and between male and female rider models. However, the best part of the ATV and rider models is the animations, which can best be described as painfully realistic. Just as in Motocross Madness 2, ATVOF has a truckload of collision animations from the simple falling sideways off your ATV, to hurtling high into the air complete with arms and legs flailing before you hit the ground.

With all these great graphical details, the biggest testament to Rainbow Studios' hard work is that ATV Offroad Fury runs at constant, brisk framerate, with absolutely no slowdown in the single player mode, and a brilliant draw distance. This is most evident in the courses with that give you the biggest air, and when you're up high, sailing through the sky, the view of the surrounding area is simply breathtaking. The draw distance takes a slight hit in the two-player mode with noticeable fogging, and unfortunately in four-player mode some of the Enduro courses seem to be enshrouded in a blanket of fog.

Presentation/Audio : 74
ATVOF features 15 different tracks from artists such as Primus, Anthrax, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains and Apollo Four Forty. Unfortunately, the music isn't really my cup of tea and I turned it off after a few races. What did impress me was the brilliant selection of ambient sounds that accompany the many tracks and environments. For example, when racing around Yardley Station (a railroad yard) you hear warning bells clanging, the sound of trains chugging along the tracks, as well as wildlife ambient sounds such as birds chirping when you move further into the wooded areas. The ATV engine sounds aren't that impressive, however, and the monotonous hum can get slightly annoying after a while. On the other hand, the riders' groans and yells as they go flying off their ATVs are simply terrifying, and in tandem with the gruesome collision visuals they convey a sense of pain that will have you cringing in your seat.

Interface/Options : 86
The major modes of play in ATV Offroad Fury are Training, Maxxis Nationals, Stadium Supercross, Freestyle Competition, Cross-Country Enduro and Pro-Career. The Training mode is an excellent introduction to ATV racing and the 'instructor' gives you guidelines on the basic controls, stunts, and pre-loading. This is useful to those who've never played a Motocross Madness game, however those who have will be able to jump right into any of the other gameplay modes and feel right at home. The Nationals mode allows you to (surprise, surprise) race in some of the 11 featured outdoor Nationals tracks. Initially, only a few tracks are available, but as you progress in the Pro-Career mode you unlock more tracks for use in this mode. Stadium Supercross allows you to have a single race in an indoor Supercross course; there are 7 courses in total, but again you have to unlock most of them by winning the races in the Pro-Career mode. Freestyle mode allows you to participate in a Freestyle competition in one of five huge environments, while the Enduro racing is checkpoint racing (similar to the Baja racing in MCM2) in the same environments as the Freestyle competitions. Before each of the races you can select the options such as the number of laps, ATV model, your rider's outfit, and your rider's sex.

As you've probably guessed, the main event in ATVOF is the Pro-Career mode. Here you start off in the 11 race Nationals circuit, each race you're given a specific position you're required to finish above, and of course you receive points depending upon where you finish. Once you win the Nationals championship you then participate in the 7 race indoor Supercross series, and once you've won that you've finished the Pro-Career mode! Indeed, it is quite a bit on the short side in terms of the number of races. The poor Pro-Career mode is the biggest disappointment in ATVOF, and compared to the Pro-Career mode in MCM2, Rainbow Studios have really done a sub-par job. MCM2's career mode featured not only a lot more tracks (including outdoor, it also included cash winnings, the ability to upgrade your bike, and also damage/injury costs! Perhaps to make up for the poor career mode Rainbow Studios have included a brilliant, and easy to use, Waypoint Editor for the Enduro-races. This allows you to basically drive around the vast Enduro environments and set up checkpoints wherever you please and then save the course to memory card. After finishing the career mode this is where I spent most of my time and you can really create some wild races.

As mentioned before, the game features 11 outdoor Nationals courses, and 7 indoor Supercross ones. Not only are these courses beautiful to look at, they're also brilliantly designed with some courses requiring flat out speed and huge air, while others demanding tight cornering and tight throttle control. The outdoor Enduro/Freestyle environments are absolutely huge, with tons of secrets to discover. My favorite is in the Fort Roberts location where you can actually drive into the army barracks and make your way up three flights of stairs till you make your way to the roof!

ATVOF also has options for configuring your controls, as well as a very nice 'Hall of Fame' feature whereby lap records and longest jumps for each track are automatically recorded , and you can come back and view the various records after the race. The various stats and records are also displayed on screen at certain times during the races. There is also multi-tap support for up to four players.

Gameplay : 90
As I said at the beginning of this review, ATVOF is simply a modified PS2 version of Motocross Madness 2 on the PC with marginally different racing dynamics and different courses. Is this a bad thing? Of course not! MCM2 was one of the most addictive and enjoyable racing games of recent memory, and Rainbow Studios have captured the right mix of arcade excitement, brilliant track design, and realistic control to produce a fine racing game.

The default controls are the standard fare; X is accelerate, Square is brake, the left analog stick is to steer and move your rider, while the Triangle and Circle buttons in conjunction with a direction will perform different tricks in the air. The right stick allows you to actively rotate the camera as you're driving, while the shoulder buttons are used for the clutch, looking backward and the Thrill Cam. One of the best things incorporated in ATVOF, that was also prevalent in MCM2, is the ability to pre-load your shocks before you jump. To do so you pull back on the left analog stick when you reach the base of a jump, then flick the left analog stick forward just before your wheels leave the ground. When you start to pre-load your shocks a little meter in the lower right hand corner of the screen fills up; the more you pre-load your shocks the higher and further your ATV flies in the air!

Of course, it's not always completely advantageous to go soaring through the air on every jump because, unlike most other console motocross games, ATVOF doesn't feature those silly invisible barriers lining the course. This means that you can't go mindlessly flying around the course because if you do you'll undoubtedly end up getting into an accident. As such you actually have to show some restraint in certain parts of the courses and this really adds to the realism. Another large part of successfully navigating the courses is to conquer the 'rhythm' sections which feature several jumps (i.e. hills) in quick succession. Depending upon several factors such as your speed, the number of the jumps in succession, and the distance, you have to make a split-second decision in the heat of a race to how much you want to pre-load a jump. If you have a lot of speed should you try to pre-load to the max and go flying over the entire section? If you don't have enough speed then you have to judge your pre-loading by where you want to land if you land in a trough you'll have enough space to charge up another jump, but if you land on a crest you may end up uncomfortably bouncing along the rest of the section losing speed and time. This makes mastery of pre-loading, as well as intimate knowing the Nationals and Supercross tracks integral to success.

The racing itself is fast, furious and a truckload of fun. The Supercross and Motocross stages are a blast, and the AI is very aggressive. These guys aren't afraid to try and push you off course, collide with you in the air or even attempt to land their ATVs on your head! It's also good to see that the CPU riders aren't perfect and it's commonplace to see them crash and multiple ATV collisions are possible. The CPU riders do, however, seem to 'cheat' by being able to recover from a collision and get back onto their ATVs a few seconds faster than a human player. This can sometimes be annoying when out of no fault of your own you get in a collision with another ATV, and you're stuck waiting to get back on track, while the CPU rider has already got back on his ATV and is racing off.

Racing in the outdoor Enduro-courses is a completely different experience, and while it generally requires less skill to succeed, it's just as fun. The best part about the Enduro races is that you can choose whichever path you want to take just as long as you make it to the next checkpoint, and the varied environments all add to the hectic nature of the races. There's nothing like flying off a hill, racing down a valley, and jumping in front of a speeding train in order to make it to the next checkpoint. However, because of the lack of dynamic traffic, and really dense vegetation (both primary features in the Enduro racing in MCM2) ATV Offroad Fury seems to lag behind MCM2 in terms of the overall fun factor in Enduro races.

The Freestyle mode, like that in MCM2 is a fun and performing the various tricks is pretty much straightforward. It's not Tony Hawk, but its still pretty fun nevertheless and many of the jumps in the Freestyle/Enduro environments are so huge that you can pull off some amazing combos. You can also do stunts during regular races, however you don't really gain anything from doing them and it would have been nice if Rainbow Studios had of incorporated some form of bonus for doing tricks in the Pro-Career mode.

The physics model in ATVOF is solid, though slightly exaggerated when it comes to jumping. Each of the different ATVs has various attributes and you really can tell the difference in handling between each of the different models. Prior to a race you can also fine tune various aspects of your ATV such as spring and shock settings, brakes, and gear ratios, and in some of the tougher Supercross races this tweaking becomes a prerequisite to success. Collisions between the riders and with static objects are generally well done; however, it would have been nice to see some objects, such as trackside advertisement hoardings, sustain some form of damage after a collision instead of staying completely rigid. As I mentioned before, the jumping is exaggerated, but at the end of the day the onus is on fun and the solid handling of the ATVs still ensures that game still requires skill and cunning to succeed.

Replay Value : 88
The 18 Supercross and Nationals tracks will take quite some time to master, and the waypoint editor allows for an almost infinite variety of Enduro races. The multiplayer modes also add a lot of replay value, and ATV Offroad Fury's biggest asset is that it's so fun and addictive that even after you've seen and done everything, you'll often find yourself coming back for more. The game's biggest weakness, however, is the poor Pro Career mode that is over far too quickly. I really wish Rainbow Studios had spent more time on this aspect of the game because it would have made a huge difference to the already high replay value.

Overall : 89
It really is hard to describe how much fun ATV Offroad Fury is; there are few things that compare to the thrill you get from launching yourself off a cliff, hurtling several hundred feet through the air over a desert canyon, and successfully landing your ATV on an opposing rider's head! The game succeeds in not only providing arcade thrills, but also adding a simulation elements that mean you really have to work hard and know the tracks inside-out in order to be successful. The selection of courses is excellent, and the outdoor Enduro environments are packed with tons of thrills and secret locations. Unfortunately, there can be some frustration in the way the CPU riders are able to get back on their ATVs quicker than you can, and the poor career mode also cuts short some of the fun. However, when all is said and done, the positives far outweigh the negatives and this is a game that no PS2 racing fan (nor Motocross Madness fan, for that matter) should be without.

By: Lavan Chandran 3/23/01



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