Players: 1 to 4 Player Game | Release Date: 02/05/01 | Genre: Driving
Extreme sports games generally fall into two categories. They're either well received, such as Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, or they fail quite badly, like 3Xtreme. One series that has enjoyed critical acclaim is the Motocross Madness series of games that have been released on the PC. Published by Microsoft and developed by Rainbow Studios, the Motocross Madness series is arguably the only motocross game that really captures the spirit of the sport while, at the same time, making the game interesting and very fun. Luckily, Rainbow Studios has done the same with ATVs with ATV Offroad Fury on the Playstation 2.
ATV Offroad Fury isn't a racer in the traditional sense. While it is important to beat the opposition to the finish line, it's not necessarily by having the fastest quad of the bunch. Much like Motocross Madness, it's also how well you take the hills. All around the tracks will be a series of bumps that, naturally, must be jumped. The trick is finding the fastest way to jump each series of bumps while keeping your speed up. This is what separates Fury from most racers and gives what normally would be a rather average experience a little more brainpower. Finding the fastest rhythm with the bumps, preloading your shocks for a jump, landing angles, etc., all play a crucial role as well. If you don't master the rhythm of the tracks, you won't get very far and may find this game very difficult.
Graphically, ATV Offroad Fury may not turn heads but there aren't many flaws to complain about either. The ATVs are well modeled, with individual piping that looks rendered, not textured, and a shock system that genuinely looks and acts realistic. The riders don't have many of the details that the quads have but you probably wouldn't notice it since most of the camera views are so far away. The tracks and environments are also nicely modeled as well. All the hills and valleys that you'll see in the game look very smooth and round. With the exception of trackside objects like tires, it's incredibly difficult to pick out polygon seams in this game.
Likewise, the texturing is also well done in that the color transition from darker patches of mud and dirt to lighter patches is incredibly smooth. Another thing to note is the particle effects and frame rate. Even with all five competitors on screen, all throwing off nice looking mud, there isn't a hit of framerate drop. Probably the best visuals in Fury are the animations. The riders will realistically lean into turns as well as lean forward and back. The crash collisions are also quite good in that they seem to spill off the quads depending on how and where they are hit. Not only will riders bounce off the ATVs when you hit a hill at the wrong angle but on one particular track, I bumped the rider's head off the top of the finish line banner and the rider fell backwards off the ATV as it rolled off in the distance. Above all this, ATV Offroad Fury doesn't suffer from anti-aliasing or shimmering problems that have plagued previous PS2 titles.
Having said all this though, there are still a few complaints about the graphics. While the transitions between textures and colors on the track are, for the most part, very smooth, there are portions of the track that have an almost grid-like pattern on them. Thankfully they're not used much on the closed tracks, but they do pop up more often on the Freestyle areas. Also, the collision animations are quite good but not perfect. While the initial impact seems incredibly good, after the rider hits the ground, they bounce and slide somewhat unrealistically. The ATVs don't seem to have this problem though as they do tend to bounce and spin realistically well after the initial impact.
Another problem was the image shearing that sometimes occurs after a big turn. As with the grid pattern, however, this problem only seems to be noticeable on the Freestyle areas where you can travel virtually anywhere you want. Finally, the camera views that are offered aren't the best and, basically, there are only three different camera views that are truly useful with one of them being a slight variation of the other. The default camera is probably best but it would have been nice to have some that are a tad closer. These flaws aren't all that significant however and don't hinder the game much, if at all.
The controls for Fury are relatively simple to describe but, in practice, they really expand the gameplay. The left analog stick controls steering, naturally, as well as your lean. On the ground and in the air, it's important to have the proper lean on your ATV. Before a jump, you can lean back on your ATV to charge your shocks and at the top of a jump, lean forward for an extra boost. You'll also need to lean properly when landing on bumps or you could take a spill. Leaning too far back when landing on the backside of a bump will generally knock your rider off as well as any other off kilter leaning in regard to the ground below. Along with the standard brake and gas buttons, you also have two trick buttons. Generally though, tricks won't serve much of a purpose in most of the track races except for some showboating.
The only portion of the game where they really come into play is in Freestyle competition at which you actually get points for them. Among the shoulder buttons, you're given a clutch, a rear-view and, lastly, a trick camera button, which when depressed, will set the camera off to the side of the track so you can see your jumps from a spectators perspective. As simple as the controls seem to be, the gameplay is much more than just arcade-like ATV racing game. ATV Offroad Fury is a game that's easy to pickup but also deep enough to learn and improve over time.
If there is one thing that hurts this game, it would be the lacking sound effects and the hit-and-miss nature of the soundtrack. Generally, the sound effects in the game are better than average, but there isn't a whole lot of variety to them. After a collision, you'll only hear an "ooh", "ah" and that's about it. The ATVs only have three sounds to them--revving up, running, and a very underused idle. What's worse is that there is no variation between any three of those sound effects.
Regardless if you tap the gas or hold it down, you'll only get the canned "revving-up" sound effect and that's it. It won't level off into a regular engine sound or an idle but just stops. Also, when you're racing and jump off a bump, the engine sound just stops. It doesn't redline, doesn't idle, it just seemingly stops until you make contact with the ground at which case it starts again. The soundtrack, on the other hand, has variety but its patchy song selection isn't so good. Some tunes, like Soundgarden's 'Spoonman' and Bender's 'Isolate,' just don't fit into this game because of their tempo. They seem a tad slow compared to what's happening onscreen. In contrast, Ultraspank's 'Click' and Apollo Four Forty's 'Yo! Future' fit this game perfectly, particularly with the later song having a sample like, "Gotta fly, Gotta fly!", perfectly describing some of the jumps you'll encounter.
On a special note, I'd have to ask all developers to never, ever put 'Jerry Was A Race Car Driver' in future videogames. While I do like Primus, I've heard that very song a million times while playing Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. It's akin to being overplayed on the radio; you just get sick of hearing the same song over and over again.
If you've never played or heard of the Motocross Madness series on the PC, you'll probably find ATV Offroad Fury to be quite a surprise. It has a simplistic arcade quality to it that makes it easy to pick up, with physics that make jumps just a tad on the insane side, but it also has gameplay elements that make it a deeper racing game as well. However, if you have played the Motocross Madness games, you'll immediately notice the similarities between them and Fury. So much so that, when I initially started playing this game but before I looked up the developer, I noticed how similar they were and even remarked, "This is a blatant rip-off of Motocross Madness". Rainbow Studios is forgiven though since the tried-and-true gameplay is definitely welcome on the PS2. ATV Offroad Fury is definitely a good buy.