ATV Offroad Fury 2 Review (PS2)
During the summer of my sixth birthday one of the things my father did was give me a mini-bike. It wasn't very big, but it felt proportional to me as someone does on a Harley now. He found the frame one day that someone had thrown out, and decided to piece it together to ride again. Wasn't pretty but to a six year old it was awesome just to have a mini-bike. My first ride however was not what I thought it would be. You hear once in a while someone saying that an event has scarred them for life and they constantly remember it; well this was one of those incidents. After I received my instructions on how to operate the mini-bike I found out while cruising through the back yard that I did not have a clue on one important detail, the brakes. Here I am wide open on the throttle, full of panic, mentally and physically. Only thing I had a focus on was the narrow gate that was between the house and the garage. Completely frozen in state due to fright and with the throttle wide open I slammed into the edge of the house and came to rest on my side with the mini-bike to my side. Needless to say my mother didn't allow my father to let me back on anything powered and on two wheels again. You are probably wondering by now what this has to do with a review, but it does. You see after that incident I always had an itching to be back on something powerful and off-road but never got the chance. There have been some weak off-road games through the years and some good ones, but none ever giving me the thrill of that 10-minute ride when I was six. Two years ago when I bought my PS2 I purchased ATV Offroad Fury, along with five other games. ATV Offroad Fury is the only one I still have in my possession. It wasn't that it was the greatest game out there, but it always kept me interested and was flat out fun, and it took me back and kept reminding me of that incident years ago. Now comes ATV Offroad Fury 2. Read on to find out if this is in the same category as the original.
If you played the original you will not see a whole lot of change in the graphics from the first incarnation to this one. One of the biggest differences is it is much crisper and brighter. Even if you haven't played the first title you will be pleased with the graphics. There isn't anything groundbreaking or earth shattering with them but they definitely do the job needed. You will see everything expected while racing from mud flying and water splashing to birds soaring overhead. Most of the time looks to have been spent on the ATVs and the riders, as well as the tracks themselves. The backgrounds have some details but they didn't go to great lengths to do anything major. This is fine though as most of your time is going to be spent looking at the ATVs, drivers, and the racing surfaces themselves.
The in game music is all a matter of taste as with any game. There is enough of a variety where most anyone can find a couple of tunes to their liking, which is also customizable to be able to pick and play what you want to hear. This is one of the first games where I didn't mind the music and instead of completely turning it off, I just lowered the volume. These are mostly a mix of rock and hip-hop/rap, with a few of them coming from mainstreams artists (System of a Down, Coolio, Alien Ant Farm, and Filter and more). The sound of the ATVs themselves is very good. If you were cruising in your ATV through the back 40 you would hear very close to the same thing you do in the game. This works for me, as the sound of an ATV doesn't get on my nerves at all, and after while becomes soothing. Other then the music and the sound of the ATVs there really isn’t a whole lot else besides the occasional water splash or the sound of the rider flying off the bike on a bad landing or when they land hard, which is just a male or female grunt depending on the gender of your rider.
The meat and potatoes of ATV Offroad Fury 2 is the gameplay. There are plenty of modes to choose from. Single player, consists of a quick race, freestyle (stunts for points), championship mode, and a waypoint editor where you get to create your own enduro style track while setting waypoints throughout. This is one option I had a hard time finding interest in. It is clumsy feeling and slow moving to set the checkpoint gates and see what you are accomplishing. The only time you can use the created enduro tracks are against another human or solo run, AI does not race on the created tracks. If you have the patience you may find some fun and use out of this, but in my opinion this option doesn’t add nor take anything away from the game itself.
The single player championship mode (two players would’ve been nice) consists of 14 different championships consisting of: Nationals, Supercross, Enduro (each of these consists of a pro and amateur level which then include a normal and expert difficulty level) and Freestyle, which has an amateur and pro championship. There are 5-7 races in each of the separate racing championships and you must get to a certain point level to keep moving on within the championship. Normally a third place finish will keep you moving (you compete against 4 AI drivers), but you need to finish higher to get the gold and move on to the Expert level of the championship you are on. The freestyle championships have you obtaining certain goals to move on. You only compete against the goals, not other racers in the amateur and pro freestyle events.
Offline Multiplayer mode can be against another human, or against three other humans with a Multitap or i-Link, using these you can have a single race, freestyle, or compete in the mini-games. The first two mini-games available to you are Tag and Hockey; both of these are a lot of fun. Tag consists of try to get a beach ball and holding it. The longer you hold the ball the more points you get. The thing that makes this challenging is you are also much slower with the ball. The racer with the ball is also the only one who can perform stunts for points, which can increase your score. Hockey puts you in a hockey arena either 1-on-1, or 2-on-2 with each player or team trying to push a puck the size of the ATV into the other teams goal. King of the Hill (try to get the most points per jump zone) and Treasure Hunt (collect the most coins) can be unlocked later. I do not own a Multitap or i-Link, but the fun factors on these would be even larger with two more human players involved.
The last of the modes available to play is Online play. I will go into this after I discuss how things are out on the track.
Once the green light appears that is when the action starts (go figure eh?). The ATVs control flawlessly, they respond going into the corners, and they have a very good sense of speed, if you doubt me try racing under the 1st person view, which is one of 6 different views available. Rainbow Studios has also brought back the preload meter for jumping. For those that are unfamiliar, basically as you are getting ready to start your jump you bring your left analog back and as you get ready to launch you bring it forward, if timed correctly you can get a lot of height and distance to your jump. To excel in any of the championships you will need to master the preload meter. Moving around the tracks the controls response time is immediate. Occasionally it will feel like you don’t have control over your ATV but if you look close enough you will realize you are not touching the ground. Pitching your ATV helps control your landing and this is also done very well. If your trying to get that ATV down on a long jump you just press down and the brake and it will descend quicker. Some of the jumps you will launch yourself from can send you way off course and this little trick will come in very handy.
The races themselves are long and a ton of fun. The number of laps is adjustable from 1-20, but the championship races are set to five laps. The AI isn’t as difficult as it was in the first version. This year you are forgiven a little more for screwing up. Last year if you made a mistake you struggled to even catch up to the back of the pack. This version you can make a mistake and recover rather easily. AI also can do this as well and this may frustrate you on occasion. There is a lot of bumping and grinding with the AI during the race, so it will almost always be a struggle to win. There were many times where it looked like I had easily outdistanced the AI racers, but yet by the last corner of the race there they were trying to pass me for the win. Normally I could hold them off but after 4 complete laps of domination, the last corner near takeover can really tick you off. This is even more prevalent in the expert levels. One mistake can spell doom for the race. Once you unlock the more powerful ATVs you will be able make a couple mistakes and still have a chance at this level. Speaking of unlockables there are quite a few unlockables. Most items are unlocked by earning points from the different races and modes. These can be used to unlock new ATVs, and then items to customize the look of your rider; gear, helmet, goggles, gloves and boots. Tracks can be unlocked in two ways, by winning championships or using your profile points. It is more rewarding to unlock the tracks via the championship route since you also get a large number of points to go with it for unlocking other items as well. Now we can move on to talking about racing online.
Online play has its good and bad points. Maximum amount of humans in a race is 4 (no AI). If you host a race, all that will be available is what you have unlocked. So if you just started playing you will only have the default tracks and ATVs available to you. However, if you join another users race you will get to race on and with anything they have unlocked. Nice premise here, its gives a little incentive for online play, and even if you are lazy in unlocking items, you still can get an opportunity to race and use what you don't have yet. Modes of play are limited to race and freestyle. Sadly the 2 player games are not available online. The omission of these makes the next statements even bigger.
The problems with online play are mainly prevalent in the interface and the longevity. First off, once you go online the only way back to the games main menu is to reset your PS2. The load time it takes from a reset to get back to playing isn’t overly long, but it is long enough to make this annoying if you actually want to go back to racing offline again. Second, the lobbies are a joke. You have two lobbies to check for races, freestyle and race, however you have no idea how many people are around. Finding a race is just look at the screen and see if someone has a race listed. Really simple but done in a way that can get very annoying, especially since you have no idea how many people are in each lobby. The total number of players listed at the top is a combination of both lobbies; also there is no chat in the lobby so you cannot pre-arrange a race with anyone before it is started. You are at the mercy of the host as to where you will race. Third, you are racing for nothing but pride online. There are no stats being saved, no ladders, no history of who won, nothing. This makes racing feel very primitive. Once in the events I noticed some lag occasionally by someone who was on a sub par connection, but it didn't affect me in the least. I have a very solid cable connection and it shows in anything I am involved in. Usually any problems I encounter online are from the other users connections. Majority of those that were hosting looked to be on a broadband connection. Most warping and lag showing from another racer was involving just that one racer.
The thing that really makes me wonder is why do I keep coming back to playing online? Online play is an extremely fun mode, even without having statistical incentives to keep you interesting in playing longer. In the couple weeks I have had this title I have literally gone out of my way to make sure I had some time for a couple races online. It is very easy to find another racer that is just as skilled as you. You may not always win, but I have never been completely blown out in a race unless it was by my own doing. I am not sure though how long online play will really last for being a fun mode. Most anytime I have been on there has been at least twenty racers shown online either in the lobby or in ongoing races. I have logged on at all different hours and this minimum was always the case.
If there is a third try in this series, the two things they need to improve on are more online options and more racers. If online play is the pure reason you are buying this game, you may be seriously disappointed. The online racing can be very fun, but without any incentives there eventually gets to be no point to it. If your lazy, using items you don’t have unlocked is a minor incentive, but not enough of one to justify online play. If you are interested in this for fun, exciting, pure racing, then this is your title. I believe even some non-racing fans will find some fun out of this title with the freestyle modes and even the two player games.