Man, quads are fun. Riding around the dunes, dirt hitting your face, getting stuck because your friend decides to cut in front of you in a soft patch of sand… ahh, the fun. ATV Offroad Fury 2 emulates ATV racing pretty well, and you don’t have to clean the dirt out of your mouth afterward. And while the game seems more like an update to the first game than an actual sequel, it’s still a fun game for those who loved the first one, or those who have yet to experience the Offroad Fury experience.

Graphics are well done. While most of the courses are dirt tracks, there are enough variations in levels that it isn’t just one big mud puddle. There are forest tracks, desert tracks, and snow tracks, and they are all pretty varied. The Supercross levels are well done, too, but the crowd looks very flat, though you won’t notice this much, as you should be concentrating on your driving. One cool effect is that your tires and clothes will start getting muddier further into the race. There are some anti-aliasing issues (as usual… heck, it’s PS2), but the game is fairly smooth. Only once have I experienced slowdown when playing the game, and that was when the other four racers were all flying across the screen, performing stunts. My major complaint is that the ground of the tracks looks very flat. The details of the ground are sort of painted on, so some sense of realism is lost there. Overall, though, the graphics are great.

The music that Rainbow has chosen to accompany our racing is well varied, and fits many different tastes, with a little rap, a little punk rock, a little electronic, and a little metal. You can go to the options and choose which songs you want to play, so you don’t have to switch the song if you don’t like it. There are a few annoying songs, and some feel a little out of place, but that’s mainly according to my own tastes. Personally, I loved flying around the stunt tracks with Korn blaring in the background, but that’s just me…

The sound effects are limited, but well chosen. There’s only so many different sounds that the engine of an ATV makes, but the sounds are authentic and well placed. Not too many other sound effects save for the crash sounds and the screams when you’re sent flying. Nothing outstanding, but it’s effective.

The controls are fairly basic. X is go, square is brake. Hold both, you go in reverse. Triangle and Circle are stunt buttons; press them in combination with a direction while in the air, and you’ll perform a stunt. Hold L1 while pressing triangle and circle to perform even bigger stunts. While the mechanics are incredibly simple, there is one mechanic of the game that will take a while to master: preloading your shocks. When you reach the bottom of a hill, press down on the analog stick. When you reach about the middle of the hill, press up. If done correctly, you will launch much further than you normally would off the jump. This adds quite a large amount of strategy to the game, as you must determine whether it would be better to take the hills normally, or to preload and try to launch your way across the hills. These controls (with the exception of L1) are exactly the same as the first game. This is a good thing, however, as the controls worked well in that game. They were simplistic enough to pick up easily, but required enough practice to master them.

The layout of this game is very similar to the first Offroad Fury. You start out in a menu. I personally don’t like the menu system, as it seems like the game was thrown together, with some racing levels, and some in-between stuff (you can even start a tournament, leave a few races in, then come back to where you left off). You create a Profile (the major difference between this and it’s predecessor; more on the Profile system later), then you have two choices: Exhibition or Tournament. Tournament mode lets you race in, yup, you guessed it, tournaments, earning Profile Points and trophies. As you earn trophies, you’ll unlock courses to race in exhibition mode, as well as more competitions. There are four modes in Tournament, five in exhibition. Both contain the same four: Nationals, Supercross, Freestyle, and Enduro. Exhibition has an extra race mode: Short Track (which is just that, a short track to race on). Each mode has two difficulties: normal and expert. Each mode (save for Short Track) also has two different modes: amateur and professional. You have to finish amateur to unlock professional mode.

Nationals is your basic “race around the track for five laps” and you earn points for the place you finish with. Get the most points and win a trophy! These are the most varied levels, with courses that can last ten to fifteen minutes long. Next is Supercross. This is much like Nationals mode, with the point system, but all the courses are inside stadiums with man made tracks. The courses are much shorter than the Nationals courses, but require much more precision to overcome the more calculated hills. Freestyle gives you a sprawling level to tool around in, but unlike the first one (which would just let you trick around the level; it didn’t have a tournament mode), in this game, there are specific objectives to meet: collect the green targets (several targets, but fairly easy to get, as they are all in a path), collect the red targets (fewer targets, but harder, as they require bigger jumps and to leave the beaten path), complete ten different combos, and to complete the point objectives. Enduro is much like Nationals and Supercross, except Enduro has you race on a much longer course, with no set track.

As you race in the different levels, you earn Profile Points. These points go to different items that you can purchase, like new ATVs, new gear, new levels that you haven’t unlocked yet, new multiplayer games, and Short Track levels.

As for multiplayer, you get the same modes as you would for exhibition mode in single player, but you also get a few extra minigames: tag, hockey, King of the Hills, and Treasure Hunt. Tag is just what it says; tag the opponent, and run away, trying to avoid the person who is “it.” Hockey is pretty interesting, with up to four people on the rink, trying to drive the puck into the opposing teams goal. King of the Hills is much like Tony Hawk’s Graffiti mode; you have to jump over hills, hit a “cloudy” area, and perform a trick. You have to capture as many hills as possible, and make sure that the other people don’t take your hills. You capture other people’s hills by tricking a better point value than the person who captured it. Treasure Hunt has up to four people trying to search for as many tokens as possible. While fun, there really isn’t much to these games, and get old fast.

Online also seems a bit tacked on. You can’t play any of the multiplayer minigames; all you can play is racing or freestyle. You find a group (each group holds up to four people) and race, or trick as much as possible. When you’re done, you go back to the lobby. A nice option would have been to let you stay in the group and race different levels instead of kicking you out back to the lobby. I was playing with a broadband modem, and you could tell who was playing with a 56k or who had a bad connection, as they would jump around from place to place, with little bursts of lag.

There are a few complaints. First is that it’s pretty easy to fly off your ATV (though not nearly as bad as the first game), and when you do hit something, the object stays stationary, while you go flying. Some environment interaction would be nice. Also, AI is a bit touchy. One minute it’ll kick your ass, the next, you’ll be six seconds ahead most of the race.

One of my favorite things to do is back in this game, however. Try this: go to a freestyle level, and drive out as far as you can. Once you reach the end, you’ll fly back really far. Try it, it’s really funny.

There is a boatload of stuff to complete and gear to unlock in this game, but once you unlock it, that’s all there is to single player mode. You still have multiplayer and online, but there isn’t much more once you complete everything single player has to offer.

If you didn’t like the first ATV Offroad Fury, this game probably won’t make a believer out of you, as it’s virtually the same as the first one. For those who have played the first game, you’ll find that you’ve played all of this before. For those who haven’t played the first one, you’ll find a well-made racing game here. And while the modes themselves are identical to the first game, there’s enough variations in courses and with the addition of an online mode (even if it is a bit limited), makes this a fairly solid purchase.