The ATV Offroad Fury series has long been a staple of the PS2.  With four games in the series on the PS2, it has had quite a run since the game was introduced nearly six years ago in February of 2001.  With the PSP having similar capabilities as the PS2, it’s not surprising that Climax Studios introduced the ATV Offroad Fury series with Blazin’ Trails about a year and a half ago.  Now they have produced a new game in time for the holiday season with ATV Offroad Fury Pro (AOFP).


 


If you are looking for any type of off-road racing, AOFP promises to be the game to satisfy that niche.  With four-wheelers, dirt bikes, dune buggies, and trucks, the ability to drive different vehicles makes for a more diverse game than just driving cars or cycles within the game.  Does this variety lead to varied game play, or does the game to feel less focused as a result?

AOFP looks good for a game on the PSP.  You always see your vehicle right in front of you.  At the beginning of the game you create your character.  You can choose his or her outfit, color scheme, and number.  If you are riding a four-wheeler or dirt bike, you see your character adjust their weight with the vehicle.  While doing stunts, the character moves fluidly as he moves from the handlebars to another position and back again.  The textures on your character and your vehicle do look a bit flat.  While this isn’t bad, they are serviceable.


The backgrounds do have a nice amount of detail to them.  Flags and obstacles litter the side of the track.  Plants and trees are seen in the outdoor tracks.  Dust spits out from the back of the tires of the vehicles with some nice particle effects.  The stands sparkle from camera flashes.  Again, the textures are a bit bland and look blurry.  This makes the tracks feel less round and bumpy and more like smooth tracks with a few bumps and sharp edges for ramps.

Musically, AOFP focuses on a mishmash of rap and heavy metal.  In normal circumstances, these two genres would clash hard against each other.  Yet, the combination of music actually compliments each other.  While you might have heard of some of the bands, like Underoath and Alkaline Trio, some of these you bands you probably won’t have any previous exposure to.  Everything has a hard drive to it, matching the intense races of the game.


Where AOFP falters is the minimal sound effects.  About the only sound effects in the game are the engines of the vehicles you are driving.  The different vehicles don’t sound all that different either.  There isn’t an announcer to yell when the race starts.  You don’t even hear a groan or whimper when you crash and your body flies through the track.  The lack of sound effects is rather disappointing.

Racing games like this depend on their controls.  If the controls aren’t responsive, you are in for a frustrating time.  Steering is handled with either the D-pad or the analog nub.  Acceleration is handled with X while Square brakes and moves into reverse.  R hits the clutch and performs a power slide while accelerating into a corner.  On the bike or ATV, moving down on the D-pad or analog nub preloads for a jump or leans back and maybe even performs a wheelie.  Pushing up on the D-pad or analog nub leans the racer forward.  Tricks are performed by moving the D-pad or analog nub and hitting Triangle, Circle, or both.


While using the analog nub for sensitive driving can be frustrating on the PSP, Climax has done a good job of making the analog nub and D-pad turn your vehicle at the right pace.  It doesn’t turn so fast that you overturn your corner, while it doesn’t go so slow that you can’t make sharp turns.  They seem to have achieved the correct turning pace.


Performing tricks gets easier as you play longer.  The number of tricks is impressive.  Some take longer to perform than others, but you need to get a good jump into the air to pull them off.

AOFP has a large number of racing styles.  In the single player menu, you can get some training to get a feel for each vehicle.  You can also race in single events or compete in Championships which are a series of races.  In the single events, you can choose between Supercross, Rallycross, National, Freestyle, Circuit, Rally, and Endurocross.  Supercross is an indoor stadium racing event.  Rallycross is an off-road racing event with challenging terrain.  National events are high-quality outdoor venues that challenge even the best drivers.  Freestyle focuses on style and stunts while completing objectives.  Circuit races are races using buggies and trucks on dirt circuit tracks.  Rally races use vehicles across outdoor dirt tracks.  Endurocross has you driving across different kinds of environments.  The single events are fun ways to get into the action instantly.


If you are up for a campaign of racing, the Championship mode is the way to go.  Here you drive through a series of races, gain sponsorships, win money to buy vehicles and unlock gear.  You get emails from sponsors who want you to be a part of their team.  Each of these sponsors gives you rewards for successfully completing objectives.


The single player and Championship modes both use the same tracks.  This might be good for those times when you are having issues finishing a Championship track so you can try running it through the single player mode.  If you have issues with one of the events in Championship mode, you can try one of the other events so you aren’t stuck trying to pass a specific race in the Championship mode.


The racing is always competitive, but it seems like the racers like to stay in the same racing line.  They also seem to have a bit of rubber band logic to them.  It’s difficult to get a good lead on your opponents.  If you fall back, there are usually two opponents you can catch up to rather quickly, but gaining the lead is difficult.


While most of the events focus on racing, a few do focus on performing stunts.  These tracks have ramps that launch you into the sky with plenty of air time.  You not only have to pull off the trick, but you also have to land the vehicle.  With the way the terrain changes, this can be easier said than done.  Once you have the timing down, it can be a lot of fun.

There are a large number of modes in AOFP in the single player game alone.  It will take you a while to get through those.  You can also unlock new items and tracks using points earned during the Championship mode.  There is also a garage where you can replace the older parts with the new upgraded parts.  Still, the number of tracks is a bit disappointing.  It feels like there should be more tracks for each mode.  You can make your own tracks if you wish to though.


Once you get through those, there is also the multiplayer mode.  AOFP supports both Ad Hoc and Infrastructure modes.  It’s nice to see a PSP racing game support online play through the Internet.  You can set up races, freestyle competitions, championship competitions, or mini games.  The mini games are different than what is included in the main game, like a Bomb Dodge game and a Bowling game.  This should encourage players to log onto the Internet and play the multiplayer game.  The response time is good, and while it can be a bit choppy, it really isn’t that bad.

While ATV Offroad Fury Pro has a lot going for it, it feels like certain design decisions have held it back.  AOFP is still a fun game with a wide variety of vehicles.  The inclusion of online play is a great bonus for a PSP racing game.  With a few more tracks and a bit more background sound, AOFP could have been a terrific game.  If you enjoy racing games with several different vehicles, don’t hesitate to pick up AOFP.

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