ATV OFFROAD FURY / Sony / Playstation 2
 
 
I've never so much as touched a real ATV so I'm a bit out of my territory here, but ATV Offroad Fury seems to strike a nice balance between technical detail for enthusiasts of the sport, and arcadey racing style to quickly draw in newcomers.

Really, it's basically a re-purposing of the Motocross Madness engine, if you've played it. If you haven't, ATV Offroad feels for the most part like a kart racing game, with the one major difference being the way you handle hills. Most tracks have series of little hills that will slow you down too much if you try to drive over them normally; the trick is to "preload" the suspension by snapping the analog stick back at the base of the first hill, then pushing it forward just as you crest the hill, to launch into a big jump that takes you over all the hills. Mastering this technique is the one crucial thing to get anywhere in the game, however that's really all the more complex the gameplay gets outside of your basic kart-driving skills.

While I felt the gameplay was solid for the most part, there's a few mildly annoying quirks about it. One is just that it's just a bit too floaty and loose in general. Another is that there's some vicious "rubberbanding" at work; it's always amusing to be leading by a good margin at the end of the final lap, then suddenly see the whole field of opponents come flying from off the back of the screen like Superman, usually with the final one landing right on top of you and taking you out of the race to boot. The final issue is that it came out in the early 2000s, so it has that unfortunate predilection for licensed nu-metal in the soundtrack that games of the time did.

Still and all I thought the gameplay was very solid, and there's a bunch of courses and modes of play. There's outdoor courses, indoor arenas, a "cross-country endurance" mode, and you can play a career where you mix and match all of the above while using winnings to buy better bikes and tune up various aspects in between races. The numerous sequels are probably better, but this one is worth checking out if you see it floating around for 2 or 3 bucks.
 
 
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