At a glance...

Reviewer Platform Publisher Developer Players Screenshots
Matt Bailey PSP South Peak Interactive Climax 1-4 (WiFi; AdHoc and Infrastructure modes) Here
Requirements Also on... Buy from Amazon.co.uk
Memory Stick: 288KB Minimum, Wireless Internet connection for online (Intrastructure) play PS2 (as ATV Offroad Fury 3) Click here to buy ATV Offroad Fury: Blazin' Trials.

ATV Offroad Fury: Blazin' Trials review

ATV—or all-terrain vehicle—titles have had quite a run in computer gaming. If you recognise that sentence, it's because I also used it in my review of ATV Offroad Fury 3—the game this is essentially based upon. Again it is Southpeak Interactive who bring the Climax title to Europe, and unfortunately, it's not even as good as the PS2 game.

While ATV Offroad Fury 3 wasn't bad, ATV Offroad Fury: Blazin' Trials is. My initial impression of it wasn't was one of enjoyment, but one of frustration. The main issue was the controls with the game failing to feel fully comfortable on either the analogue 'nub' or the D-pad. On the nub the game turns the vehicle far too quickly, often sending you into the blocks that mark the track boundary. To make matters worse, unlike on the PS2 game, these are guaranteed to send you flying off your vehicle upon contact, and then spawn you in a position when you're likely to do the same again. Using the D-pad is preferable for driving, but presents its own problems I'll look at later.

ATV Offroad Fury 3 is infuriating, and disappointing, particularly when it has some reasonably good graphics. While nothing exceptional, they do look rather crisp on the small screen—more so than seeing the PS2 version on a TV screen. Of course, there's still the brown-based palette that's a symptom of a mud-based sport, but that isn't really the fault of the developers. However, it does contribute to an overall dull look to the game, failing to provide the excitement the sport itself thrives on.

As an ATV game, it isn't all about the racing. You are also able to perform tricks mid-race, by combining the use of the D-pad or analogue nub with the face and shoulder buttons. These vary in difficulty to perform, from annoying to infuriating, again thanks to the control system. While the D-pad may be the preferred way to avoid crashing into the blocks, the analogue nub is better for pulling off tricks, leaving you with a difficult decision about which control method to choose. Of course, whether you bother at all while racing is up to you—you can still proceed and win the racing championships without racking up trick points, though they are the main feature of the Freestyle championship.

The game offers a range of ATV race types in Single Event option. There's Supercross (races in stadiums), National (races in open land), Endurance (in open land with no track boundaries, but gates to pass through), Short Track (er... short open tracks), and Freestyle (where it's all about the stunts). There's also a Waypoint mode allowing you to create your own paths through Endurance, which is a worthwhile addition. Each of these (except Waypoint) are available in Amateur and Pro flavours, as well as being playable through a Championship.

I commented in the PS2 review that the Championship was probably easier than it should have been. On the PSP this isn't the case; I was often failing and having to retry events in order to succeed. So an improvement then? No. The reason it was more difficult was simply down to the problems mentioned earlier, which take away some of the fun I had previously experienced in Championship, despite the fact it's merely a collection of races joined together with dull menu screens.

Unlike the PlayStation 2 edition, the online mode remains here. In a move more akin to Xbox Live, you can actually log in as you start the game and remain online while you play the single player modes. Of course, this is a bit of a battery drainer, but it does allow you to upload scores as you play through the main game. The biggest problem with this is that there are so few people using this feature that it becomes rather meaningless. Competing with tens of thousands of people on PGR3 is a challenge you can enjoy, but competing with the far fewer on here is not. This is just as true for when trying to play the online races themselves, having only ever managed to race two people (separately) in my time playing the game. If you do get an opponent, there's a choice of modes from Race, through to a collection of mini-games; this would keep things interesting if you didn't keep dropping out mid-race. So, despite the potential, it seems sticking to the ad-hoc play will probably give you a better experience, and may even give you a better chance of finding someone to compete with.

Ratings

Graphics Sharper on the small screen than your TV, but overall the game still looks rather dull. 6/10
Gameplay We know from the PS2 that the core is good, so it's such a shame to see it ruined here by being less forgiving and just generally making the controls too awkward. 5/10
Value While it makes an effort to include online play, the lack of players hardly makes the game a worthy purchase over other similarly priced racers. It does have a good feature set, however. 7/10
Lifespan Everything's here from the PS2 version, so it's a deep experience. But it's also far more frustrating due to its own problems. 8/10
Audio There are licenced artists, but they aren't terribly exciting. The engine sounds are as expected. 6/10
Overall The question stands: Do we really need another run-of-the-mill ATV game, even if it is on a portable platform? 5/10

Click here to buy ATV Offroad Fury: Blazin' Trials from Amazon.co.uk.

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