[14 April 2005]
Back when I got my first PlayStation 2 (the damn CD motor conked out on it prompting me to get another), back so long ago now it seems when you still had to order one on eBay due to the high demand and low supply, one of the first games I purchased for the system was Sony’s ATV Offroad Fury. It had received plenty of accolades, both for its graphics and its gameplay. Unfortunately thanks to the ridiculously over-amped AI, the game was not much fun at all unless you were playing with a friend. Even then, I thought there were better racing and/or “extreme” games to be played.
Needless to say, I skipped on the game’s first sequel, but the third one was offered up to me for review, and I thought at best the game would have improved and at worst… I had a free game, and no one sneezes at that, right? So does the third installment in the Offroad Fury eclipse the first, or is it more of the same old, same old? Well, I have to tell you, it could have been a lot better, but then again, who was this series ever really designed for, anyway?
Seriously. There’s just too many extreme sports games. We can undoubtedly point the finger at Tony Hawk and his popular and enjoyable Pro Skater and Underground series. But the beauty of that whole set of games is that they’re easy to pick up, addictive as hell, and funny to boot. Plus the frosting on the cake is that you don’t even have to be a skateboarder or find skateboarding very enjoyable to know that the Hawk series is a lot of fun no matter what.
I don’t think the same can be said for ATV racing. It’s kind of like NASCAR. I don’t get the attraction. I don’t see what’s so thrilling about cars going left for a couple hours. It’s just not my thing. And yet ATV racing, even with its added danger of riders executing stunts and driving all over crazy dirt tracks and so forth, just doesn’t seem truly appealing at the end of the day, either. It’s almost like someone tricked out their John Deere riding mower and went to town.
ATV Offroad Fury suffers not only from this whole niche franchise, but also from the very same things that plagued the first game a few years back. Namely that damned impossible AI that allows the computer opponents to just drill you every time unless you’re damned good at not making mistakes and crashing your vehicle. Too bad, because you’re going to be crashing again and again, especially if you want to pull of tricks, which you more or less have to do now, since the game now has a points system based on not only racing performance, but tricks as well. Accumulating points allows you to go into the garage and soup up your ATV with new parts, or buy new vehicles, etc. It’s all very Gran Turismo these days, and well, I lost interest in that game when the second installment rolled out.
But I get the feeling that greed is sometimes more the factor behind continuing a series more than how good the game actually is. Granted, I can’t explain why ATV Offroad Fury and its first sequel even made it onto the PS2’s Greatest Hits line of games, but then so did Frogger on the original PSX, and that was a bomb as well to my gaming tastes. But really, sometimes just one of these games would be enough, and then the developers should move on to other things. Especially when the things that were problematic the first time out haven’t even been tweaked in the slightest.
And really, I don’t see what the excitement is in pulling off goofy looking stunts on an ATV. To me, the whole trick thing looks much cooler coming from the dirt bike racers. Doing a Superman off the back of a two-wheeled motorcycle looks much more elegant and poetic than clinging for life off the back of a hulking ATV. Plus the damn things just feel overly clunky in the game, much as they did in the first game. The racing is smooth, to be sure, and the jumps lighter than air, but landing those monstrosities and keeping it clean is often arduous at best.
Which leads me to believe that this series has always been about plain masochism. Why else would anyone spend the time bothering to upgrade the ATVs and such when the computer is just going to basically kick your ass every time anyway? I played this game for a couple weeks, being good about it and just trying my damndest to get the feel of it, but it was worthless. There were times when I’d just absolutely nail a course and still get left behind, and have to retry, and then just screw it up five times in a row consecutively. If there is a way to become good at this series, it cannot come without a slew of migraines. So finally I punched in the glorious cheat code that unlocked everything and found that even with the best ATV available with all the best tires and parts… I still sucked. Or should I say, the game sucked.
It would be in Sony’s best interests to just stop this series once and for all. ATV racing might be a real thrill to those who actually do it, but as a video game, it just doesn’t cut it. I did have to laugh, though, at the disclaimer shown at the beginning of the game that goes by extremely fast that points out how none of the stunts should be performed by anyone other than professionals, and that drinking and doing drugs while riding ATVs should also never be done. I would also add a disclaimer that drinking and doing drugs while playing this game couldn’t possibly help any either. So save your money, time, and sanity on this one. The only fury you’ll experience when playing it is when you find yourself throwing the controller across the room for the hundredth time.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/atv-offroad-fury-3/