Despite the influx of great racing games early in its life, the PSP has recently suffered something of a draught when it comes to strong racers. Perhaps Sony saw this coming, because here they are with ATV Offroad Fury Pro, one of the best portable racing games to come out all year. It's a game jam packed with courses, multiplayer mode and extra content, the kind of game you can play for weeks without seeing and doing everything. It has a few technical problems, but if you're the type of person that has grown sick of Burnout Legend, WipEout Pure and Ridge Racer, then ATV Offroad Fury Pro should be your next purchase.
ATV Offroad Fury Pro is the follow up to 2005's ATV Offroad Fury: Blazin' Tails, and in true sequel fashion they decided to cram as much new stuff as they could into this small UMD. Trust me on this, ATV Offroad Fury Pro offers more content than any other portable racing game ever; there are an insane amount of tracks, game modes, multiplayer games, and mini-games. If you're the type of person who loves to get gold on ever track and unlock all the secrets, then you might as well bolt the door and cut all connection to the outside world, because you're going to be at it for months before you do and see everything.
Not that this is a bad thing, in a lot of ways the sheer amount of content works in the game's favor. It's going to take you a lot of races before you get tired of the different ways you can play the game, and even when you do get tired of it all you can jump over to the game's various mini-games and the excitement of the online mode. Make no mistake about it, this may be a portable game on a small PSP, but this little racer has more content than most console-sized games.
ATV Offroad Fury Pro doesn't deviate too much from the tried and true game play of other off road racers. This is a game where you will have the opportunity to drive all kinds of different vehicles against other off road vehicles. This means that you will be able to drive a motorcycle versus a truck, race a traditional ATV against a buggy and so on so forth. This game has something for all kinds of driving game fans, from those who love doing tricks and getting points to those who like the precision of a traditional vehicle.
The game comes with a staggering amount of different vehicles to race. While most of the tracks are geared towards ATVs and MX bikes, I found I had the most fun with some of the more obscure rides, like the snowmobile. The problem with having such a huge amount of vehicles is that they tend to all feel the same after awhile. Sure each vehicle has a few of its own quirks, but only the MX bikes feel radically different from the rest of the bunch. Thankfully this isn't much of a problem because you'll be far too busy actually racing the five dozen tracks. It wasn't until late in the game that I started to notice the problems with the vehicles, which is ultimately a minor problem that will hopefully be fixed when the inevitable sequel hits stores.
Along with a crazy amount of different vehicles, ATV Offroad Fury Pro also features a large amount of different types of races. You get the standard supercross, rally racing, freestyle, and a few others. These different race types end up making a huge difference to the way the game is played and the type of tracks you race on. Some of the game modes will have you racing a certain amount of times with a certain vehicle, while others will have you performing tricks and various tasks on a giant open course. Going through these different modes and experimenting with what you can and cannot do is half the fun of ATV Offroad Fury Pro.
As you win races and complete tasks you will earn credits that can be traded in to buy vehicle upgrades and even new rides. This is the type of thing we've seen done in plenty of other driving games, but ATV Offroad Fury Pro does a good job of constantly presenting items you want to earn. But there's a problem with the credit system, as you play through the game you will find that some vehicles give you more credits than others, making for a somewhat unbalanced money system. It's not an understatement to say that some vehicles will give you five times the credits, so one has to wonder if there's any reason left to actually play some of those other vehicles.
The good news is that there are plenty of different tracks to earn those credits on. The game has you going everywhere, from snow-covered mountains to the desert to the forest. And when you're sick of all these beautiful outdoor locations, you can even bring the game indoors for one of the arena-style levels. Along with the different locations, ATV Offroad Fury Pro also features an impressive amount of actually tracks to race on. This is not one of those games where you get ten or twenty courses; you get literally dozens of courses to race on, a few of which are actually pretty memorable. Unfortunately none of these levels are going to blow you away like other racing games, but with so many different ways to race chances are good you'll completely forget about that.
When it comes to the actual racing the game is mostly good, but it does have a few flaws I was hoping would be ironed out. For one thing, the game still only features four players at once. Granted, this may have more to do with the limitations of the PSP's hardware, but after playing the console version of ATV Offroad Fury 4 I find that only having four players at once makes the game feel small. Another problem is that the computer-controlled racers are unforgiving. The game wants you to earn those gold medals, but unfortunately this usually means that the computer will be on your tail the entire game. You could run the most flawless race of your life, but thanks to the game's AI you will always have somebody within a split second of you. Don't even think about crashing or veering off course for a few seconds, once you're behind you will have to fight to regain the lead. Even if the four players thing never gets resolved, hopefully the computer's unforgiving AI will be tweaked by the time Sony releases their third PSP ATV game.
The game supports a number of different multiplayer modes, including full support for both local Ad Hoc games and online games. After being punished by the computer-controlled racers, it's a nice change of pace to actually go up against real people. With a nice online interface and some fierce competition, it's easy to get completely wrapped up in the Infrastructure modes. After you've raced your friends (and perfect strangers) it's hard to go back to the single-player stuff. Thankfully you won't have to, just as long as Sony keeps the online servers up and there are people wanting to play other people.
ATV Offroad Fury Pro's controls are pretty standard stuff, you'll probably slip and slide around some of the courses, but that's to be expected when you're going as fast as you can on dirt, mud and snow. Some of the vehicles feel a little loose, but for the most part the game handles no better or worse than all of the other off roading games competing for your dollar. While the overall game play tends to feel unremarkable at times, the overall amount of stuff you can do in the game more than makes up for it.
The game's graphics are also pretty good … but certainly not the best we've seen on the PSP. Climax manages to get a lot of the little stuff right when it comes to the various tracks and background details, but when you step back and see the full picture it's hard to be too impressed by the scaled down graphics. The good news is that the frame rate is stable and the game does a good job of showing off the speed. It's hard to be too critical of the graphics since they are neither bad nor great. They get the job done, and at the end of the day that's all you can ask for when it comes to this type of game.
If you do find that you are growing board of the courses created for this game, you can always make your own levels and share them between the PS2 and PSP. Early on the track editor will seem completely pointless, but as you earn new tools to help develop your track you will no doubt see the value in such an extra mode. If making new levels isn't your thing, then perhaps the mini-games will be up your alley. By and large the mini-games found in this game are more fun than past ATV titles, but they are nothing more than a way of wasting time before you get back to the meat and potatoes of this racer.
Overall ATV Offroad Fury Pro is an excellent second attempt for this PSP series. You won't be blown away with the graphics or game play, but there's enough content in this game to keep you entertained for months. And if you're the type of person who loves to play online, then this is one game you may still be playing this time next year. Make no mistake about it, this is not a perfect game, but it is easy to recommend to anybody who loves a fun racing game with a whole lot to do and see.