ATV Offroad Fury 4

[Pre-E3 2006] ATV Offroad Fury 4

Fury's future is in cross-compatibility. We explain all inside.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: April 24, 2006
The first two ATV Offroad Fury games were a huge score for Sony. Raking in the reigning kings of offroad simulation, Rainbow Studios, the pairing of the Phoenix-based developer and Sony Computer Entertainment America as publisher was a fruitful one, moving a couple million copies of the game and becoming so popular that Sony even opted to bundle the PS2 with one of the Fury games.

Seeing the potential, THQ quickly bought up the developer, and thus ended the partnership with Sony as Rainbow became a THQ-exclusive development house. The problem for Sony, then, was to find a developer to continue the brand and pump out new games to ride the success that Rainbow had paved the way for. They settled on Brighton, UK-based Climax Group, the creators of the Moto GP games for, ironically enough, THQ.

Their debut ATV effort opened to modest reviews, but there were questions of the game's longevity going into a fourth outing, questions that we ourselves have asked each other -- even as closely as a few days before getting a glimpse of the game first-hand at Sony's pre-E3 event in Los Angeles. Now, a week later, we're ready to eat our words, if only because the series can certainly stomach another outing, particularly with the additions that have been made.

Taking a page from Rainbow, Climax has opted to add in quite a few different types of vehicles, happily turning them loose on all of the whopping 72 courses that have been built for ATVs, trophy trucks, motocross bikes and buggies -- all of which can be outfitted with upgrades and tweaks to the engine, gearbox, tires and more. As we've already spazzed out about, the game's track editor and a huge chunk of the stuff you'll unlock can be shared with the PSP version seamlessly, allowing you to basically progress through both versions and switch off, often using the same data.

Unlike the PSP version, however, Climax has opted to go with a Story Mode that'll not only link the different levels, circuits and tournaments through FMV clips based on your male or female create-a-character. Point-to-point Baja races are the focus here, and it should provide a nice catalyst for all the unlockable goodies the game has to offer.

Outside of the single-player mode, offerings of Training, Freestyle, Circuit, Supercross, Rallycross, Hill Climb, Head-to-Head and Nationals help thicken up the types of races you'll have at your disposal. Climax overhauled the online portion of the game as well, building in a tournament-style system for online matches and bulked-up interaction with other users. This includes stuff like message boards and chat that works across platforms, but it's also the base for data exchanges for stuff like tracks created in the new, more robust track editor.

The inclusion of more tracks, more vehicles (and name-brand engine parts, wheels, springs and gear) and a deeply integrated experience with the PSP seems to have done the very thing most were wondering was possible: Climax has renewed the series for at least another entry. We didn't get a chance to play around with the offline options (that was mainly what the PSP version was there for, apparently), but the online play was indeed smooth -- if a little tough to connect to thanks to the hotel's firewalls and general early code goofiness.

What was apparent, even from the start, was that the different vehicles were their own beasts. Four-wheelers handled differently from bikes, and trophy trucks were vastly different in how the suspension and handling responded than an ATV. All of the pre-loading and clutch fluttering was intact, and you could see from some of the courses that it wasn't just a bunch of vehicles riding on the same path; often racers would split off to take sections that were better suited, terrain-wise, for their vehicle, and it made for some truly interesting races.

We'll have plenty of time to play around with the single-player content come E3 in a few weeks, so check back then for more impressions.