ATV Offroad Fury Pro

Portable mud-slinging has never been so fun.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: December 18, 2006
Let it never be said that complaints can't fuel improvements from one games in a series to the next. If you never played ATV Offroad Fury: Blazin' Trails, count yourself as one of the lucky ones - not so much because it was a bad game (though it was an absolute mess, yet Sony is selling the game bundled with some PSPs), but because you'll never have to wash the taste of a bad portable ATV racer out of your mouth. If you did, congratulations, Fury Pro is digital Listerine, killing the germs and bad breath of the original PSP ATV outing and leaving everything with a minty afterglow.

Clearly Climax Racing, the exiting developer of both the PSP and PS2 versions of the series, thought good and hard about how they could fix things. Pro's tracks are longer, they're more varied, there's more of them, there are more vehicles, the control is tighter, the visuals are much improved. Quite literally everything about the game has been given a face lift that brings it in line with the PS2 iterations of the surprisingly venerable series.

If, for some reason, you must play the game 24/7, both at home and on the go, Climax and Sony have pushed this whole PS2/PSP crosstalk thing to a level that no games - not even the SOCOM games that coined the word crosstalk - have shared. You can actively dump tracks and vehicles from one version to the other, and going online, extensive message and leader board support is shared across platforms. About the only thing you can't do at this point is play against PS2 gamers on your PSP, but the game happily supports Infrastructure online Wi-Fi play, so at least PSP/PSP matchups are there, and they run beautifully from matchmaking to actual races.

It's the offline modes that will likely take up most of your time with the game, however. The career like Championship Mode lets you grab a vehicle (by game's end you'll have had hands-on time with ATVs and bikes, yes, but also snowmobiles, buggies and baja style trucks) and snatch a sponsor that grow as you do with winning races. The idea is that you shack up with someone who doles out cash after wins (and showy races -- so pulling the 30 or so tricks on bikes, snowmobiles and ATVs is important, but in trucks and buggies, it happens almost automatically). So long as you race well, you'll keep earning points, switching up vehicles and upgrading 'em. Do poorly in races and you may actually have some of that sweet lucre siphoned off from your bank account.

Freed of the painful Story Mode details of ATV 4 on the PS2, the focus is instead on just delivering a nice sense of running through a handful of offroad vehicles, and thanks to not only an improved framerate, but better physics and controls, the vehicles do feel different. Not wildly so, but you'll slowly learn how to take the same corner differently while in an ATV or a bike or a snowmobile. At times the vehicles can feel a little squirrelly, but then they are racing on dirt (or snow in some situations), and the criticism about the previous PSP game's control were clearly taken to heart.

Taking a page from the old Tony Hawk games, a level editor was also thrown in (which, along with the throwaway Photo Mode, mark some of the game's biggest non-mini-game additions), allowing you to mix and match pre-fabbed set pieces to craft your own courses, and then share them online. It's not terribly in-depth, but that's likely because Climax wanted to keep things simple enough for sharing between the PS2 and PSP. There is a geeky sort of rush that comes out of seeing something you designed on a console imported quickly and up and running in a matter of seconds.

Many seconds, as it turns out. For all that was added to the experience, the most painful of them is the game's load times. The increased number of vehicles, bigger and more ornate tracks and improved visuals all add up to something approaching a good half minute of staring at a load screen. Now granted, this isn't an egregious fault, but it is something worth noting. Given the choice of lackluster visuals and blah track design raced around on the same tired ATVs or a slight wait for purdiness, I'll happily take the latter, thank you very much.

And the game is pretty, make no mistake. Sure, it's a portable game, and there are no moments where you'll be forgetting that any time soon, but with a butter smooth framerate with only minor hitches, some great density in trackside flora and tracks that play around with each vehicle's sense of weight and speed (the latter of which is really quite nice), the visuals deserve serious praise coming off of the last game. Things like texture and vehicle detail keep the game from mirroring the PS2 version (which, admittedly, looks quite nice), but it's certainly a nice approximation of the console version in handheld form.

The same goes for the aural experience; clean, bright engine revs, pops, grunts and squeaks all thicken up an audio slurry that's rich with the kind of PBR fan-friendly rock soundtrack. The 30 or so audio tracks are, quite frankly, impressive and sort of serve to cap off the feeling that a ton of content has been crammed onto the almost two gigs of storage that the much maligned UMD format provides for games.

It is the sheer amount of stuff that really sells ATV Offroad Fury Pro. Sure, the racing is far tighter and there's far more stuff to do, but from mini-games to a track editor to online play to tons of crosstalk info to shared leaderboards and online forums. Climax took it upon themselves to improve every single part of what was wrong with the first PSP ATV outing and it shows.
The Verdict