Since taking over development duties for Sony's ATV Offroad Fury series, Climax has transformed it from a standard off-road racer to one of the better, if underappreciated, racing franchises out there. With ATV Offroad Fury 4, Sony and Climax have delivered the best game in the series so far.
ATV Offroad Fury 4 returns for one more go-round on the PS2, and the series is going out in style.
Variety and challenge are the keys to ATV4's fun, and the game doesn't skimp on either. When it comes to race modes, you'll be hard pressed to find a PlayStation 2 racing game with more things to do than ATV4. In single-player mode, there's a standard quick-race mode, which lets you hop in a single race across any of the events available in the game. That list of events includes supercross, rallycross, national, circuit, point-to-point, sponsor, and freestyle events. The game also includes a classic mode, which is essentially a multirace series that is based on the above list of event types. The training mode teaches you some basic maneuvers for the four different vehicle types available in the game.
And then there's the story mode. Undoubtedly the centerpiece of the single-player experience in ATV4, the story mode lets you create a male or female racer and take him or her through an epic and moving tale about one lone dirt racer's search for redemption in a world that no longer seems to care. OK, just kidding. More accurately, it's a hackneyed storyline that is told through a series of amateurish cutscenes featuring painful voice-acting and worse dialogue. Even more to the point, the story mode in ATV4 makes the plot of Pro Race Driver look like Citizen Kane. Thank goodness the actual racing events that frame these cutscenes are so much fun.
The story mode has you competing in events all over the globe. And at each stop on your world tour, you'll be required to beat a number of race events before moving on with the storyline. Thankfully, the game doesn't require you to finish every race event, which means you can usually ignore the often-frustrating freestyle events. After you have finished the requisite number of events to move on, you're taken to a final three-stage, point-to-point race. And it's during these events that the game shines brightest.
Unlike the traditional looped-circuit tracks in supercross or rallycross events, point-to-point races are exactly what they purport to be: extended sprints from one point to the next. Far from giving you one lane to race down, however, the developers at Climax have created tracks in point-to-point races that are absolutely wide open, where you can choose from multiple snaking, intertwining trails. To add to that, point-to-point races also feature all four vehicle types found in the game--dune buggies, trophy trucks, ATV quad racers, and MX bikes--all racing side by side. Because different vehicles have different strengths and weaknesses, the multiple tracks in point-to-point races are color coded to help you choose the ideal path to the finish line. A smaller, lighter vehicle will feel at home on the "red" track, which takes advantage of the light-class vehicle's cornering ability, while the "green" track is flatter, wider, and more suited to a heavy-class vehicle. Therefore, you are in no way forced to stick to one track out there. You'll crisscross between both tracks on your way to the finish line.
Even if you watch the story mode cutscenes with the TV muted you won't miss a thing.
Whether riding through the multistage, point-to-point races or taking part in the nationals races, it's the track design--particularly in the outdoor courses--that makes ATV4 so much fun. With tricky curves, varied terrain, and thrilling elevation changes, the track design in ATV4 just gets it right. One moment you're navigating a tricky sequence of jumps, and the next you're diagonally barreling down the side of a cliff. By contrast, the indoor tracks are on the whole not as exciting, as they are usually slower and more technical by design.
Zipping around the different tracks in the game is fun thanks to a bouncy, speedy driving model, an emphasis is put on huge-air jumps and, occasionally, bone-snapping crashes. As in previous ATV games, you'll get the most air by preloading your jumps--quickly flicking back and then pushing forward with the right analog stick--before you hit the air. There are times when preloading works to your advantage and times when it won't work. Half of the challenge in tackling a new course for the first time is in deciding when you want to take a jump at full power or when you want to lay off.