While Rainbow Studios' ATV Off-Road Fury series has enjoyed a fair amount of success on the PlayStation 2, until now the Xbox has been without a quad racing game of any quality. Acclaim fills this gap with ATV Quad Power Racing 2, the follow-up to its PlayStation quad racing game. What developer Climax has produced here is a simple, accessible racing game with modest goals that it, for the most part, accomplishes.
ATV Quad Power Racing 2 offers a simple trick system to go with the racing action.
It won't take long to figure out what ATV Quad Power Racing 2 is all about. Aside from the usual locomotive functions you'd expect from an ATV, there's an attack button you can use to knock opponents off their bikes and a trick button that, when used in the air in conjunction with the analog stick, will allow you to execute a handful of simple tricks, and then there's the all-important preload button. By holding the preload button as you approach a jump and letting it go right before you leave the crest of the jump, you can add a lot more height and distance to your hop, allowing you to bypass more rugged terrain, as well as pull off more tricks. Tricks are rewarded with boost, though the turbo boost is a bit underwhelming, and it's rare that the boost is the deciding factor in a race.
The races themselves are pretty straightforward affairs and remain mostly the same between the career, single race, and arcade modes. As you advance in the career mode, you'll be rewarded with new tracks and quads to ride, as well as stat points for your rider. Though most of the stats pertain to how well you handle your quad, the aggression stat affects your ability to knock other riders off their quads and your ability to hang on to yours while being attacked. The problem is that the aggression stats don't really manifest in any sort of meaningful way--that is, fate seems to play as big a part as your stats do in determining who will come away unscathed from a collision. Also, the AI opponents don't put up an incredible fight during the career mode, and most players won't feel terribly challenged until the third and final set of races, and maybe not even then. Through the races, you'll ride on 15 different tracks spread across five environments, which pretty much cover the range of places you'd want to take an ATV. There's your standard dirt track in a wooded area, an ice level, a beach track, and tracks that run through swamps and construction sites. Each does a respectable job of representing its respective locale, and the track designs remain interesting and varied throughout.
Outside the racing in ATV Quad Power Racing 2, there are also freestyle, challenge, and time trial modes. The freestyle mode puts you in an arena full of ramps of different shapes and sizes and gives you a set amount of time to pull off tricks. This mode would probably be significantly more fun if there were actually some depth to the trick system, but as it stands, most players will probably forgo the trick point challenges in the freestyle mode and just aim for really big jumps and grisly wrecks. The challenge mode is a series of skill-based events that are split up into two categories: ground challenges and tower challenges. The ground challenges generally test your ability to handle your quad, putting you through slaloms, giving you huge jumps to clear, and so on. The tower challenges are a bit more original. You're presented with a series of raised platforms that are interconnected with bridges of varying sizes and shapes, and you have to navigate the course within a certain time limit. The ground challenges are both fun and useful--they force you to hone specific aspects of your game, and the goals never seem unattainable. The tower challenges, however, seem just like a weird, random aside, and they don't really pertain to anything else in the game. Some of the modes offered in ATV Quad Power Racing 2 are decent diversions for a short time, but only the races offer an experience with any longevity.
Most multiplatform console releases see very minimal differences between versions, and this rings mostly true for ATV Quad Power Racing 2, though the Xbox version does have a few superficial graphical advantages over its PlayStation 2 and GameCube brethren. As mentioned before, the different tracks convey the look and feel of their environments nicely, and though the actual polygonal construction of the courses is only decent, the tracks are gussied up with clean, good-looking high-res textures. But the quality of the riders doesn't match that of the tracks, and the disparity in quality between the two makes the riders' simple construction, blurry textures, and uninspired, unrealistic-looking animations stick out that much more. The Xbox version sports some reflective and bump-mapping effects that are absent in the other two versions of ATV Quad Power Racing 2, though this version's biggest advantage is its more-stable frame rate. You'll notice a little choppiness if you have a full pack of seven riders right in front of you, but this is a rare occurrence, and the game stays smooth the rest of the time.
A series of ground challenges is available for honing your skills.
The licensed soundtrack has become a fixture in action sports games, and it can be a really effective and easy way to give a game some good energy and attitude, but ATV Quad Power Racing 2 abuses this convention by including only seven songs on the soundtrack. All of it is guitar-driven rock or metal-tinged punk, but if you consider that you'll run through two songs in a single race, only someone that's a huge fan of all seven songs wouldn't get tired of the selection after a few hours of play. The rest of the game's sound basically consists of the constant blaring of your engine, which stays the same regardless of which quad you're riding, and it's underlined by the occasional grunt from a rider.
It's neither the deepest nor the most entertaining ATV racing game, but then again, it's the only ATV racing game on the Xbox at the moment. The core mechanics and the main race modes are enjoyable enough that someone looking specifically for an ATV racing game will have some fun, regardless of its occasional technical inconsistencies, though players without such a specific type of race in mind could probably pass on ATV Quad Power Racing 2 without missing out on much.