Earlier today we paid a visit to Sony's E3 booth to meet with representatives from the Climax development team working on ATV Offroad Fury 3. The previously unannounced, PS2-exclusive online racer is the first in the series to be developed by Climax. The game has clearly benefited, not only from the company's racing game expertise, but also from its experiences with online racing games such as MotoGP 2 for the Xbox.
ATV Offroad Fury 3 will feature five primary modes of play, including supercross (stadium-based), nationals (outdoor tracks), enduro (checkpoint racing), short track (flat TT racing), and freestyle (trick- and objective-based). The handling in the game will be reasonably forgiving, as evidenced by some of the spectacular jumps and tricks we were somehow managing to land. Although, it's worth noting that the physics engine is the same one used in the Xbox version of MotoGP 2, which is far less forgiving.
Even before you play the game online you'll find it hard not to notice the similarities between ATV Offroad Fury 3 and MotoGP 2, particularly when it comes to choosing and customizing your quad bike. The game will feature a total of 24 prebuilt ATVs which, although not licensed, appear authentic and can be extensively customized with similarly authentic-looking aftermarket parts, different color schemes, 60-plus sponsor logos, and decals of your own design. The performance of your chosen ATV will also be customizable for use in different events and on different course styles. Any customized bikes you create will be usable online, complete with decals.
ATV Offroad Fury 3 has been developed as an online game from day one, and it really shows in the wealth of gameplay options and online functions that Climax is in the process of implementing. In addition to all of the regular gameplay modes supporting up to six players online, there will be eight different minigames, including ATV variants of soccer and basketball. More impressive still is the fact that, should you find yourself short of people to play with at any time, you'll have the option to add artificial intelligence racers to make the numbers up. Online chat via a headset or keyboard will be supported both in the lobby and in-game, and if you're logged in when playing the single-player game you'll be able to receive invites and e-mails from other players. Other online features in the game will include scoreboards and the ability to create and share your own waypoint race routes.
Like its predecessors, we found ATV Offroad Fury 3 a relatively easy game to pick up and play, although it's clearly a game that will take a while to master. The trick system in the game, for example, will boast Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series-style "linker" ground moves, such as wheelies, allowing you to string together lengthy trick combos. If you're serious about your freestyle scores, you'll also have to master the art of "preloading" your bike's suspension by leaning back before jumps for extra height.
We played a number of tracks during our time with the game at E3, and by far the most impressive was an enduro race set in a large forest. The checkpoint locations in the forest weren't always easy to find, and we did manage to stray a little too far off the beaten track on occasion. However, the feeling of successfully navigating a dense forest by way of a shortcut was definitely very satisfying. Toward the end of the level we also had to race through an area of the forest that was on fire, and while the flames and smoke didn't affect the gameplay as dramatically as you might expect, it was great to see the emergency services arriving on the scene and trees falling to the ground as we went about our business. On occasion, we even had to swerve to avoid other traffic that was traveling through the forest, and we were told that snowboarders will occasionally present similar hazards on other courses (there will be well over 60 courses in total).
Based on what we've seen at E3 today, ATV Offroad Fury 3 is shaping up to be every bit as good as Climax's MotoGP offerings, and perhaps even better since its gameplay is more varied and easier to pick up. We look forward to bringing you more information on the game as soon as it becomes available.