We've recently managed to get our hands on a playable demo of ATV Offroad Fury 3, which we last saw at E3 back in May. Currently being developed exclusively for the PlayStation 2 by Climax, the game promises to improve upon its Rainbow Studios-developed predecessors through the introduction of larger environments, additional gameplay modes and minigames and, most significantly, online support for up to six players. Our demo version of the game didn't include any of the promised online functionality unfortunately, but we were able to spend plenty of time checking out some of the single-player modes, including the game's supercross, national, enduro, freestyle, and short track events.
The thing that makes ATV Offroad Fury 3 different from most racing titles, including other off-road games, is the extent to which you'll be able to control how your vehicle responds to the terrain. In fact, you'll find that pushing up and down on the analog stick to shift your rider's weight is often as important as using left and right to steer your ATV around the track. Fans of previous ATV Offroad Fury titles will remember that in order to get big air off ramps and mounds you had to preload your ATV's suspension by having your rider lean back as you approached the top of the jump and then lean forward just as you took off. The same is true this time around, and mistiming your weight shifts will not only give you less airtime to perform stunts, but also will invariably add valuable seconds to your race time and cost you a place or two. Thankfully, you'll find that the handling in the game is very intuitive.
All of the race events in the game are played against five opponents who, when you're playing against the CPU, exhibit some pretty believable artificial intelligence for the most part. You'll find that all of the riders are suitably aggressive off the start line and, as races progress, you'll see at least one or two of them making mistakes that, more often than not, result in them being thrown from their ATVs (particularly if they manage to collide with one of the vehicles that can occasionally be seen driving around, blissfully unaware that there's an ATV race on). You'll also notice that not all of the CPU riders will take the same routes around the track since the courses in ATV Offroad Fury 3, like those in most off-road racers, feature multiple routes and numerous shortcut opportunities. You'll only be able to stray from the course for three seconds at a time, though, so most of the shortcuts will amount to little more than cutting corners.
Unlike the supercross, national, and short track events, the enduro races are waypoint-based rather than track-based, and so they will afford you a lot more freedom as far as your route is concerned. We've found the enduro races set in large environments to be some of the most enjoyable in the game thus far. Our demo version of the game even included an easy-to-use editor tool for creating waypoint-based courses that, with the finished version of the game, you'll be able to share with other players online.
The freestyle mode will allow you an even greater degree of freedom, although you'll be attempting to complete one of a handful of objectives against a time limit each time you play. Typical objectives will include collecting green targets (not terribly difficult), collecting red targets (which would be tricky even without the time limit), linking a number of stunts together, performing a number of stunt combos, or amassing a certain stunt score. We've found that performing stunts in ATV Offroad Fury 3 isn't terribly difficult, but you might find that linking together more than two or three stunts is pretty tricky unless you're a fan of the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series and its revert moves.
Despite the fact that our playable demo of ATV Offroad Fury 3 was somewhat limited, we've had some fun with it and are now eager to get our hands on a more complete version of the game. Aside from the online play, options that we've not had a chance to try out include the training mode, the ATV Olympics, beach and ice tournaments, and eight minigames with names like King of the Hill, Treasure Hunt, Tag, Hockey, Soccer, and Basketball. Our demo also didn't allow us to customize our ATV in any way, which will purportedly be quite a significant feature of the finished game.
ATV Offroad Fury 3 is currently scheduled for release early in November. Expect more coverage just as soon as we get our hands on a more complete version of the game.