ATV Offroad Fury Hands-On

ATV Offroad Fury's floaty physics often work to its advantage - taking the long jumps at full speed is half the fun of the game.

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The latest build of ATV Offroad Fury - Sony's upcoming PS2 quad-based racing game - seems in top form for its upcoming release. The game, which is being developed by Rainbow Studios, focuses heavily on the aerial aspects of quad racing. The various types of tracks on which you'll race - from the enclosed stadium tracks to the wide-open enduro runs - are all replete with ramps and drops, forcing you to pay your quad's pitch as much mind as you would its velocity.

Perhaps the only complaint one can have against Offroad Fury concerns the actual physics model to which the quads are subject - it's rather low G, causing the quads to behave very light and balloonlike while in the air. In truth, though, the quads' "lightness" often works to the game's overall advantage. Since much of the game's experience revolves around the midair element of the races, the extra time spent in flight allows you to perform stunts, adjust your pitch, and most importantly, plan for a safe landing. And thanks to the PS2's comparatively powerful hardware, track elements such as height and depth can be re-created more earnestly than ever. Offroad Fury's hills are truly grand, and its chasms and pits color the landscape with their variety. Both factors truly add diversity to the off-road environments. The indoor tracks are likewise exciting, filled as they are with ramps, bumps, and other sorts of opportunities for air.

Catching air in Offroad Fury is a simple matter. Aside from simply launching off a ramp or hill, you can "preload" your quad in order to gain more air simply by holding down on the stick as you ascend a hill and pressing up and right at the takeoff point. The result is copious amounts of gained altitude, allowing you to dart ahead of the competition, perform gratuitous stunts, or a combination of the two.

Performing tricks seems rather straightforward, unfortunately. Once in the air, you simply hold the stick in one direction and depress either the triangle or circle button. Provided you have the vert, you can perform combos, but it seems fairly difficult without some major altitude.

In terms of performance, ATV Offroad Fury seems to be in decent shape. During single-player games, the frame rate moves along at a solid 40-50fps, depending on onscreen activity, and it takes a dive to the 30s during two-player split-screen races. Needless to say, a solid 60fps during single-player is what Rainbow should shoot for, and there's a little over a month to do it. The multiplayer enduro races also seem a bit foggy; the environments are expansive, no doubt, but the fog present at this point seems to keep them from maximizing their potential. It would certainly do the game well to have that issue addressed before its ship date.

In its present form, though - and not counting mild technical imperfections - ATV Offroad Fury seems to be a solidly entertaining and multifaceted racer, easily comparable to the best of what the off-road racing pseudo-genre has of late seen. The game is slated for a mid-February release.

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