ATV Offroad Fury Preview

Sony's second developmental effort for its next-generation console is an off-road racing game that puts you on four-wheelers and lets you race it out in an assortment of extreme game modes.

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With the power of next-generation consoles, the latest tend in extreme driving games is going off-road. Games like Smuggler's Run and the upcoming Test-Drive: Off Road Wide Open are paving the way for more expansive off-road driving games. Sony is jumping on the bandwagon, and it has picked up the team responsible for Microsoft's Motocross Madness 1 and 2 to codevelop a quad-based ATV game for the PS2. Titled ATV Offroad Fury, the game lets you race one of many actual four-wheelers through several different game modes.

ATV Offroad Fury offers many different styles of races. You'll be able to learn the basics of handling your quad in the game's training mode. The freestyle competition allows you to blaze your own path through any of the five available tracks while performing daredevil tricks and stunts to accumulate points. The cross-country enduro series allows you to find your own way from the start to the finish line in a series of races. The maxxis nationals is a series of 11 races that focus on completing laps instead of hitting checkpoints, while the stadium supercross mode features seven real-life indoor courses that also focus on completing laps. The game also features a pro-career mode, which takes you through a combination of maxxis nationals and supercross courses as you advance your career. Additionally, each mode allows you to pick one of three different race types - practice gives you unlimited time with the course, single race has you race just one race, and ghost attack allows you to race against a ghost rider who mimics your best run.

The game uses an amazing physics engine that uses several real-life factors to create an extremely accurate and exciting racing experience. All of the quads in the game feature fully articulated suspensions and independent swing arms, shocks, springs, and cambers. Shifting the weight of the rider on the quad and moving the quad in the air play a huge part in ATV Offroad Fury. The game features a preload meter, which allows you to manually compress your springs and shocks while climbing a hill and then spring up at the top to add distance to your jump. While in the air, you'll have to shift your weight on the quad to match the angle of the terrain you're due to land on, and doing this well is the key to winning a race. Because the game uses complex series of jumps and rhythm sections, the strategy is to learn the course and then flow over the jumps with the proper amount of speed and preload. The game also features fairly accurate gyroscope mechanics - braking and shifting your weight to the rear tires will cause you to move quickly and dramatically into the air. All of these innovations and features make ATV Offroad Fury a fairly accurate translation of what off-road quad-based racing is all about.

The development lead was quick to point out that, while most driving games are about cornering, this game is more about managing your speed and your jumps to give yourself the best path through the tracks. Cornering doesn't play a huge part in ATV Offroad Fury, and it's fairly quick and painless. Also, the developer stated that ATV Offroad Fury is just as much a flying game as it is a driving game. Since you're constantly launching off jumps and hills, you'll have to get used to spending plenty of time in the air. The developer stated that you hit a jump approximately every 1.2 seconds, so getting a handle on preloading and pitch control is vital to your success.

ATV Offroad Fury features tons of actual sponsors from the world of quad racing. Several quads from Honda, Yamaha, and Polaris are in the game, and a few fictional quads designed specifically for this game have also been included. Additionally, clothing sponsors like Thor and Alpinestars provided outfits for the riders in ATV Offroad Fury. Once you pick an outfit and a quad, you'll be able to customize your quad in the game's garage area. While ATV Offroad Fury doesn't sport the huge number of customization options that games like Gran Turismo or some F1 games do, you will be able to tweak basic fields like your tire friction and the shock and spring tension.

All of the tracks in the game were designed by 120cc supercross champion Stephan Roncadi, who spent plenty of time designing the rhythm sections and jump patterns. While most of the indoor and lap-based tracks are linear and focus specifically on hitting jumps and making turns, the outdoor tracks are sprawling and have less-defined paths. Additionally, most of the outdoor tracks have interactive elements - like trains, tanks, and other goodies - that add plenty of fun to your racing experience.

The graphics in ATV Offroad Fury are simply stunning. The game allows you to take complete control of the camera, and it offers total customization at any point in the game. Using the right analog stick, you'll be able to pan the camera around and zoom in or out as you see fit. Additionally, you'll be able to change the camera's field of vision. The developer showed us one camera angle in particular - where the camera was zoomed in on the rider and the field of vision was extended - that gave an amazing impression of speed. All of the quads in the game are detailed with amazing accuracy. The engine, seat, controls, suspension, and tires are all fully detailed, and each part animates in a very realistic manner. The riders themselves respond correctly to the gravity, inertia and other in-game forces, and they shift their weight about on the bike appropriately. The backgrounds look very convincing, and they feature fully rendered trees and obstacles. Unlike most racers that use 2D sprites in the background, ATV Offroad Fury features tracks that are fully rendered and display amazing detail when seen up-close. At this point the frame rate simply flies, and the action is smooth and precise. Sony claims that the game should maintain a frame rate way above 30 fps, even in the four-player mode.

Audio plays a big part in ATV Offroad Fury. The game features a soundtrack full of licensed bands, including Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Primus, among others. Unfortunately, none of the bands created any new tracks for the game. The game also features very accurate sound effects. Each of the bikes in the game has a distinct exhaust noise, and the developers went out of their way to sample each and every quad in the game. The exhaust effects, combined with bottoming-out noises and other sounds you would hear while actually riding an ATV, really complete the audio package.

ATV Offroad Fury is the second PS2 development effort from Sony and its development studios. The game is designed to take advantage of what is sure to be the new hot genre on next-generation platforms, off-road racing, and it does so in an accurate and fun way. Expect ATV Offroad Fury to hit store shelves this January.

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