Sony's ATV Offroad Fury series has enjoyed a considerable amount of success thus far, thanks in large part to accessible gameplay and a decent variety of customization options as well as modes of play. Though Rainbow Studios, the developer responsible for the first two games, is no longer working on the series, Climax has plenty of experience with racing games, and it knows not to mess with the formula too much. The result is a game that has a subtly different feel, but delivers much of the same high-flying ATV action.
ATV Offroad Fury has always featured pretty intuitive controls, and this one is no different. The most unique piece of the ATV Offroad Fury controls has always been the preloading mechanic, which has you pushing down and up on the left analog stick just before launching off a jump, helping you get a lot of extra altitude. You can also powerslide around corners just by holding the R1 button, and the R2 button will let you tilt up onto two wheels when taking a corner. The action is very much arcade-style in nature, and the key to winning races is knowing when to preload your jumps and when to powerslide around corners. These basic rules will get you through pretty much the entire game, but this simplicity belies the challenge you'll encounter as the courses become more technical and the competition stiffer. You'll often have to run through courses several times to memorize their rhythms before you'll be able to progress.
ATV Offroad Fury 3 also features a simple trick system. Ground tricks are limited to wheelies, bicycles, and endos, though there are far more aerial tricks at your disposal, and they're easily executed with the circle, triangle, or L1 button in conjunction with the left analog stick. The toughest part of the aerial trick system is knowing how long it takes for the animations for the different tricks to play out, because if your butt isn't on the seat when your ATV hits the dirt, you'll suffer a wicked bail. Though tricks aren't essential in the racing modes, the game encourages you to pull off tricks by rewarding you with credits that can be used to unlock new ATVs, new gear for your rider, new tracks, and other assorted goodies. Though racing competitions are the crux of ATV Offroad Fury 3, the game also features a freestyle mode that challenges you to collect colored icons, chain together a number of combos, or score a number of trick points within a set amount of time. As the trick system isn't particularly deep, the freestyle modes are arguably the least engaging thing the game has to offer.
The training mode in ATV Offroad Fury 3 is pretty good at acclimating new players to some of the unique aspects of the gameplay, though even seasoned vets will want to go through all of the training exercises, as this will unlock ATVs that are faster and handle better than the other stock ATVs. These ATVs are essential in making some of the earlier challenges more manageable. In the championship mode, you'll go through a series of race types against artificial intelligence opponents, first in an amateur class and then in a pro class.
Each race type has its own distinct feel to it, which goes far in keeping the action from becoming monotonous. Supercross races generally take place in a stadium-style setting, and they are defined by very tight layouts and a consecutive series of very large jumps. National races, on the other hand, take place in much less-restricted environments, though the tracks are still somewhat groomed. Short track races are basically identical to the national races, except that, as inferred by the name, they trade track length for a higher number of laps. Finally, enduro races are the most free-form types in the game, and they will have you barreling across the countryside, making your way through checkpoints and blazing your own path. The championship mode is likely where you'll spend the majority of your time when playing solo. There is also a single event mode where you can compete in a one-off event of your choice, though you'll need to play a lot of the championship mode before this is really worthwhile, as most of the options in the single event mode are locked up from the start.
There are a decent amount of customization options in ATV Offroad Fury, though a lot of them are purely aesthetic. You can choose from a male or female rider model, put them in different outfits, and adorn both rider and ATV with various decals, along with custom color schemes, too. You can also purchase special exhaust, wheels, tires, and pieces of trim for your ATV, though only the exhaust and wheels have any effect on your performance. If you want to further tweak how your ATV runs, you can adjust the gear ratios and the stiffness of the shocks. Additionally, ATV Offroad Fury gives you the ability to create your own custom enduro races by placing checkpoint markers wherever you see fit.
ATV Offroad Fury 2 introduced online play to the series, and though number three doesn't expand on it too much, the experience feels far more polished and streamlined. The number of players has been bumped up from four to six for all of the different online game modes. All of the race types in the single-player game--supercross, enduro, short track, national, waypoint--are available online, and there is a standard point-based freestyle competition as well. The minigames from ATV Offroad Fury 2 return in the third edition, and this time around the majority of them are unlocked from the start. Several of these modes are roughly modeled after the online modes found in the Tony Hawk games--tag ball plays like king of the hill, king of the hills plays like graffiti--though there are more unique modes like treasure hunt. In treasure hunt, you race around the open environments, hunting down special bronze, silver, and gold medal icons. Soccer, basketball, and hockey modes, basically mimic their namesake sports, though poor collision detection and some bad physics keep these modes from being that enjoyable. There's also an online scoring system this time, which feeds into an overall ranking and experience system, and it will eventually let you unlock special color schemes for your ATV and rider.
The graphics in ATV Offroad Fury 2 were not particularly stunning when it came out in 2002, and though ATV Offroad Fury 3 cleans up certain aspects of the game, it has a real uneven feel to it. The environments are the biggest issue, specifically the muddy low-res textures that are used to coat the otherwise nicely contoured and natural-looking surroundings. Coming in a close second, though, is the game's unstable frame rate. Most of the tracks run at a reasonably smooth rate, though there's a bit of hitching when you powerslide around a corner; it's when the game lays on its rain and snow effects that the frame rate really starts to drag. The riders and the ATVs fair much better, with some decent textures and realistic animations, and the rag-doll effects when you wreck your quad are suitably cringeworthy. In what is a nice touch, the riders and ATVs start a race looking nice and pristine, but they'll be splashed in dirt by the end. The riders are easily the best-looking aspect of the game; though the camera is pulled back far enough so that most of the time it's hard to see much of the detail.
The soundtrack for ATV Offroad Fury 3 feels extremely scatterbrained, featuring licensed songs that are fine on their own, but don't play particularly well next to one another. Leapfrogging from pop punk tracks by Good Charlotte and Less Than Jake to nu-metal outfits like Slipknot to a creepy exclusive Bootsy Collins song (where he does his trademark jive talk, only this time it's about ATVs) takes too much effort, and eventually the music just kind of fades into background noise. Frankly, we found the handful of modern country-and-western tracks included to be the most suitable for the earthy, wide-open feel that most of the game has, and we would have been much happier with a soundtrack featuring more music in that style. This stylistic schizophrenia aside, the sound is mostly overwhelmed by the screaming sounds of ATV engines, though there are some subtle environmental sounds at work here, too.
Climax has made a pretty seamless transition into the driver's seat of ATV Offroad Fury 3, and the game manages to maintain a familiar feel while generally tightening up the whole package. It stands out as being a more well-rounded game than either of its predecessors, and though it's unlikely to convert those who weren't impressed with past installments, fans of the first two games should find plenty to like here.