Monopolies only work to the advantage of those who hold them, and this holds true for the video game industry the same as any other. As the only ATV racing game on the market until now, Rainbow Studios' ATV Off-Road Fury series has been allowed to go unchecked. In an effort to cut itself a slice of the ATV racing pie, Acclaim has decided to resurrect its ATV racing series and bring ATV Quad Power Racing 2 to the PlayStation 2. While the actual gameplay in ATV Quad Power Racing 2 might have given ATV Off-Road Fury 2 a run for its money, key technical shortcomings and a relative dearth of gameplay options keep it from being serious competition.
It won't take long to figure out what ATV Quad Power Racing 2 is all about. Aside from the usual locomotive functions you'd expect from an ATV, there's an attack button you can use to knock opponents off of their bikes, a trick button that, when used in the air in conjunction with the analog stick, will allow you to execute a handful of simple tricks, and then there's the all-important preload button. By holding the preload button as you approach a jump, and letting it go right before you leave the crest of the jump, you can add a lot more height and distance to your hop, allowing you to bypass more rugged terrain, as well as pull off more tricks. Tricks are rewarded with boost, though the turbo boost is a bit underwhelming, and it's rare that the boost is the deciding factor in a race.
The races themselves are pretty straightforward affairs, and remain mostly the same between the career, single race, and arcade modes. As you advance in the career mode, you'll be rewarded with new tracks and quads to ride, as well as stat points for your rider. Though most of the stats pertain to how well you handle your quad, the aggression stat effects your ability to knock other riders off their quads, and your ability to hang on to yours while being attacked. The problem is that the aggression stats don't really manifest in any sort of meaningful way—that is, fate seems to play as big a part as your stats do in determining who will come away unscathed from a collision. Also, the AI opponents don't put un an incredible fight during the career mode, and most players won't feel terribly challenged until the third and final set of races, and maybe not even then. Through the races, you'll ride on 15 different tracks spread across five environments, which pretty much cover the range of places you'd want to take an ATV. There's your standard dirt track in a wooded area, an ice level, a beach track, as well as tracks that run through swamps and construction sites. Each does a respectable job of representing its respective locale, and the track designs remain interesting and varied throughout.
Outside the racing in ATV Quad Power Racing 2, there's also freestyle, challenge, and time trial modes. The freestyle mode puts you in an arena full of ramps of different shapes and sizes, and gives you a set amount of time to pull off tricks. This mode would probably be significantly more fun if there was actually some depth to the trick system, but as it stands, most players will probably forgo the trick point challenges in the freestyle mode and just aim for really big jumps and grisly wrecks. The challenge mode is a series of skill-based events that are split up into two categories: ground challenges and tower challenges. The ground challenges generally test your ability to handle your quad, putting you through slaloms, giving you huge jumps to clear, and so on. The tower challenges are a bit more original. You're presented with a series of raised platforms that are interconnected with bridges of varying size and shape, and you have to navigate the course within a certain time limit. The ground challenges are both fun and useful, as they force you to hone specific aspects of your game, and the goals never seem unattainable. The tower challenges, however, seem just like a weird, random aside, and don't really pertain to anything else in the game. Some of the modes offered in ATV Quad Power Racing 2 are decent diversions for a short time, but the races are the only ones that offer an experience with any longevity.
Most multiplatform console releases see very minimal differences between versions, and this rings mostly true for ATV Quad Power Racing 2, though the PlayStation 2 version comes out looking worse than the Xbox or GameCube versions due to some technical problems. As mentioned, the different tracks convey the look and feel of their environments nicely, and though the actual polygonal construction of the courses is fair at best, the tracks are gussied up with clean, good-looking high-res textures. But the quality of the riders doesn't match that of the tracks, and the disparity in quality between the two makes the riders' simple construction, blurry textures, and uninspired, unrealistic-looking animations stick out that much more. While all three versions appear essentially the same, the PlayStation 2 version's shortcomings become apparent once you put it in motion. Specifically, the frame rate in ATV Quad Power Racing 2 is just downright erratic, stuttering and slowing down for no real apparent reason. You might also notice some strange issues with the rider textures as the riders come up from behind to pass you, which is something that only the PlayStation 2 version suffers from.
The licensed soundtrack has become a fixture in action sports games, and it can be a really effective and easy way to give a game some good energy and attitude, but ATV Quad Power Racing 2 abuses this convention by including only seven songs on the soundtrack. All of it is guitar-driven rock or metal-tinged punk, but if you consider that you'll run through two songs in a single race, only someone that's a huge fan of all seven songs wouldn't get tired of the selection after a few hours of play. The rest of the game's sound basically consists of the constant blaring of your engine, which stays the same regardless of which quad you're riding, and is underlined by the occasional grunt from a rider.
While there's no real competition for a quad racing game on the Xbox or GameCube, on the PS2, both of the ATV Off-Road Fury games pull off what ATV Quad Power Racing 2 tries for, and with more style and technical proficiency. So while ATV Quad Power Racing 2 is a pretty decent racing game on its own merits, it can't be recommended over a couple of similar games that are already available.