The PlayStation has few software gaps waiting to be filled. With well over 1000 games available, it has everything from four versions of Bust-A-Move to a Teletubbies game. While dirt bike racers are really nothing new, Acclaim has decided to forgo the usual two-wheeler route in favor of attempting to tap into what it must see as the cash-ready four-wheeler market. Kids living in the sticks or professional quad racers might find the game inviting initially, but ATV: Quad Power Racing is really just another PlayStation niche title that misses the mark.
ATV: Quad Power Racing has four modes: championship, single race, time attack, and two-player. Championship mode has both pro and amateur circuits where you race against five other quads vying for first place. You start championship mode by picking one of the six available riders and one of two available quads and then choosing one of three tracks to race on. The only difference between the amateur circuit and the pro circuit is shortcuts located throughout the tracks - they're boarded up in amateur races and opened in the professional circuit. The stereotypical forest, snow, and desert environs are here, but any sort of indoor tracks have been omitted. If you complete a track in first place, you may move on to the next version of the track. Two quads are available out of the jewel case and four other bikes can be unlocked when you do well in the championship mode. A secret "super quad" is available once you conquer the professional circuit. Each quad has its own unique attributes for acceleration, suspension, and top speed, and you can really feel the difference in each bike's abilities, especially handling.
The single-race mode lets you take a spin on any of the unlocked tracks, while time attack lets you race for the lowest time possible. Both modes make the process of learning the tracks somewhat easier. The two-player mode is probably the most fun you'll have with ATV: Quad Power Racing. Here the frame rates stay solid most of the time, and the tracks are long enough that you can stay in the race despite several wrecks.
The tracks are extremely long - we're talking bust-out-the-eye-drops long. By the time you make it to the third lap, you'll be sick of squinting to see where the track leads next and even more pained by sitting on pins and needles, scared to make the one mistake that will cost you the race. The steering control is fine, but merely tapping the brakes slows you down so much that it almost guarantees you'll soon be eating someone else's dirt spray. The powerslide isn't much help either because it also slows down your bike far too much. You're faced with the challenge of keeping the throttle wide open while bouncing over the hilly, curvy terrain - a near impossibility. There is also a strange physics glitch where bumping into bikes in front of you sends the competition sprinting ahead while you pick the dirt clots out of your goggles. Other times, running into someone from behind sends you and your bike inexplicably rocketing 100 feet into the air. This is especially frustrating considering the ATVs are wide enough to take up more than half the width of the track.
Even more frustrating is that the artificial intelligence is far too daunting - even on the very first track. You may cruise along without a single collision or miscue for a lap or two, but the second you even so much as veer slightly off-road, you can guarantee that you'll be passed by at least two riders. This is especially frustrating in the initial stages of play when you're simply trying to become accustomed to the game's controls. There are shortcuts located on each track, and once you learn to use them, things do become a bit easier, but the limited payoff of one super quad does not justify the difficulty you will have completing this game.
ATV: Quad Power Racing isn't going to win any best-graphics awards. There are only three texture sets used throughout the entire game, and the variations for each track are in track design only. There are no monumental structures to serve as reminders of upcoming terrain, so to succeed in the game you have to memorize each of the four variations of the near-identical tracks - a difficult task. Texture seams are apparent, especially on the snow track, and getting close to any of the objects located off-road will make most graphics purists wince because of their surreal pixelated look. When riders ahead of you go over the top of a hill, you can see them through the terrain going down the other side. This actually helps you prepare for the next turn, but the realism takes a serious hit. The riders also seem way too thin relative to the quads, and the real-time damage that the four-wheelers are supposed to take is barely noticeable, if at all.
On the positive side, the frame rate does manage to stay fairly steady, even with five other riders onscreen, and the riders and bikes react accurately to the terrain as Acclaim has done a nice job with the physics engine. Considering how fast you have to go just to stay in the race, it's annoying that every bump has a tendency to send you way off the course. There is very little texture warping or flicker, and the draw-in isn't overly offensive. Some adequate weather effects like rain are thrown in to spruce things up, and your rider will occasionally taunt the competition as well.
The looped guitar rock isn't too obtrusive at first, but after extended play periods, most or you will want to turn it down or off altogether. The sound effects are far too quiet when mixed with the music, and when you do finally hear the squeals of the bikes, they sound more like souped-up Lawn-Boys than dirt demons anyway. There is also an annoying glitch where the game pauses for a brief second while the music tracks start over.
While there may be some ATV enthusiasts out there who will get enough out of ATV: Quad Power Racing to warrant a rental, those who are only mildly into the sport will be disappointed by the game's repetitive graphics, steep learning curve, and overall lack of variety or fun.