ATV: Quad Power Racing 2
If you're a fan of 4x4 racing games and you own a PS2, then you're probably already familiar with Rainbow Studio's ATV Offroad Fury 2, which features outstanding graphics, exciting racing action, and support for online play. Unfortunately, the game was never released for Nintendo's next-generation system, and that's not likely to change anytime soon. Therefore, the lone 4x4 racer currently available for the GameCube comes in the form of Acclaim's recently released ATV: Quad Power Racing 2. And while I still lament the absence of Rainbow Studio's masterpiece, ATV: QPR 2 offers enough audio/visual prowess and solid game play to keep most GameCube owners satisfied ? for at least little while anyway.
The game offers several different modes of play, including: Arcade, ATV Academy (Training), Challenge, Time Trial, Career, Single Race, and Freestyle where you can practice your stunts in an indoor arena. The game also features sweet multiplayer action for two players. Here you can compete in split screen modes of Single Race, Head-to-Head, Championship, and Freestyle Battle. Obviously (but sadly nonetheless), online play is not an option.
While the game's premise and control mechanics are fairly straightforward, I can't help but think that those of you who have prior 'extreme'? racing experience will have a distinct advantage with the learning curve. Of course, the downside is that you also may also get the dreaded, 'Been there, done that'? feeling as well. Like similar titles before it (Sled Storm and Freekstyle immediately come to mind), you choose a vehicle and a track, and partake in a race against a stable of other pros with the hopes of getting to the finish line first. During each race, you'll earn power boosts, negotiate massive jumps, and receive points by performing an assortment of tricks. You can also get down and dirty by kickin' and rammin' your opponents clear off their 4x4s. And if this all sounds familiar, well yeah, it is! But the very nature of these 4x4 all-terrain vehicles is what separates this racer from the rest of the pack. The secret to gaining speed lies in your ability to land your vehicle on all four wheels after each and every jump ? and this my friends, is easier said than done. This presents a whole new set of physics to even the most experienced gamer, and helps to maintain a sense of challenge from one race to the next.
A few disappointments crop up here and there. The rider select options are rather paltry and this problem becomes further magnified by the inability to create your own character. And while there are the obligatory 'locked'? bikes and tracks, which you can subsequently unlock during game progress, I find it somewhat surprising that the game lacks a true track editor or an option to customize your vehicle.
While the graphics offer nothing spectacular, there are a decent amount of lighting effects, lens flares and reflections to keep GameCube owners from being embarrassed. The character models are somewhat generic looking and their animations are kept to a minimum. However, the most important aspect of any racer is its frame rate. And this is where the game shines. The game maintains a fast and fluid frame rate throughout, without any annoying slowdown or clipping to speak of. Likewise, the audio is competent with believable engine noises along with the usual thuds, whacks, grunts, and groans of your opponents. Musical selections are brought to you by bands such as Box Car Racer, Godsmack, Audiovent, Bionic Jive, and Midtown. The music is high octane for sure and perfectly suits the action at hand. However, if these bands are not exactly your cup of tea, no problem, turn 'em off.
The fact that, at the moment, this is the only 4x4 racer for the GameCube might be reason enough for some of you to considerate its purchase. Despite its similarities to other extreme-type racers, it offers enough of a difference in physics and control to provide a fresh experience. However, if you're not the least interested in the genre, then I seriously doubt that this game will convert you. Either way, ATV: Quad Power Racing 2 is a lot of fun to play. Rent it for a few days and see for yourself.
Download ATV: Quad Power Racing 2
Racing games are a funny lot. With there being so much competition for your racing (game) dollar, these titles must constantly redefine the sport or at the very least create a game that is fresh, exciting, and fun to play. ATV2 offers none of the aforementioned attributes, but it does have some redeeming qualities.
As far as racing titles go, ATV2 is kind of middle of the road. While it has a diverse line up of riders, tracks and bikes, the whole game feels a bit' unfinished. First thing of real note is the uneven control scheme. While the acceleration and controls are all tight, the tricks are far too difficult to warrant spending hours trying to master. Normally this wouldn't be a problem as most racing games involve merely needing to come in first. But in ATV2, not only must you strive for a top three finish in each race, but bonus points are awarded to whomever has the fastest lap, most trick points, highest air, longest jump, etc. All of these are factored into your race ranking. Sure you might win the race, but if you don't put up big trick points, you might not finish number one in the standings. Of course, I am merely speaking of the career mode (which is the meat and potatoes of the game); there is still the arcade, freestyle, challenge, time trial and multiplayer modes.
Graphically ATV2 has both high and low points, and while the frame rate is splendid, as is the sense of depth, some of the game's courses are a bit on the bland side. To me this is entirely unacceptable, as the developers had obviously proven that beautiful course design was possible with the power of the Xbox. To have left other levels flat and tedious was a disservice to the game as well as the gamers who purchase it.
Now don't get me wrong'the game does score a 'fans only' for some good reasons too. I really enjoyed the stunt freestyle mode, and the career mode did have some redeeming qualities such as innovative courses and the fact you can hammer kick an opponent that gets to close to you (shades of Road Rash). But in the end you still only have a game that won't appeal to the gaming masses.
At first glance, this title is somewhat enticing. It focuses mainly on the racing aspects of it's chosen sport, has the traditional features added to any extreme sports title, and also throws in a few fists, or rather feet, for good measure. While this particular part of the gaming market has been flooded with titles over the last year or two, it's also the same genre that's given us such hits as Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3, and, although only loosely related, SSX Tricky. Living up to the gloss and shine requisite for a PS2 extreme sports title, ATV QPR2 seems at first to be a well-built, attractive game. That, however, is before you get under the hood and examine its nether regions.
Following the traditional model for these games, unlocking various new vehicles, levels, and other extras as you complete each race, Quad Power Racing doesn't make much effort to provide a different interface or gameplay style. While it's definitely got a different style, using ATVs instead of a more common vehicle, it replicates much of the same feel of other games, and offers nothing new to pull ahead of the pack. If you've played another trick-heavy racing title, you've already gotten the feel of ATV: Quad Power Racing 2.
To answer more specifics, I'll start with the racing. ATV QPR2 is fairly difficult to control, requiring a significant amount of stick time to get used to the controls, which I can only explain as 'sloppy.' Additionally, even when I got used to playing the game, I still found the computer players to be a challenge far beyond what I'd expect for normal play. Even on the easiest levels, it was pretty easy to get severely beaten by getting hung up on a single obstacle, or take a turn badly. Further increasing my frustration, the tricking aspect of ATV QPR2 needs serious help. Performing a trick with the analog sticks is nigh impossible, and even using the d-pad makes your ATV QPR2 list wildly. Given the actual difficulty of performing each of the simplest tricks, I had no interest in performing the more advanced tricks, even after I'd gotten far enough along to unlock them.
In summation, while I had a little fun racing ATVs with this title, it's definitely not what I'd call a fun title, suffering from big gameplay problems. With racing that's both difficult and hard to control, as well a poor trick system, I'd be quick to pass this up for a more quality game from the same genre.