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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

ATV Off-Road Fury 3 (PS2)


By Michael Palisano

SCEA's latest action-sports title, ATV Off-Road Fury 3 for the PS2 is an excellent racer that offers plenty of modes on a variety of courses with tons of extras to unlock. Fans of the previous ATV titles will immediately notice the vastly improved graphics, with more realistic level designs that are much larger than previous titles. An impressive engine showcases dynamic light-sourcing with reflections and realistic environmental effects such as mud, rain and, snow. The gameplay remains tight and challenging with excellent controls that make performing extreme tricks a snap. ATV 3 also features extended multiplayer modes with split-screen action, online multiplayer modes, mini-games and more. The overall quality is high throughout with tight controls, dozens of courses and extras making this an addictive, challenging racer.

The third installment in the successful ATV Off-Road Fury franchise offers players the solid gameplay and tight controls they've come to expect, but adds many new features and modes. As usual, players can select from a variety of modes including super-cross racing, freestyle, career in both single and multiplayer modes. There are also free-ride and training modes that allow you to get the hang of the handling without the pressure of an actual race. The courses in these modes range from indoor super-cross tracks to vast outdoor courses in a variety of locations and environments. There are also large freestyle courses where players can go from checkpoint to checkpoint, racing through waypoints along the way. There are also short courses and other trick courses included in the game. In addition to standard racing, players can also compete in a variety of multiplayer mini-games including standard king of the hill and tag modes as well as some sports themed modes such as hockey, basketball, and soccer. These modes give the game plenty of depth and extend its replay value substantially. There are more than 30 different environments, with more than 40 courses offering plenty of challenge. ATV 3 also includes more than 30 ATVs with a variety of designs. Players can also choose to play online using the PS2's Network Adaptor, which supports both Broadband and Dial-Up connections. Most of the online modes mirror those in the main game, with some special online-only modes included as well. The game supports up to six players at the same time, in either the online modes or offline using a split screen mode. In addition to these standard modes, ATV 3 includes many secrets and hidden unlockables that can be found by playing through the game.

When you begin the game, you can set up a player profile that can be used to store your progress and keep track of the items and upgrades in your garage. This is very important in the career mode, where you compete in tournaments and challenges, unlocking items and extra vehicles as you progress. The game's depth and challenge is only enhanced by the variety of courses it throws at the player. You'll have to master a variety of techniques, including dozens of tricks and race types in order to successfully progress up the ladder. This requires a lot of skill and practice, but the game opens up dramatically once you get the hang of the basic techniques. The key to success is timing your landings and positioning yourself correctly at the bottom of each jump while remembering not to go overboard with the tricks. You definitely need to play it safe on some courses in order to avoid crashing. However, the opportunities are definitely there to pull off some big moves. It's not as easy as it sounds, but the game's smooth, intuitive controls make the job much easier. Steering the vehicle is simple and the controls are smooth and responsive, allowing you to traverse large jumps, drift around corners and turns easily. The courses themselves offer a variety of challenges with a variety of jumps and hills to traverse. Players will also find the vehicles performance is affected by the surface they're racing on, with mud and water slowing them down between the gravel and dirt portions of each track. This definitely adds to the game's realistic feel, though this arcade approach means it's not a dry simulation by any means.

What makes the game so much fun to play is it's intuitive controls and interface. An action- oriented approach also means that you can recover from mistakes such as going off the track. However, you have to get back on course quickly or face a steep time penalty. Performing stunts is surprisingly easy, requiring only a simple button press, or a simple combination of buttons to pull of a trick. The challenge comes in timing these as your vehicle is in the air, and ending before you hit the dirt again. In addition to mastering your own racing techniques, you'll also have to keep an eye on your opponents. The AI racers can be set at several different levels, ranging from pushovers to incredibly difficult. The higher you set the AI difficulty, your opponents become more aggressive and unforgiving. They'll knock you off your ride and push you around the track and won't give you an inch. Playing against human opponents in split-screen or online can be even more difficult, depending on their skill level. However, you can use the levels themselves to your advantage because ATV 3 rewards players who know the short cuts and take risks. This creates an intense racing atmosphere that makes for a challenging, exciting experience that's easy to pick up but difficult to put down.

From a technical standpoint, ATV Off-Road Fury 3's biggest improvements come in the course designs, which are much more impressive than previous games. The texture mapping is much more detailed this time around, and the ATV themselves look fantastic thanks to the increased poly counts. ATV 3 doesn't suffer the excessive ugly jaggies that still plague many PS2 titles and instead offers a slick appearance. The smooth frame rate makes the action move a speedy, smooth frame rate throughout. This is true in either the first or third-person perspective. The graphics engine also implements incredibly realistic weather effects such as rain and snow that add to the game's realism. Even more impressive is the fact that the courses themselves are much larger. This gives players even more freedom to traverse them. ATV 3's expansive course designs are massive and allow the game's freestyle modes to create a completely open-ended feel for the player. You rarely feel hemmed in playing in these modes, giving you a great sense of freedom to tear up the courses as you please, making your own routes as you play. The visuals are excellent with the hard-rock soundtrack featuring up and coming bands compliments the action effectively, adding to ATV 3's intensity without overpowering the action. Overall, this is a highly polished game that excels with some of the best production values seen in a PS2 racer to date.

It should come as no surprise given the series' track record, but ATV Off Road Fury 3 is another solid installment in the series. It remains quite addictive and remarkably challenging with responsive, intuitive controls offering a thrilling racing experience. The variety of the course-designs and game modes should keep you playing for quite some time. Veterans of previous games will find excitement in ATV 3's many new modes of play, extended online support and mini-games. The multiplayer modes are excellent and should only add to the game's appeal. Visually, the game exceeds expectations with more realistic and much larger course designs creating a great sense of freedom for the player. This excellent action-sports title offers plenty of depth as well, with a deep career mode and plenty of extras to unlock. ATV Off Road Fury 3 is an excellent title that takes the action and intensity of previous games to the next level.

Grade: B

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