Review: Offroad, indeed.
ATV Offroad Fury: Blazin' Trails has arrived less than a month after the PSP launch, which is appropriate since the original ATV Offroad Fury also released within the first couple of months of the PlayStation 2 launch window. Although in a smaller package, the game's presentation is still top notch with solid graphics and sound translated to the portable system. It also picked up on the realistic physics and hardcore AI of its console predecessors, making the game a challenge from the start. On one hand, this is excellent news for every ATV Offroad enthusiast willing to stick it out. On the other hand, it'll only deter rookie players who'll experience more frustration than fun, especially when running into some of the gameplay quirks. For these turned-off people, turning on the Wi-Fi may be this game's saving grace. It gives players the ability to complete against human opponents on a more level playing ground and proves that Blazin' Trails can be fun if you're able to get used to some of its bumps.
Climax, the company that also developed ATV Offroad Fury 3, brought a lot of event types to Blazin' Trails. In addition to the single event mode, which acts like an exhibition mode with varying options, the championship mode is where the real ATV action lies. This mode includes amateur and pro events in supercross (stadium), nationals (outdoor), enduro (gate racing), short track, freestyle, freestyle objective and Olympics. Other event types and mini-games, which range from King of the Hills to Hockey, can be unlocked. However, you're best advised to start off with well put together and essential training mode before attempting to complete any event.
The reason that Blazin' Trails is challenging is because it contains a steep learning curve and some poor gameplay choices. As in previous ATV Offroad Fury titles, players must pre-load their jumps in order to gain an extra boost. This is performed by pulling back on the analog stick or pressing down on the D-Pad and then quickly pushing up to gain that additional speed. The problem is that it's more difficult to pull this off with the D-Pad than the analog stick, but the analog stick is less reliable when making turns. However, not doing this move at all causes you to drop back into the last position and not doing this correctly tends to send you off course. The former result of dropping back occurs even if you do pre-load because the AI is relentless and the game expects you to have a perfect race to stay in first place. The latter result of going off course only makes things worse when the game automatically puts you back on track after a measly three seconds and starts you off in the most frustrating locations. Usually, it's in front of a barrier or pointed off course near the track's edge where you're setup to do the same thing all over again. This was definitely an irritating decision by the developer.
Another unwise decision is in the game's language. No, it's not a problem of naughty language, but rather illogical directions. For example, it's confusing when the game tells players to be prepared to ?press back? and then to ?press down? in the same set of directions when it turns out that both ?back? and ?down? mean the same exact thing. The use of both might lead some one to believe that ?down? refers to the position the ATV must be angled, but that's just not the case. Consistently using one term would've either made ?more sense? or been ?more logical.? It's all the same.
Many of the game's problems are reduced in the multiplayer portion of Blazin' Trails. It supports up to four riders, just like in single-player, through infrastructure mode (online) or ad hoc mode (close-range wireless). Although jumping off of dirt ramps and into the air with my ATV was uplifting, seeing other riders make mistakes and run off course instead of being supernatural pros was even more of a sight to see. Given the mortal nature of these opponents, I could actually focus on performing stunts. This is an element didn't even cross my mind while I was busy attempt to achieve first in the single-player portion, which only took away from a key aspect of the game. Needless to say, the online mode is a much more enjoyable playing experience.
Besides competing over the Internet, the online community keeps track of your buddy list as well as score. The scoreboards display your scores, the scores of your friends, and the world best. You can also download the ghosts of the top 10 so that you can race against the very best on every track. Take it from me, though, it's best to hit up the shop beforehand. Here, you can upgrade your ATV, its parts and your rider gear or unlock other rewards like mini-games and music videos. A variety of collectable cards act as this games currency and can be won by achieving first place offline and online or shared with trading via ad hoc mode. It's actually really fun to do this, unless, of course, you go about winning them offline.
Despite all of the issues found in the offline difficulty, the gameplay is wrapped up in a nice package of satisfying graphics and music. Courses are filled with a range of objects like trees, ramps, cons and tires and takes on a variety of terrain types including snow, dirt, mud, ice, water and grass. The game comes with four camera choices, so it's possible to play from the third or first-person perspective. It also runs at an adequate frame rate nearly all of the time, so you'll feel the rush of speed and, seconds later, your blood rush when you go off course for the millionth time. The only rush that the game doesn't provide is during load times.