Written By Shaun McCracken

The one sub-genre of racing games I've seem to have noticed to appear the most of on the Gamecube is off-road racing. For example, look at Freekstyle, MX Superfly, Smuggler's Run Warzones (although it's not entirely motocross), Big Air Freestyle, and even the miserable Jeremy McGrath Supercross. It's not a bad thing, but it's the one type of racing that seems to be in abundance on the system. ATV 2 brings a little something of it's own to the genre, which is also something we've seen for the first time on the Gamecube: quad racing. While ATV 2 is not a bad first shot at the ATV sub-genre, the end result plays out in familiarity for more than one reason. One, the game play feels a lot Sony's ATV Offroad Fury games (although there seems to be more weight with he bikes, here). Second, the engine looks strikingly familiar. But more on that later.

The premise of this game is fairly simple, much like many other racing games. You race to place first and unlock special riders and courses. You can also partake in a stunt mode as well as a challenge mode. The game's main modes include the Career and Arcade modes, which play differently depending on which one you choose. Arcade pretty much takes you from course to course, and overall rank is not as important as it should be. It does feel relaxed compared to the Career mode, and it is an easier way to unlock the courses. But it won't win you new vehicles. You'll need to be in the Career mode for that. Place first, earn a new ride. Plus, you'll need to stay as high on the rankings as possible. After you're done, you can access the Custom mode, where you can create custom championships. You can also go into the stunt mode, where you can try to go for the best score within the time period you select. The Challenge mode is a large trial course, with obstacles, ramps and so forth. Kind of like Super Monkey Ball, but with ATVs. It sounds pretty meaty, especially when you have 15 courses. But there's not enough of the stunt courses or challenge stages offered, and the career mode is not nearly as varied as it could be. It doesn't end up as a crappy game, but rather a game that gives you only a few bites of what can be a great thing, leaving you wanting more, especially when compared to Sony's offerings on the PS2.

The game plays pretty well. Seeing how the first ATV Quad Power Racing tanked on the PS1, you can't help but be skeptical of how the sequel does. Especially by the same developer (Climax). But ATV 2 feels like a whole new game. The controls are pretty tight (though not as arcadey as ATV Offroad Fury), the course layout is pretty well designed, and it doesn't feel like a sluggish mess. I think the only problem in the design is with the stunt system. Like other games I've played, such as Freekstyle, you earn a boost by doing stunts. It worked out okay for Freekstyle, since it had a responsive trick system. Here, your tricks may or may not register. This could lead to lost boosts that you depend on, seeing how boosting is sort of a critical aspect to winning. Also, it seems like you earn more boost for doing bicycles and wheelies (flatland tricks) than you do with half of the air tricks that are available. If the stunt you pull scores high, why not get more boost than one that scores lower? I kind of wish that games like these would not depend on a boost system so much, since the computer can tend to manipulate the system in it's favor.

In the beginning of this review, I stated that this game looked "strikingly familiar" (when it comes to visuals). That's because this game looks a lot like Rally Fusion, which was also developed by Climax. The release dates also seem to be not that far apart between the two games, either. It's likely that the games used similar graphics engines. The game looks smoother and a little sharper than Rally Fusion, but then again I played Rally Fusion on the PS2, where games tend to have aliasing problems, which Gamecube games usually have the lines smoothed out. The textures are a little more sharper than Fusion, and the lighting seems to be a little more improved. Also, the frame rate never really bogs down, and stays at a near-constant 60 FPS. The riders and bikes seem to be the only downfall, in an overall nice graphical package. The riders and bikes look pretty plain, and fairly low on the polygon count. I know there's not a lot to an ATV, but I think a little more detail could have been added, such as stickers or maybe a little more detail to the body.

The audio isn't bad, but not phenomenal, either. You have seven rock tracks which you may or may not like, and from groups you may have never heard of. Compared to the soundtracks offered in other Acclaim extreme sports titles (as well as many other games in general), this roster seems fairly weak. The ATVs sound alright, but I think they sound a little more like angry bees than ATVs. I've driven one quite a few times before, and they're pretty loud. Also sputtery, too. It's odd how sounds of vehicles vary from game to game, and you never know which developer nails the effects, and which ones don't.

Final Thought

Overall, ATV 2 is a game that is fairly good for being the only ATV-based game on the system. Climax could have improved on the trick system, and offer more depth, which is really what the game needs to be a great whole product, instead of one that feels like something is missing. It's fairly fun and easy to get into, which is something that they got right. Also, the racing and the pace is not as boring as it was in MX Superfly, which I didn't like too much. But overall, the game just feels like a taste of something that could have had a lot of potential. As it is, it's sufficient enough for any Gamecube owner looking for an ATV racer that they would get a little use out of. But if you also own a PS2, and are a fan of ATV racing games, then you pretty much know how much more ATV Offroad Fury offers in terms of depth, and chances are you'll already have one of those games in the series instead of this one. As for being the only ATV game on the Gamecube, it's a fully serviceable game that winds up being on the short side.

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On the Gamecube, you really don't have a choice in ATV racers. Luckily, this one isn't that bad.

MX Superfly

ATV Offroad Fury 2 and 3

2003-2006 SPM

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