reviews\ Apr 24, 2005 at 8:00 pm

ATV Offroad Fury Blazin Trails - PSP - Review

Proven fact: any first-party game that was released on PS2 within the first 12 months of its release must be released on PSP within its first 12 months.  Who cares if it's good for the goose or the gander, 'cause it's good for gamers, especially those who realize that these aren't merely a bunch of thrown-together ports.

ATV Offroad Fury: Blazin' Trails is a semi-sequel with a lot of tracks, both of the racing and the musical kind.  If this was an RPG they'd call it a side-story.  The speed is high and fairly intense; opponents are surprisingly fierce and rarely relent; and the air combo system has been carried over for your combo-ing pleasure.  To sum things up quickly: yes, this game has its share of launch window blunders, but overall it's a solid racer that doesn't disappoint.

Whenever I play a game in the ATV Offroad Fury series, I can't help but think of the Splashdown series.  They both feature physics that are very similar (the way in which you maneuver your ATV or watercraft is uncannily close).  That's because both series were started by the same brilliant developer: Rainbow Studios.  Nintendo may have started it all with Wave Race 64, but Rainbow Studios kept it going and took both the watercraft and the off-road racing genres to a whole new level. 

Forget James Cameron, I'm the king of the world! 

Sony owns the ATV Offroad Fury series, so once Rainbow Studios got scooped up by THQ, it was time to look for a new developer.  "Should they really do this?" I wondered.  "Should they even bother?"

Lucky for them and the new developers they approached, the groundwork had already been laid.  All the new developer had to do was expand on it and not screw up.  Easier said than done, but that's just what Climax, the developer of Blazin' Trails, has done.

Climax's new tracks are medium in size and large in the number of hills, turns, and chances for you to crash your four-wheeler.  Driving isn't easy when you've got to jump a hill, land smoothly into another hill, launch into the air and land safely just before turning.  But that's the nature of the series; fast jumps, faster drops, and turns that can turn you into a total loser.

I'm not sure if it's the game itself or the PSP's flat analog stick, but Blazin' Trails seems quite a bit slippery than the previous ATV Offroad Fury games.  I don't think it would be much tighter with a traditional analog stick, so chances are the game is the cause.  Regardless, this will be an obstacle that stands in between you, your goals, and the amount of fun you could be having.  We've played and loved slippery games before, and given all that's included with this package, it's impossible to write the game off just for that reason. 

Don't you just love the wide screen? 

One of the things that makes this a great portable game is the Championship mode.  It's lengthy, and although all tracks are repeated, the difficulty is always increasing, as are the challenges and the expected success rate.  Winners get extra points.  Perform stunts and you'll have the chance to double those points.  Lose the race and not only will the game prevent you from continuing, but it'll also reward your poor performance with absolutely nothing.

Another, and this will likely be a big selling point for the game, is the multiplayer mode, which has the power to take you and three other players to a world of wireless bliss.  Ad hoc and infrastructure are available.  Translation for those who don't yet speak PSP: Blazin' Trails can be played with gamers standing right next you, across the room, or across the country.  That's the beauty of Wi-Fi.  It's also the beauty of airports and coffee shops (more and more of them are adding wire-free Internet access; some free, others for a fee.  Whether you have to pay or not, it gives you the chance to game online more frequently than you ever could before).

Apparently without enough unusual things, Blazin' Trails has two non-gameplay-influencing aspects that affect your enjoyment almost immediately: music and sound effects.  The music gets one thumb up from me, as well as a few fingers wiggling sporadically, and a few that aren't too thrilled.  The mixture of music is unusual but should appease a greater number of gamers, though the overall collection of songs leaves a lot to be desired.

The sound effects, on the other hand, will appease no one.  Some gamers might appreciate their realistic sound.  I hear none of that.  I only hear the fact that it is LOUD.  It drowns out all the music.  What's the point of that?  You can adjust the music and sound effects volume, but it wasn't long before the sound effects were down to 0 and the music was at 100%.  We want the PSP to function as a music player, not a sound effects machine. 

The first-person view.

Flawed but still furious, ATV Offroad Fury: Blazin' Trails is blazin' with excitement.  I love everything but the controls.  Once I played for a while, I discovered that that was the only real, significant flaw.  It's impossible to get past entirely, meaning the game can't score as high as most people would like it to score before deciding that it's worth checking out.  If 7.8 isn't high enough for you, that's your mistake.  Some of the best games out there don't receive 8s, 9s or 10s (do we ever award a perfect 10?  Seriously, ever?).  Remember that.

Review Scoring Details for ATV Offroad Fury: Blazin’ Trails

Gameplay: 7.7
It’s fast.  It’s intense.  It’s got competitive racers that don’t give up.  And it’s without fog or pop-up, giving the player plenty of visual depth before tackling corners.  What it doesn’t have is perfect controls.  They’re slippery, and oftentimes make it extremely difficult to win without over or under-steering.  You really have to master how the game is going to react to each situation and adjust your skills to match.  It’s a pain, and makes the experience less than what it could have been.

Graphics: 8
Pretty but flawed.  My eyes instantly compared this version to the PS2 versions (I know it’s unfair, but it’s a natural reflex.  Besides, Sony intends for the PSP to be a portable PS2, so we’re going to expect PS2-quality visuals).  When I got past the initial scrutinizing process, Blazin’ Trails looked great.  All the important stuff is there (lots of polygons, no fog, and although there’s a lot of jaggies, you don’t notice ‘m too much). 

Sound: 7.5
Good + bad = ???  Blazin’ Trails has an interesting soundtrack and an annoying sound effects machine that should be muted as soon as you start playing (this can be done via the menu screen during any race by pressing start and clicking on the audio options).  The reason for me calling the soundtrack “interesting” and not “brilliant” or “wildly entertaining,” is because it has a wide range of songs from a wide range of rock genres (punk, metal, traditional, etc.).  Some are good, some are bad, but all seem to run on a pre-set track that means you’ll hear a few specific songs more than the rest.  I guess that explains why they included a skip audio track feature.

Difficulty: Medium
Who let the Cheetahs out?  These guys are fast.  And dedicated!  They’re good at cornering, combo-ing, and they’re even better at taking the lead and rubbing it in your face.  They’ll make most of your friends look like terrible drivers for a week or two, assuming they can improve their skills in that amount of time.


There is, thankfully, a way to overtake the competition and look like a pro while doing it.  Figuring out how – that’s the fun part.

Concept: 7.1
More of what you love, plus an all-new soundtrack and slippery controls.  I’m all for the first part (“more of what you love”), but did we really need the other two additions?

Multiplayer: 8
For you, your friends, and that smelly kid who doesn’t shower.  Thanks to Wi-Fi and Blazin’ Trails’s four-player racing mode, you can engage in multiplayer enjoyment without having to be in the same room (or even the same state) as those who don’t have good hygiene.  Now if only I could find a way to not be in the room with myself when I don’t feel like showering…

Overall: 7.8
Rev your engines, turn off the sound, crank the music and speed off into the sunset.  Or a rainstorm.  Or in any weather, climate or condition you please.  ATV Offroad Fury: Blazin’ Trails is the imperfect game you can’t put down.


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