ATV2 Quad Power Racing Review

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Publisher: Acclaim
Developer: Acclaim

Platform: Xbox, PlayStation 2, GameCube
Reviewed on Xbox

Jump onto an All-Terrain Vehicle for racing action in five styles of off-road tracks filled with pro riders of every stripe.

Kyle Ackerman

ATV2 Quad Power Racing is more than enough game to provide a few hours of trick racing entertainment, but is also full of minor glitches and product shortcuts that detract from the ultimate success and long-term replayability of this four-wheeled off-road racer. This is not a realistic racing sim, but rather a light, trick-racing game that plays fast and loose with physics and gravity.

ATV2 Quad Power Racing has a variety of play modes that provide decent variety, particularly if you get stuck trying to complete a race or challenge. The core of the game is the career mode, in which you run a series of races against seven other 4x4 jocks. If you place high enough in the overall series of five races (by winning or placing in all of the races while simultaneously executing stunt after stunt) you are awarded a trophy for that difficulty level, and you unlock the next, ultimately making all three series available. Placing first in a particular race of a series earns you a gold medal, and gold medals unlock better vehicles. Your racer also has a series of skills (like ability and aggression) that increase over time, but it's not clear why they advance or what purpose they serve. It's also strange that if you move to the next race in a series without earning a gold, there seems to be no way to go back and retry that particular race at that difficulty level until you complete all three series.

There is a freestyle mode in which you perform stunts in an arena filled with ramps and loops in an effort to outscore other 4x4 pros before time runs out. This is mostly pleasant, freeform fun. A challenge mode forces you to complete specific tricks and tasks. Ground challenges include complex slaloms and seemingly eternal wheelies. Tower challenges require maneuvering on tight ramps and riding out undulating bars suspended far above a pool of water. They require precise vehicular control. Challenges can be completed at bronze, silver and gold levels. Earning a bronze medal is usually easily achievable, and will unlock the next challenge. Gold medals unlock professional racers. This, unfortunately isn't very relevant, because by the time you could really enjoy using the pros in custom races, your character is more advanced than the available superstars. While earning a bronze in a challenge is simple, earning a gold requires mastery of the basic tricks and a lot of raw skill. These challenges and the stunt arena are a great break from running race after race.

Career mode centers around winning three-lap races. An arcade mode emphasizes beating a time target in two-lap races. In career mode, other racers are your competition, whereas in arcade mode they mostly serve to get in your way. If you beat the clock in all fifteen races, you unlock the best vehicle in the game. Frankly, most of the arcade races are pretty easy, and can be beaten by a starting racer with the most basic of vehicles, so arcade mode offers the chance to gain a big head-start in career mode, circumventing much of career mode's intended incremental difficulty. That's a boon for those of us who are unskilled racers, but by removing the challenge, it also reduces the longevity of ATV2 Quad Power Racing in your play rotation. There is even a custom mode once you have completed all three series in career mode. This mode lets you select laps from any of the unlocked tracks, and put them in any sequence you choose.

Although there are a lot of play modes, there aren't nearly enough tracks to hold your interest over the long term. There are only five basic settings: beach, swamp, forest, industrial quarry, and glacier. There are a lot more than five tracks, many of which are unlocked in arcade mode, but these additional tracks are built by mixing and matching identical sections of track. Once you complete the first five tracks, later tracks all feel the same, as if they are Frankenstein's monster tracks: built from the recognizable parts of other dead, criminal tracks. Worse yet, the art just isn't very exciting. Most of the vehicles look similar, and the game doesn't seem to put any strain on the Xbox's capacity for detail, but remains at a PlayStation 2 level of detail. Just a little more good, old-fashioned color would make the races more lively. The beach races are the only races colorful enough to make the backgrounds stand out. Textures are repeated – wooden ramps look exactly like sandy track, but smaller and a bit darker. Plenty of collision problems remain. You can drive inside of walls and obstacles by jumping into them, which is not only disconcerting, it confuses the camera, making the game difficult to play. The soundtrack is limited, and it would be nice if the Xbox version supported the Xbox's ability to use custom soundtracks. The existing music is decent enough – the usual fare associated with "extreme" sports games, but gets repetitive after a few hours of play so that, in conjunction with the monotonous backgrounds and road tracks, it may bore you interminably once the initial rush of the game has worn off.

Problems aside, ATV2 Quad Power Racing is a trick racing game, and much of the fun is in pulling off wild combinations of stunts while pulling obscene amounts of air from improbable ramps. The trick model is very simple, easy to learn, and satisfying in the short term. After a few, short races, even an unskilled racer will have learned to pull off wild looking stunts by merely holding down a button while flicking the analog stick. Executing a single trick is easy, but the payoff is in combinations, and much of the excitement is in trying to work just one more trick into a sequence, risking a catastrophic landing. The main benefit of such tricks is not so much in the points awarded (although those help win medals), but in the boost power awarded. Boost power will allow you to far exceed the normal limits of your motor, building up speed for even more impressive jumps and stunts that can also be used to simply close the gap between you and another racer during the final stretch of track.

ATV2 Quad Power Racing delivers a few hours worth of fun racing and gravity-defying tricks, but there is one more detail worth noting: you can kick other racers off their vehicles. FI isn't filled with hooligans, but we love anything that evokes the glory days of Road Rash. Even if ATV2 is not a hardcore, accurate racing sim, pushing your competition around can be a lot of fun. Besides, if you kick your opponents, you can steal boost power. (Of course, they can do the same to you.) Unfortunately, the repetitive track design and other small errors sap ATV2 of long-term replayability. As entertaining as kicking a rider in mid-flight and pulling off wild tricks certainly are, those alone are not enough to hold you for the long haul – but they do help suit ATV2 for an entertaining weekend rental.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on February 17, 2003 5:54 PM.

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