Reviewed: February 13, 2003
Reviewed by: Mark Smith
If you have read any of my other reviews you may know that I love racing games of all types and off-road racing is one of my favorite sub-genres whether it be dirt bikes or Quad Runners. My first 4x4 racing experience on the PS2 was with ATV Offroad Fury and more recently ATV Offroad Fury 2. In fact, just three weeks prior to this review I had been thoroughly engrossed in Sony’s version of the sport.
Now AKA Acclaim is back with their sequel, ATV Quad Power Racing 2. I never had the opportunity to the play the original QPR, so the only thing I have to compare this game to is its only current competitor; ATV Offroad Fury 2 and the Xbox version of this same game. For more information on how the PS2 stacks up against the Xbox version check out my VERSUS review.
Let’s breakdown the features for QPR2:
If you have played any racing game (off-road or not) you will already have a good idea of how this one plays. Mash the X to accelerate and the square to break while the circle boosts and the triangle gives you a quick look over your shoulder. The R2 attacks riders that are next to you, the L2 cycles through the various cameras, the L1 does a two-wheel “bicycle” trick and the R1 preloads your shocks for getting extra air on jumps.
Let’s discuss preloading for a minute. In real life you preload by shifting your weight back on the rear springs then lift up at the top edge of a ramp for some extra air. It’s a fairly intuitive concept and handled quite well in both of the Offroad Fury games where you preload by simply pulling back on the analog stick. In QPR2 this function is assigned to the R1 button that you press and hold as you start up the ramp and release at the top. It works, but it never feels quite right and it certainly doesn’t respond fast enough on lengthy stretches of moguls where proper preloading and speed is essential to fast laps.
The other major part of this title is the stunts, more than 20 that you can chain together for points and boost energy. Again, I am quite disappointed in the control scheme for this trick system; not the actual controls themselves but their responsiveness. First of all, you are “supposed” to be able to use either the D-pad or left stick to control your rider and do the various stunts. I found it nearly impossible to do even the easiest of stunts using the analog stick. The trick will not register unless the stick is in the furthest possible position in any direction, so you are literally forced to use the D-pad for stunts. But using the digital controls for steering doesn’t allow for a gradual range of movement, so you are force to constantly swap between the stick for steering and the D-pad for tricks – something I got used to in SSX Tricky but it just doesn’t work in this game.
Another major problem with the trick system is a very noticeable lack of response time, almost a preprogrammed delay from the time I input a trick to the time I see it performed. It totally throws off your timing and will have you wiping out more than you should. I will leave a ramp and press Down+Square and nothing happens so I press it again really quick and now my guy does two “Superman Seat Grabs” (or whatever that combo does), but I only had enough air to squeeze in one trick so I eat dirt. In the end, I lost all confidence to even attempt tricks unless it was a huge jump with major airtime.
So far I’ve been ripping this game apart pretty good. Let’s talk about some good stuff – yes there is plenty. First of all we have all the typical modes you expect to find including Career, Arcade, Challenge, Single Race, Arcade, Time Trial, and more. The Career mode is of course the core of the game and the mode you will need to play to earn points to build-up your rider and win medals to unlock new bikes.
Unlike many racing games that allow you to restart a race if you realize you are sucking and not going to win, QPR2 lets you choose to finish the race or retire and move on to the next, taking a big fat zero in your score. This may turn off the casual arcade racer, but I’m betting most will appreciate the serious tension this inspires. You may have to race several series to earn the points required to advance through the ranks.
Even though the trick system is seriously flawed the tricks themselves look pretty cool and the button commands are simple and easy to learn. Tricks are assigned a level and you can only attempt them when you have a rider that is skilled enough and a bike that is rated with enough airtime. Tricks build on a simple premise of a directional press on the D-pad and one of the face buttons. You start with the square then move to the triangle and then the circle then later you can start combining face buttons for highflying, high scoring mega-stunts.
You will quickly realize that stunts are an integral part of this game, even in the racing modes. Sure, doing stunts gradually fills that boost meter, but it also gives you valuable points. This is the first stunt-based game that I know of that actually incorporates your stunt standing score into your final score for each race. Not only are you ranked on your finishing position, but your total stunt points are tallied and ranked against the rest of the field. Bottom line – you can come in first place in every race and still lose the championship if you fail to place in the top rankings for stunts.
QPR2 throws in some minor combat action, your basic side kick move that may or may not send your opponent skidding across the ground. The cool thing here is that not only can you knock your opponent off their ride and gain a valuable lead, any person you unseat nets you all of their current boost energy. The un-cool thing is that their riderless bike will continue ahead and often crash into you sending you into a tree or worse.
As with any racing game, track memorization is critical and the game does a good job of presenting multiple tracks in the same “area” that slightly differ from one another. This keeps you on your toes as you are always trying to remember which variation you are racing on. There are lots of blind turns, tricky jumps, and even a few obscure shortcuts and learning the best route for both speed and stunts is critical to winning the championship.
The Freestyle mode would probably be more fun than the career racing if the trick system worked better. You are placed in a giant ATV stunt arena that Tony Hawk can only dream about. Pipes, ramps, you name it, everything you need to perform amazing tricks and rack up the big points to earn medals and increase your rider’s skills.
ATV: Quad Power Racing 2 has some respectable graphics. If you’re comparing this game to the Xbox then the Xbox version wins. If you are comparing it to ATV Offroad Fury 2 then QPR2 slips into a respectable second place. The tracks themselves are quite nice and there are plenty of nice visual goodies like lens flares, dust clouds behind the bikes, and even though the sheets of water coming off the tires looks really lame, the droplets that hit your screen and trickle down are awesome. Your tires, bike, and rider will get dirty and if you wreck pieces of your ATV will break off.
There is excellent lighting and textures, but there are also some subtle differences between this version and the Xbox. For instance; if you hit a crate on the PS2 version it merely tumbles around and gets in your way on the next lap. On the Xbox this crate will break apart and no longer be in your way. Sure it’s trivial, and unless you are playing both versions you may never know, but that’s why I’m here.
The character models and animation are merely average. Their movements are a bit blocky and disjointed so nothing blends together entirely well. There is a noticeable hiccup between each stunt in a combo that can even affect your timing. Riders stick to their ATV fairly well but their crash animations and even a few of the stunts are pretty poor under close scrutiny. I was also disappointed that the riders didn’t vary all that much in appearance. This game is coming from the people who brought us AKA Aggressive Inline and BMX XXX; two games with perhaps the most comprehensive character creation schemes in gaming history.
The menu interface is decent enough with a visual display of the Dual Shock and highlighted buttons for the various tricks. You can also check out your rider stats and cycle through all the bikes – even the ones you haven’t unlocked. Same goes for the trick list. I was annoyed that you cannot bring up the trick list during a race, so make sure you “study” before each race.
What racing game would be complete without a bunch of licensed rock and grunge tracks? Unfortunately the selection list is just a bit too small and not nearly eclectic enough for my taste. What few tunes are available all sound way too similar and while some races are short enough that you might not finish a song, others are long enough that you may hear two or even three. All too quickly you will tire of the music and probably head to the options to turn it off or at least way down.
The sound effects are quite acceptable, even deafening at times when you are caught in the pack of all the other riders. Aside from engine noise there is little else to hear other than the occasional splash of water or thud as you or another rider gets dumped. Most of the sounds are subdued enough that the music will wash right over them. With no surround sound support, it’s only a slightly above average audio experience.
You can work your way through the career mode and unlock a lot of the stuff in under 20 hours. You can exhaust the Freestyle, Time Trial, and the Challenge mode in another 10-15 and depending on how much multiplayer fun you have is based entirely on how many friends you have and if you like split-screen racing. If you are in this for the multi-player then you need to be playing that other game - the one that uses PS2 Online.
The funny thing about ATV: Quad Power Racing 2 is that I had this game on my radar for almost all of last year. It was supposed to release in the summer and kept getting pushed and pushed, and just when I had given up it suddenly tried to slip in alongside Sony’s 4x4 racer. I could make a fancy checklist breaking down all the pro’s and con’s of this game and its competition, but the plain and simple truth is that while QPR2 is a fun game, there is another game out there that does everything this game does, does it better, and does more of it. QPR2 is just too little too late.