Reviewed: April 15, 2005
Released: April 19, 2005
ATV Offroad Fury: Blaziní Trails is a near-perfect port of the recently released ATV Offroad Fury 3 from the PS2, so much in fact that most of my strategies for the training missions and even the races still worked. So if you have already played this game on the PS2 then you might want to skip this unless you enjoyed it so much you just have to take it out of the house.
Offroad Fury has always been one of my favorite racing titles, running neck and neck with the Quad Racing franchise that has since migrated into the MX vs. ATV Unleashed game from THQ. Sony chose Climax to develop their ATV game and while the PSP version maintains all of the visual elegance and comprehensive game content of its console cousin, Blaziní Trails wraps itself around a tree when it comes down to gameplay and control.
You canít imagine how much I was looking forward to this game. Originally announced as a launch title, I nearly assaulted the sales clerk the night I got my PSP and Blaziní Trails wasnít for sale. In fact, as of this review, I still donít think the game is in stores just yet, but thanks to Sony, I am able to bring you this review. Unfortunately, all the tidings I bring are not of joy.
Blaziní Trails delivers everything you could want out of a console racing game and puts it in the palm of your hands. You have 30 tracks and 24 ATVís to choose from, once you buy them of course, along with male and female riders who can deck themselves out in more licensed gear than I care to count. You can earn career points and use them to unlock all sorts of items to enhance both your rider and your ride, as well as new tracks, mini-games, and even music videos.
You have all the standard events; supercross, nations, and enduro, along with freestyle classic and freestyle with objectives like tagging targets or completing stunt challenges. There is also an Olympic mode and a simple freeride so you can just tool around and get a feel for the ATV.
You can experience these events in single event, championship, and multiplayer modes. Championship is where you will earn the credits and unlock all of the content for Blaziní Trails to be used in the other modes.
The gameplay is amazingly deep but avoids getting too complex with a simple menu structure and garage system that allows you to tweak your gears and change your tires based on the upcoming track. Sure, you could try to finish the championship without ever visiting the garage, but you are just asking for trouble if you do.
Racer AI is just as tough as ever and even if you have perfectly tuned your ATV to the current track it might only take one spill in the final laps to make it impossible for you to win. There is no rubber banding here, and once the computer pulls ahead you only have your skills and the glimmer of hope that they might wreck to catch up.
Blaziní Trails appears to have it all, and when it comes to substance, it really does, but the game falls apart once you start to actually play it for one simple reason; control, or rather a lack thereof. You are given the option of using the D-pad or A-pad but as anyone who has played the PS2 version will attest, you are literally forced to play this game with analog control. You are constantly shifting your weight forward and back to preload jumps, something that just doesnít work with the D-pad.
Iím not a huge fan of mastering the trick system in these games. I prefer to appreciate them for their racing component and might bust off a trick if I happen to catch mad air and remember a combo. The Dual Shock was perfect for racing and the sophisticated trick system, but the PSP simply ruins the experience for both.
Just the natural way the PSP sits in your hands doesnít lend itself to the way this game plays. The shoulder buttons required for powerslides and tricks arenít comfortable, but the real showstopper is the A-pad. Maybe itís just me but when playing this game I tend to pull back (ever so slightly) on the pad. It has never been enough to make a difference in any other PSP game I have played, but in this game itís deadly. I tend to do wheelies more often, which is great for points but terrible for steering. If there is any downward pressure on the A-pad your steering becomes very loose. I found myself over-compensating by consciously pushing up on the A-pad, which in turn made my steering overly sensitive as my front wheels dug into the dirt.
I ultimately settled on using the D-pad since I have independent buttons for left and right with no chance of shifting my weight forward or back, but this means I either forego preloading or keep moving between D-pad and A-pad during a race. Itís just a very clumsy control system that makes it hard to race and impossible to pull off stunts.
I have to admire Climax for trying to bring their ATV game to the handheld while preserving all of the content and complexity, but they really should have address the control issues. After all, if you canít control the game you arenít going to play it.
Offroad Fury 3 was a visual masterpiece on the PS2 and it only gets better on the crisp PSP screen. Nothing has been sacrificed making this one of the best-looking games on the system. The terrain is smooth with rich textures and earthly color tones that switch between ice, snow, dirt, and mud. You can actually kick up chunks of dirt and create dusty trails behind your ATV, which is more than I can say for a few other games in the genre on more powerful systems.
The characters are nicely modeled and feature great animation, both while riding and while flying through the air and skidding along the dirt. There isnít a huge difference between the male and female rider except for overall size and the ponytail sticking out of the helmet.
The framerate is solid as long as you are racing, but if you take a spill and the camera pulls out to reveal more of the surrounding area it can get jittery. Not a huge deal since you arenít really playing at this point.
I did enjoy the movies that came with each training lesson. They actually showed you what to do and when and where to do it. I even learned a few shortcuts on some of the timed challenges. There are also some music videos you can unlock and all of these looks great on the PSP screen.
Blaziní Trails offers a blaziní soundtrack with more than 35 license tunes from major artists like Joan Jett, KillRadio, Slipknot, Good Charlotte, Chevelle, and many others. There is so much music here that by the time a song repeats youíll be ready to hear it again.
Of course you might need to adjust your volume levels otherwise the tedious droning of your ATV engine, which sounds like a supercharged weed eater, will drown out all other noises with the occasional interruption when you dump your ride and grunt and ďoomphĒ across the track.
There is even a nice bit of speech included in the menus and tutorials that helps to elevate the presentation to console status. This is definitely a great sounding game if nothing else, and you might get more use out of this disc and its jukebox feature than you will as a racing game.
Blaziní Trails delivers a comprehensive racing package assuming you can come to grips with the control scheme. In addition to the lengthy championship mode you have Wi-Fi support for four-player racing as well as a fresh crop of mini-games, some exclusive to the PSP.
Newly added to this version are Beach Tagger, Graveyard Madness, Rings of Fire, and Bomb Dodge, along with the original favorites, Treasure Hunt, King of the Hill, Tag, and Soccer, Hockey, and Basketball. But regardless of how much content you pack onto a disc, if the game isn't fun you aren't likely to finish the core elements let alone explore the bonus goodies.
I am really upset about this game, partly because I wanted it to be good and partly because I donít know whom to blame because itís not. The obvious finger pointing would be at Climax for not tailoring the game to the PSP control scheme, but if the PSP is at fault then we could assume that other games that require precise analog control are destined to fail before they are even released.
There were times when this game aggravated me so much I wanted to throw down the controller, before I realized I was holding a $250 controller. There are plenty of racing games out there for the PSP and more will certainly be on the way. My advise is to skip ATV Offroad Fury: Blaziní Trails. If you have a PS2 then go get Offroad Fury 3 - itís the same thing and a lot more fun.