ATV Offroad Fury 3 may be improved, but it's not necessarily new. This third version sees a new developer at the helm. Climax shows that they are more than capable of handing the series but they didn't take any chances. What we get is a game that is undoubtedly the best of the bunch although it's not very different than the last one. I would rename this game, ATV Offroad Fury Two-and-a-Half.

ATV 3 looks better, handles better and offers more variations than the first and second game. It's not perfect yet and I have to admit this is really starting to irk me. I would be a lot happier if this series was finally perfected, at least in the mechanics. After all, it retains the same gameplay, modes and online play as the second game with a few improvements but it still suffers from slowdown, poor collision detection and some rather questionable physics especially in the online modes. If we aren't getting a totally new game we could at least be getting the best of the genre for this price.

Considering that it's not an amazing game, at least it's good. If you like ATV racing then you're bound to enjoy this game as long as you can look past some of the imperfections. A great training mode will start you off, whether you're an old pro or just new to the planet. After you complete the mode you'll acquire an improved ATV, so it's worth the time and effort.

Skills that you learn in the training mode will serve you well throughout the game. You'll learn about pre-loading jumps, powersliding and performing tricks. You simply can't play through this entire game without knowing how to do these moves. Pre-loading jumps requires you to push down on the stick to build up tension and power before reaching the zenith of a hill or jump, at which time you press up to release the energy, replicating the effect of shifting your weight by lunging into the direction of the launch. This will give you bigger and longer jumps which not only lets you cover more ground more quickly to catch up or stay ahead of the pack, but it allows you more time to pull off tricks.

Aerial moves are fun and rewarding. By pressing various combinations of the circle, triangle, L1 and stick you can pull off stunts and combos in mid-air. Points are awarded for the most intricate tricks, especially those that are linked together in which you can get your rider to sit his ass down just a split second before landing. Failure to do so will result in a nasty spill. Not only will you not receive any points but you will jeopardize your position in the race.

Points earned for tricks will enable you to unlock better machines and upgrade the one you have. You can acquire better tires, exhaust, shocks and different gear ratios. There's not a lot of customizing features that actually affect the performance of the ATV but there's plenty of superficial, esthetic features such as the gender of the rider, the rider's outfit, decals, the ATV's color and so on, that you can change.

Races include Supercross, National, Short Track, Enduro and Waypoint. Familiarity with each course is crucial since it's virtually impossible to win a race the first time through with the possible exception of the first two tracks. Powersliding allows you to approach turns at full throttle with the brake applied so that it slows you down somewhat allowing you to glide into the turn and return to full acceleration almost immediately. Knowing the layout of the track will enable you to put your powersliding and preloading techniques into play.

As in ATV 2, ATV 3 features online play. Instead of four players you can play with six. There are lots of modes to play but for my money I prefer the offroad, Enduro modes where you ride in big open spaces as opposed to arenas. For some reason I just can't get into arena tracks online, they feel to claustrophobic. This is fine when you're in single or even two-player mode but when more than four players are involved it seems more comfortable to play outside. The Enduro is so large it's almost like a rally race.

Other online modes include Treasure Hunt where you search for bronze, silver and gold items. Then there's Tag Ball, Soccer, Basketball and Hockey, which seem like they were thrown together hastily.

The riders and the ATV are the best looking components of the game. Although each track is different they are composed of the same textures which are rather bland. The arenas are crisp but the outdoor environments are not very well detailed. The camera keeps a modest distance but never interferes. The rag doll physics of the rider is realistic and results in some spectacular crash scenes. Tunes range from country to punk. There's something for everyone - but there's also something guaranteed to piss everyone off. It's too eclectic of a mix. Just let it rock and leave it at that. Just because Alan Jackson and Gretchen Wilson drive an ATV in their country music videos doesn't mean that ATVs are the exclusive domain of the redneck.

ATV 3 may not be a great value if you're not a ATV or racing fanatic, in which case I would recommend renting it for a weekend and see if it pains or pleases you to return it.

System: PS2
Dev: Climax
Released: Nov 2004
Players: 1 - 8 Online
Review by Stew XX