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ATV Offroad Fury: Blazin' Trails

For: PSP

This four-wheel-drive mud-track racing game plays dirty and will drive you crazy

Product: ATV Offroad Fury: Blazin' Trails | Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe | Format: PSP | Genre: Racing | Players: 1-4 | Networking: wireless (adhoc) | Version: US
ATV Offroad Fury: Blazin' Trails PSP, thumbnail 1
If you've ever trundled about your wealthy parents' garden on one of those fancy four-wheeled lawnmowers, day-dreaming of taking a left up the drive and heading out over the hills to freedom, you'll understand the appeal of going offroad in an ATV.

What, I'm alone in that?

Maybe that's for the best: fewer to be disappointed. Because while ATV Offroad Fury: Blazin' Trails does what it says on the tin - it features ATVs (all terrain vehicles) and there's plenty of offroad racing - the fury inspired is probably not of the kind the game creators were hoping for.

Of course, both them and many of us been here before: Blazin' Trails is an extension of a long-running console series. And it's not exactly a bad game either. Sure, the vehicles at full-pelt sound like 10,000 mosquitoes trapped inside your PSP, buzzing about for an exit. And yes, the emphasis on generic US whiny rockers in the soundtrack makes you wish the mosquitoes could flap their wings a little bit louder. But tune that out and you'll find a very full-featured racer underneath.

The graphics are certainly passable - they're not as slick or creative as Ridge Racer or Wipeout Pure, but they're detailed, and they seldom slow down. More importantly, the loose, responsive ATVs you drive are handled in an entirely different way to the cars in traditional driving games. If you like racers but you've never played an ATV game before, you'll find it pretty exciting: vehicles that turn at the touch of a button and catch air if you take a jump correctly. The latter brings in a further element - glamorous mid-air stunts, as well as wheelies and the like on the ground.

Unfortunately, the very responsiveness of the ATVs presents an immediate obstacle to enjoying Blazin' Trails. Exactly because the vehicles take off like Herbie going bananas at the merest prod, controlling them takes a lot of practice. No bad thing in itself, if the game is designed to be fun while you're learning - but Blazin' Trails isn't. Your choice is either a tedious and empty training level, or immediate entry into a racing season where you'll be the Eddie the Eagle of the ATV circuit - losing race after race after race.

This difficulty is needlessly compounded by the way the game deals with crashes. It puts you back onto the track, heading straight back out of it, which makes it all too easy to clip a barrier, and then enter a cycle of flustered smashes as you realise the race is leaving you behind. Such trying gameplay is excusable halfway through a game, but not at the start. And the idea of that you'll be pulling superfluous stunts while you're still striving to win is frankly ridiculous.

What's more, while you're crashing and re-running the same few races repeatedly, you'll notice Blazin' Trails has precious few carrots to go with its disciplinarian stick. There's a distinct lack of charm to winning races. For example, complete a lap and somewhere on the screen a tiny flag icon waves. There's no speech or other fanfare, and the music and squirty audio buzz on ever more relentlessly. A card-based bonus system offers access to new vehicles and gear, but it feels more like a ration book than a passport to riches.

On the plus side, if you can find them up to four ATV fans can race against each other over wi-fi - the ad hoc network is fairly painless to set up - and you can play strangers across the network too. (Not yet tested by us). The multiplayer modes tie in with the card system too, since you can trade with other players. As so often, playing other people is a better experience than playing solo - at least they crash as often as you.

Ultimately though, compared to other PSP racer such as Wipeout Pure or Ridge Racer - franchises that are themselves no spring chickens - Blazin' Trails feels rather old-fashioned. After moving the basics over from the PlayStation 2, the creators have done little to capitalise on the particulars of Sony's new handheld.

Persevere, and eventually you'll start winning races and pushing on, but overall Blazin' Trails feels more like a trial to be endured than a session to be enjoyed. Rather like mowing the lawn in fact.

ATV Offroad Fury: Blazin' Trails is on sale now.
ATV Offroad Fury: Blazin' Trails
Reviewer photo
Owain Bennallack | 4 August 2005
Frustrating and mildly infuriating, at its core Blazin' Trails provides a reasonable racing game for masochists
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