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ATV Offroad Fury: Blaziní Trails
Score: 65%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: Climax Group
Media: UMD/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Racing/ Online

Graphics & Sound:
ATV Offroad Fury: Blaziní Trails looks great. After reviewing almost half the systemís launch titles, Iím still amazed at how much power the little system has inside its shiny, black casing. It almost makes the short battery life worth it... Anyway, back to the graphics.

Tracks are huge and come in both indoor and outdoor flavors. If youíre already familiar with the series on the PS2, Blaziní Trailsí tracks look almost spot-on. Outdoor environments also showcase different conditions like snow and dirt. There are the obvious cut-corners, but there are limits. Perhaps the best looking aspects are the riders themselves. Movements are based on momentum, giving riders a natural look as they tear through corners and hit the big bumps in the road. Riders can also pull off a variety of tricks while riding, unleashing a whole new array of sick animations. Unfortunately, the good looks come at a price. Most of the time the game runs smooth, but when the action really picks up, the frame-rate goes down. Load times are also lengthy.

As for sound, Blaziní Trails definitely tries to please as many people as possible. The mix of songs on the soundtrack ranges from Slipknot to Bootsy Collins to Keith Urban. Itís quite the compilation. Engine sounds and other noises are good, but sound a little too ďbuzzyĒ for my tastes. Whatís worse, on the default sound settings, the engine noises drown out the soundtrack (this can be remedied after a quick trip to the Options menu), begging the question: Why go through all the trouble of having a great soundtrack if you want to drown it out? Maybe someone at Climax doesnít share the Bootsy love.

ATV Offroad Fury: Blaziní Trails offers more than a dozen race modes to take part in. Single-race options are around for those who want to get in a quick competitive game, while the longer Championship mode is for those who want a longer game. Free Ride and Practice sessions are also around for when you just want to cruise around or bone up on your tricks without any pressure. Several mini-games are also included, such as Tag and Soccer (both played, of course, atop your ATV).

For those who like to add their personal touch, a Garage mode lets you tinker with your ATV. You can swap out parts and even tailor your bikeís look to your personal tastes. But why limit yourself to just customizing ATVs when you can go for entire tracks? Race Creator lets you create your own waypoint races that you can share with friends. A word of warning though: itís possible to get carried away with making maps, so it might be a good idea to invest in a larger memory stick.

Itís the online options that make Blaziní Trails worthwhile. The game supports both ad hoc (local) and infrastructure (Internet) play for up to four players. The list of multiplayer modes is just as long as the single-player ones. You can go head-to-head in races or compete in any of the mini-game challenges. Finding a match in infrastructure mode is a snap and probably one of the easiest-to-use systems Iíve tried on the PSP. This is due in part to the inclusion of a buddy-tracking system that lets you keep tabs on who is playing. To me, the entire online system feels a lot like the online mode found in MotoGP. In addition to the head-to-head competitions, the game also keeps tabs on scores via a scoreboard feature. Not only does the scoreboard keep track of online accomplishments, but it also keeps tabs of your offline ones (provided youíre connected through a wireless port when you accomplish them).

For players who like to collect things, Blaziní Trails offers a very interesting method for unlocking new in-game items. All unlocks come in the form of cards that you earn. When online, you can either trade or gamble with these cards.

Another plus to the multiplayer modes is that you donít have to deal with the gameís unforgiving learning curve. The usual progression in racing games, or really any game for the matter, is to go from easy to difficult. ATV Offroad Fury: Blaziní Trails goes from difficult to really difficult in no time at all. Opposing riders are aggressive and try to run you off the track whenever the opportunity presents itself. Iím usually not one to go in for conspiracy theories, but I swear everyone was gunning for me. Talk about frustrating. Things become even harder when coupled with the gameís floaty controls and hard-line physics engine.

Game Mechanics:
Even after a few months, Iím still not used to the PSPís analog nub. Trying to take turns or steer around obstacles is a slippery nightmare. After numerous wipeouts while trying to use the analog nub, I decided to give the D-pad a try. Handling was a little better, but it was still a chore to hit some of the tighter turns. This led me to believe it was more because of the in-game physics rather than the controls.

Compared to past games in the ATV Offroad Fury series, the physics in the PSP rendition feel much tighter and donít have the same give. In particular, hitting jumps requires near-perfection if you even hope to land cleanly Ė not to mention pulling off tricks and earning some points along the way. Itís very hard to learn the exact timings for things and know the exact angle to hit ramps at. Iím all for near-realism, but sometimes you just have to give a little for the sake of fun. So, in addition to having to worry about the field of riders wanting to knock you off course, you also have to concentrate on how you hit your jumps and turning without overcompensating. Good thing thereís a Practice mode.

Even with all of its problems, Blaziní Trails can still offer an entertaining game. But, considering the number of racing titles available for the PSP, there are much better options available for those looking for a good racing title, making ATV Offroad Fury: Blaziní Trails more for the hardcore racing enthusiasts and players who steer themselves more towards the multiplayer aspects.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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