Version tested: PlayStation 2
Here's a quick quiz. What do the letters ATV represent? a) Hours of fun racing round muddy tracks to the sound of angry guitars; b) Hours of utter tedium racing round muddy tracks to the sound of angry guitars; c) Ah yes, that's the order I'd "do" the blonde one out of Girls Aloud in.
If you answered b), ATV Offroad Fury 3 is not likely to change your opinion of the ATV racing genre. If you answered c), ATV Offroad Fury 3 probably won't give you what you're looking for either. Definitely, in fact.
But if you answered a), here's the good news: ATV Offroad Fury 3, whilst not about to raise any bars or redefine any genres, is a fast, fun, knockabout racing game that features plenty of muddy tracks, loads of angry guitars and is generally great if you like this sort of thing.
Which comes as something of a surprise considering it's pretty much the same game as ATV Offroad Blazin' Trails for the PSP - a game that, as you'll know if you read our recent review, isn't too impressive.
But happily, the fundamental problem with Blazin' Trails - an extremely shonky control system - is absent in Offroad Fury 3, since it's a lot easier to steer, preload and pull off jumps using a dualshock instead of the PSP's analog nub. Which means, in turn, that races are quite simply a lot more fun. It's not just a case of putting your thumb down and hooning round the tracks, either - to win, you'll need to time jumps precisely and perform plenty of powerslides.
The control system isn't the only thing that's been improved. Collision detection is much better in Offroad Fury 3, so you won't end up getting hurled off your bike simply because you grazed the edge of a barrier - as happens all to often in the PSP game.
However, that doesn't mean you won't ever crash, or that races are easy to win. Your CPU opponents still seem to travel at astonishing speeds and rarely make mistakes, for starters. And when you crash, they're miles ahead by the time you reappear on the track - often it feels like there's no point carrying on with the race, since you've got no chance of catching up.
In the PSP version, there's a solution to this - you can go online and compete against people who are just as rubbish as you. But unfortunately, there's no online mode in ATV Offroad Fury 3; at least, not in the European version.
This is a real shame, particularly when you consider that the North American version has one of the most comprehensive online modes you could wish for. Headset and keyboard functionality, high scores boards, buddy lists, email, voice chat and instant messaging... The US game has the lot but somehow it all got lost in translation, which is highly disappointing.
Still, there's always the splitscreen multiplayer mode, which lets up to four riders compete in a huge variety of races, freestyle events, championships and checkpoint challenges. There's also a selection of mini-games to choose from, including tag, hockey, football and basketball.
As you might expect, nothing beats pulling off a perfect jump and flying over the head of a real life opponent before sailing straight into first place. But even if you've got no friends, there's plenty to be getting on with in Offroad Fury 3.
The Championship mode is likely to occupy most of your time as a single player, since despite the tough AI, races are generally enjoyable and there's added incentive to keep on playing in the form of unlockable vehicles, gear, tracks and the like.
There's a wide range of events to choose from - Supercross sees you racing in stadiums, while National races take place outdoors, where there's more room to maneouvre. Short races are the same as nationals, except there are shorter tracks and more laps, and Enduro events are all about hitting checkpoints within a time limit.
Then there are the Freestyle events, which are probably the least well designed of the bunch. The trick system is very simple and it won't take you long to master plenty of moves; in fact, most of the time you'll be concentrating on how to land without taking a tumble. True, it is possible to pull of complex combos if you're prepared to put time and effort into learning how to time your jumps just right. But generally speaking, Freestyle events just aren't as fast and furious as the races, and aren't as much fun as a result.
You can customise bikes in the garage, though your choices are limited - there's the option to switch tires and exhausts, but basically it's all about paint jobs and decals. Still, ATV games have never been about spending hours on fine tuning your gearbox. And perhaps most importantly, the various bikes do handle and perform differently; once you get your hands on a decent vehicle, the gap between you and your opponents does narrow somewhat.
Visually, Offroad Fury 3 is hardly a stunner. There's a decent amount of stuff to look at in the backgrounds, and the riders are very well animated - they come flying off their bikes in a highly satisfying way that takes rag doll physics to the extreme. However, as in the PSP game, there are also far too many blurry textures, and the so-called water effects are best left unmentioned.
As for the soundtrack, it's hard to tell who's angrier - the shouty American gentlemen, the furiously loud guitars they're trying to shout over, or the bunch of wasps which appear to be trapped inside your telly, drowning out any realistic engine sounds you might be expecting.
But despite its flaws, ATV Offroad Fury 3 is a decent game that is unlikely to disappoint you if you're a fan of the series - unless you were looking forward to the online mode, of course. And if you're expecting something radically different from the previous instalments, you may also find yourself feeling a little let down. However, if you're looking for an ATV game that offers solid arcade-style gameplay, a wide range of events and decent offline multiplayer options, Offroad Fury 3 does the job.
6 / 10