Sony showed the game to us at its recent PSP press event, and from what we saw, all of the riders and circuits in the early build were identical to those found in the PlayStation 2 version. Representatives on-hand did assure us, however, that the final retail version of the PSP game will include a few new riders and tracks, and also take advantage of the PSP's wireless Internet capability to download new tracks as they're made available.
The PSP game will also feature wireless multiplayer, both online and local, for up to six simultaneous players. We didn't get a chance to try out the online modes, but the local multiplayer seemed smooth and lag-free when four players were linked-up.
We did notice that the graphics seem to have taken a hit, particularly in how the crowds look and with regard to background details--namely that there are fewer spectators and they don't move as much, and that details such as flashing scoreboards and dynamic cloud-cover weren't implement. The tracks and bikes do look sharp and gorgeous, though, as the screenshots we have of the game attest. Furthermore, Sony reps were quick to point out that they were showing an early build of the game, and that additional visual accoutrements would be implemented in the final.
Play modes will include amateur and pro championships, a freestyle mode, a training mode, and the aforementioned multiplayer mode. New tracks, riders, bikes, logos, and color schemes can be unlocked by playing through the different modes. In particular, the training mode offers up different medals for completing each of the different driving and stunt tests, which in turn unlock a new set of bikes and a pair of new tracks.
So how does it play? Pretty much identical to how the PS2 game does. The left analog stick steers the ATV and the right trigger activates power-slides. When you take-off over a hill or ramp, you can push the circle, triangle, or left trigger button in conjunction with a direction on the stick to perform a trick.
Questions remain as to how many new tracks will be included in the final game, how significant the eventual download content will be, and how well the online multiplayer mode will function when variables such as latency and distance are factored in. So far, though, the game seems to be coming together just fine.
ATV Offroad Fury: Blazin' Trails will be released when the PSP launches in North America on March 24, 2005.
3/2/2005 Frank Provo