Rainbow Studios began the ATV Offroad Series and has distinguished the series as being the best among all entries in the four wheelers out there. In comes Climax to pick up the reigns and pick up the series where it left off. One could say that they’ve accomplished the goal of seamlessly transitioning the series from one developer to another and simultaneously making it difficult for anyone to determine that a change ever occurred at all. This can be a good and bad thing, depending upon your point of view.
The game features the racing du jour aspects of nearly every racing game, including a Championship Mode, wherein you conquer tracks to unlock new tracks and other items, Supercross (tracks in various arenas), Enduro (outside and lengthy), and Freestyle (evaluates your ability to perform a myriad of tricks and moves). Of course, you begin with the training mode (you can skip it, if desired) and then advance through the amateur tracks and pro classes. Here you’ll learn about preloading (which will be something familiar if you’ve played the series before) which requires you to navigate jumps with the left analog stick to get maximum air on jumps. You’ll also be able to unlock a few of the better ATV’s before you get started on your challenges, so don’t skip out on the training.
The thing about Offroad 3 that might throw you, if you’re new to the series, is that it isn’t a down and dirty type of racer. You can make a better association if you liken it to the "Gran Turismo" of ATV racing. It’s technical, it’s realistic, and it takes work to get anywhere. If you’re into that kind of racer than this is your kind of game. You’ll be rewarded for your efforts as you move along. The game offers an astounding 40 tracks, multiple upgrade paths and gear, as well as licensed articles. Nearly every detail of your ATV can be tweaked to your liking.
Graphically, through a reworked graphics engine, you’ll liken this to the previous installments of the series. However, the minute details are the thing, and herein one will find that the ATV’s look better, the environments are richer, and the subtle aspects (such as the suspension twitching) are improved over their older brothers. Equally, the environment that you’re interacting with is equally improved. For example, when you crash into an item, the speed at which you make contact and the object that you’re colliding with have a huge bearing on how serious your wipe out is. Similarly, the controls of the game are absolutely top notch. This isn’t to say that you’ll be an instant success with the ATV that you’ve chosen. You’ll need to practice, from preloading (which is probably the single most important element of the game) to power sliding with the R1 button, to get anywhere in the races which can be very difficult to find success at initially.
Aside from the very rich single player experience that rewards you for progress that you make along the way, the game also boasts a split screen multiplayer mode as well as a very VERY serious online mode which offers full headset support (like SOCOM), chat rooms, full stat tracking, message system, and even an instant messaging system. This one of the best reasons yet to be online with your PS2.
The only downside to ATV 3 is that it definitely is a niche title that won’t necessarily appeal to hardcore automobile racing fans. If you’re an ATV nut however, this title from soup to nuts is without question the best ATV game in the series and probably the best of its kind to date. There has been much attention placed to all the small details, from licensed music tracks to licensed gear, the game reeks of unbridled enthusiasm for the sport that its paying homage to. Well done.