ATV Wild Ride 3D
3DS Download | Renegade Kid | 1-4 Players (local multiplayer/online versus) | Out Now (North America) | $7.99
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6th March 2013; By KnucklesSonic8
Games revolving around ATVs as a form of off-road racing may not be completely niche, but in a certain respect, they are a tad foreign to general audiences due to the fact that not many come along nowadays. How refreshing it is, then, to see Renegade Kid exploring this sub-genre with the likes of ATV Wild Ride 3D. No doubt it takes much planning and skill to translate what was mentioned above to the game space, yet those pulsating vibes are precisely what ATV Wild Ride 3D channels to measured results.
With gameplay I would describe as Excitebike 64 with a hint of SSX elements, ATV Wild Ride 3D takes players through different locales loosely based on real-life places, touring these by means of competitions that max out at four participants. Thailand, Russia, Canada, England, USA and Mexico comprise the six main track templates, altered to have four slight variations: Normal, Reverse, Extended, and Extended Reverse. These winding courses are set against backdrops of ramp-filled stadiums, snow-covered terrain with cave-like tunnels, populated drylands, and one where a village rests along the shoreline. In all cases, the friction of the ATV against the ground leads to conditions often prone to having sliding effects take place on the regular. And yet, you'll come to realize that the control mechanisms put in place show little sign of weakness in the way of consistency and response. Before getting out onto the track, the game gets your energy building immediately through a rock-inspired soundtrack that, while not to my personal tastes, features fast guitar riffs, is accompanied by spirited vocals and bears other qualities that altogether produce an energizing effect that can be sensed regardless of how you feel about the nature of the audio.
Great strides have been made in the matter of control above all else, and this is reflected in how painless it is to take control of your ATV, not proving rigid even in the slightest sense. Players can use either the Circle Pad or D-Pad to steer their vehicles, using A for acceleration and the B Button to brake. If you collide with a wall or meet up against a part of the environment that leaves you at a stand-still, quick reverse options have wisely been put in place so it's not at all a drag to readjust yourself, thus preserving the overall pace.
Sometimes you may see the need to reset your vehicle completely, and you can do this by accessing the Pause Menu and selecting the appropriate option. I found this a strange decision, especially since, under the default configuration, the Y Button is unused. But perhaps there was a legitimate reason behind them doing so (a precaution against abuse?) that I just can't see for the time being. Further to that point, though, I will say that the process of resetting your vehicle isn't always reliable. There have been times where I've found myself stuck in front of an environmental hazard, and in trying to put myself back on track, I was dropped in the exact same spot. Other times while resetting I was dropped from an aerial position as though a helicopter had picked me up. Either that or there's an invisible Lakitu making a cameo appearance.
Getting into the mechanics of the trick system, the game makes good use of the shoulder buttons in lieu of analog rotations. Trick executions come in three forms: Quick (L Button), Medium (R Button) and Long (L and R), each referencing the minimum amount of air time needed to successfully pull these off. These buttons must be pressed in conjunction with a directional input, offering twelve possible tricks. In actuality the effect of the Nitro isn't a strong push; it's just enough to close a gap between two racers. You can gain added air time by pulling back on the Circle Pad and pushing forward -- or in the case of the D-Pad, holding down and pressing Up with correct timing -- at the height of a hill or ramp. This is where I drew comparison to Excitebike earlier on. Personally, I found the click of the Circle Pad to be less secure in its response than the D-Pad, so that's something to consider for yourself.
Each trick type will add to your Nitro Bar in set increments -- Quick for half a point, Medium for one point, Long for two -- and this adds a quiet strategy to the gameplay, in that understanding the varying trick opportunities present on each trick will better prepare you to not squeeze in another at the wrong time. The SSX vibe comes from the fact that you won't be rewarded in Nitro points for repeat tricks done on the same lap, so that too adds some strategy, albeit it stifles the game a tad.
I say this because there's only a limited number of tricks that can be pulled off, and chances are, you'll be most inclined to do a forward trick since that's the direction you're already traveling in as you go off a ramp. As for tricks in other directions, what this gets players to do is anticipate a jump and, when it doesn't segue into a straightaway, go on a slight angle just prior to the launch. This saves you the hassle of trying to slightly move the ATV in mid-air, but you must also take care to execute a well-timed trick or two that takes advantage of the height you're given. And to that end, I recommend disabling the trick cam, as this look-backwards, head-on viewpoint can be a hindrance. As a result of all this, the focus is less about getting in as many tricks as they can and instead being more choosy, remembering what tricks have been done previously on the same lap so as not to lose out on possible Nitro power.
Now that I've put this all into words, I can see how this may sound dubious, and unfortunately that's not a feeling you'll easily shake during play. The fact is, these particulars complicate and cloud the game's arcade focus, and while the thrill isn't silenced, it is held back in a certain respect. That being said, ATV Wild Ride 3D absolutely has the pick-up-and-play aspect down, while also giving players room for personal growth through the aforementioned trick and boost system. It may not adopt a blistering pace, but a palpable thrill is nevertheless harnessed rather effectively. In line with this, the difficulty settings are well-tuned and keep players on their toes with progressively more gripping circumstances. The Extreme difficulty is not a misnomer, and I actually find the CPUs here to be a bit too good during races, where one last boost is barely enough to push you over the finish line ahead of a leading competitor. They are still reasonable during Freestyle events, but this might be because I didn't detect much change as the transition was made from the Hard setting. Ignoring the boldness of the final setting, it's safe to say the difficulty is relatively balanced and offers proper changes to move with.
Examining the track design in greater detail, I must note this is one area where the game could have performed more strongly. I personally love the challenging circumstances some of these courses create, and there are places where trick opportunities can be explored even outside of dedicated ramps (such as on paths featuring brief inclines that suddenly veer to the left or right), and that's great for the sake of experimentation. However, there are recurring concerns that are hard for me to ignore.
The first is that some ramps are precariously positioned so that if you aim for a long trick and go perfectly straight (instead of going on a slant as mentioned earlier, or easing up on the gas), you'll end up flying off a cliff, over a barrier into an out-of-bounds area, or crash smack-dab into an ill-placed hazard. In like manner, there exist multiple cases where doing a trick at a time when there's clear indication that you should do so will result in you colliding with a wall or barricade mid-jump. I'm not saying these can't by bypassed, but it doesn't set a good precedent, seeing as these cases aren't limited to the player; they affect computer-controlled opponents even on the highest difficulty.
It's frustrating that you'd actually be penalized for doing well and going all-out in the trick department, because while there are fun possibilities if you can chain boosts and pre-load jumps in succession, there's a near-equal amount of times when you land in areas you're not supposed to or simply careen off-course. As players soar over ramps and straightaways only to be hit by these obstacles, it's more than a little irksome that the track design doesn't always account for this, ultimately preventing it from truly achieving its premise of wild flair in a well-supported fashion.
One final point relating to track design has to do with technical execution, and this is another concern that also affects human players and CPU players alike. If you get too close to the side boundaries while in the air, your trick session will be interrupted and your ATV will be grounded in two seconds flat. Where this becomes annoying is when this occurs even if your targeted landing position would have meant you just took a very miniscule shortcut. This I can understand in the context of the experience, so it's something I personally can overlook and can see others doing likewise. However, there are multiple places where crashing into or getting too close to a barricade will reset your vehicle, the game mistakenly concluding you were actually crossing over into off-limits territory when that wasn't the case. I also counted at least two times when my ATV got stuck on part of the floor after landing from a jump, instead of rebounding instantly and allowing me to continue on. And one level features an easily-repeatable glitch where players can head right through a wall, but thankfully the reset kicks in to prevent you from manipulating this to get ahead. So all in all, while there may not be a surplus of glitches, these discomforts become a nuisance to an otherwise nicely-maintained formula.
As for the look of the tracks, the quality is very pleasing, with elements not being too blocky and textures that don't appear grainy when viewed up-close. A variety of tones are implemented in the physical presentation and layering of each track, and a common use of good lighting can be observed throughout, both in a frontal sense and along the sides of tracks. Viewing competitors off in the distance, there's a strong sense of depth that's consistent across the board, even though the models themselves aren't of the finest make-up. The use of 3D certainly aids in this regard, and really in all respects, the visual work stands up well as you observe how this tool freshens with no signs of blurring, while still bringing with it the occasional case of soft ghosting. Admittedly, some parts of the visual landscape do flicker, but that's about all there is to report. No large blunders have been committed, but more importantly, the enhancements put in place have dismissed any perception of a tired or dated look.
Content-wise, ATV Wild Ride 3D makes sure not to let go of its grip on players early on, providing just enough options for steady enjoyment. World Tour offers a total of six cups that consist of standard and elimination races, as well as trick competitions. These touch on every difficulty setting, from Easy to Extreme, and points earned from your performance in these tours will go towards unlocking new ATVs and riders (some of whom you may recognize), so you're bound to make it your primary destination.
Aside from that, there's also Quick Race, Freestyle, Time Trial, a Local Play option that requires all players to have their own copy of the game, and a mode for online races. My only complaints with the execution of the online mode are that these are limited to standard races only; no timer has been put in place to move things along if the host or the guests dawdle; lag prevents races from being 100% smooth, though they are not significantly worse off for it; and there aren't any leaderboards present for comparing times in Time Trial mode, only your online performance. Had those been addressed, the game would've gone that extra mile of not having the excitement come up short earlier on than would be the case otherwise.
At ATV Wild Ride 3D's base, the formula existing here is easily understood, carries enough potential for players to grow with, and delivers a thrill that reaches to moderate levels of intensity. I can't close off without stating that there are aspects that breach the fun factor and the extent of the focus, but even still, the game's delivery is pretty super in the way it digs into the strengths of the genre and replicates these with style. ATV Wild Ride 3D's welcome supply of pressure and tension proves greatly satisfying, and with this in mind, it'll more than do the trick for any hankering you get for accessible racing with an arcade flavour.
23/30 - Good
Gameplay 8/10 - Refined controls and pacing, systems afford growth, restriction of repeat tricks stifles focus, track design needs work in places
Presentation 7/10 - Some technical concerns, energizing soundtrack, fair character models, great sense of distance, beneficial lighting and 3D use
Enjoyment 4/5 - Formula proves thrilling, track design forces tricks to be toned down, not a full achievement of its premise, minor issues that annoy
Extra Content 4/5 - Six locations with alternate layouts, options offer positive motivation, could have gone the extra mile with online play, good value
Equivalent to a score of 77% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System