ATV Quad Kings
Publisher: Zoo Games
Developer: Beyond Reality Games
Release Date: 8/11/2009
All Terrain Vehicles and the racing of the same occupy an interesting niche somewhere between motor sports and extreme sports. I’m about the last person that’s an expert on either of those sports in real life, but in video games, however, I’ve always been a huge fan. Picking up the controller a ways back and learning a complex sequence of inputs in order to do some tricks in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater got me hooked. As the years went by, I might not have cared about who was taking part in the Gravity Games, but I was very interested in seeing what new extreme tricks you could get up to with a game. Some games really let you push the bar of what real life has to offer. Other games blast through the barrier of simple, real-world physics and let you pull multiple inverted 360-degree spins without even touching your vehicle. With all that said, here is ATV Quad Kings, another game in this extreme racing genre. Will it be a triumph of off-road racing? Let’s find out.
You will create a character profile of an ATV racer and compete in a series of dirt track battles across the globe in order to be crowned the ATV King. Instead of playing as an existing racer, you’ve got the opportunity to place yourself into the game. There is a decent amount of customization available also: changing colors, different numbers, and different styles of racing suits, for example, and it’s a nice touch. Once you have a profile created, you’re going to have the option to jump into the world tour, play in arcade mode, or take a freestyle tour in order to practice.
You win cash for the races, and can use said cash to buy new vehicles. You aren’t restricted only to 4-wheelers either. A handful of cart-type racers are also available. There is a time trial mode, which is self-explanatory, and a free-style mode that you can perform tricks in. You can win cash in the arcade mode and take that into the world tour mode, so you could, theoretically, unlock the best vehicles before you even start the World Tour.
You do a lot racing in mud in ATV Quad Kings. This is appropriate, because the graphics? They are muddy. Honestly, the graphics would have been sub-par on the N64. Textures are flat to non-existent. There are water sections that you can race through, and while there is a wake behind your vehicle, there isn’t even a splash. I can’t even give the game credit for trying to pretty up its image in the cutscenes, as they aren’t much more than visuals from the game engine.
I will say that there are attempts to do a few nifty things. As your bike crashes, your speedometer will get gradually more and more covered in mud. That’s a nice trick. Also, your tires kick out the dirt and mud nicely. Hitting a jump will pretty much clear the tires of the dirt stuck on them. Your rider animates well enough as he rides, and the vehicles have some decent animation on their suspension. If you crash, and more on that later, your ride pretty much falls apart and disappears before returning to the center of the track.
The tracks themselves are a mixed bag. They look terrible, but they have a lot of good ideas. There are spotlights and laser strobes as you race around. Flags fly and flashbulbs pop as you steer around the track. You won’t really be looking at them, though, as you’ll be concentrating on not wrecking your quad. There are also large flat-screen displays of the race, but what they actually show are static images of riders, not what is happening at other corners of the track.
Graphics: Pretty Poor
If the graphics are that bad, is the sound any better? No. In a lot of ways, it is worse. A bland guitar rock soundtrack follows you from place to place. Adding insult to injury is the sheer number of different locales. You can race all over the world, but only bland American rock for your ears. Worse than that, at least in my opinion, is the lack of any voice acting at all. If you want me to be excited about a certain track, then I need to hear some announcer talking about how great it is to be racing in Mexico, or Germany, or Tokyo, etc. Without that, there is essentially no difference in locales. The racing sounds are all adequate, if boring. Engines rev, metal screeches, and tires bump at appropriate times. The sounds are just boring though, and now I’m not loving the game on sounds or graphics. Will things get better with controls?
Sound: Pretty Poor
Parents, do you need a way to convince your rebellious teenager that riding an ATV is a stupid, dangerous thing to do? Well, we just found this game’s one redeeming factor! The controls here are tedious at best. Let’s look at one thing right now, together. Pick up your Wii-mote. You know that giant, shiny, candy-like button on the front, the one that is so easy to use in all kinds of Wii menus because you can point the Wii-mote at the screen and hit the button with your thumb? It’s called the A button, and ATV Quad Kings ignores it completely. Even in the menus when you are inputting your name or changing settings, you have to use the 1 or 2 buttons. I get that those are the break and throttle buttons when racing, but that doesn’t mean you should leave out A completely.
So that’s a gripe against the menu setting. Big deal if the game handles well while racing, right? In a perfect world, yes. This isn’t a perfect world though. Your rides all handle pretty much the same, and the game forces you to use the Wii-mote like you would in Mario Kart. You hold it sideways and twist to steer. This means that most of the race you’ll be over-correcting for the last turn you’re coming out of, because it is so imprecise. It doesn’t help that the game controls are floaty and random either. The physics are another problem. You’ve got just enough physics to roll over and crash, but not enough to do flips and tricks. In fact, the lighter vehicles are almost designed to crash, but more on that later. There is at least some strategy involved here, as using the banked areas to turn is a lot better than trying to do it while lateral. You can’t just hold down the throttle constantly either, which is a huge improvement on the last racing game I reviewed.
The controls really hurt in the Freestyle section as well. Instead of simply tilting the wheel, you have to input button commands. If you are playing with the nunchuck, you can use those buttons. But if you are playing with the Wii-mote, you have to use the arrow pad as your buttons. Left and right in a certain sequence do different tricks. Without a stunt list in the pause menu, or even on the screen, I had to play with the instruction manual open, and I’d rather deal with “Press X to not die!” than have to play with a manual right in front of me while I play.
The only reason to replay this game after you’re done with it is to score more cash to buy better rides. There aren’t a whole lot of extra models for the ATV’s, and the colors are all available to all the bikes from the start. You do get better stats for better bikes, but that’s about it, and nearly every racing game features a similar mechanic. I’ve mentioned how you can choose to play the arcade mode for cash and carry it back to the main mode already, so here’s how it works: Finish the first race, though you probably won’t get better than fifth or sixth. I’m not saying you’re a bad driver, just that your bike sucks at that point. Then, go into the Arcade mode and re-run that race over and over again. You’ll be able to hit powerups left and right that add to your cash total. The powerups say that they are worth $250,000. This might seem a bit unbalanced, because the most expensive vehicle in the game is only $200,000. The fact of the matter is you’re only earning $2,500. I don’t know what happens to the other decimal points, it must be some kind of new math. Anyway, you can run that track and earn about ten times what you would be winning in the actual campaign mode. Take that money and buy the best vehicles you can, and finish the game without wasting your time trying to master the courses. It’s cheap, but then, it also means you have more options available, and I’m always for that in a game. Especially since there are really no other good reasons to play this again. The Freestyle mode just doesn’t cut it, mostly because you can only win cash for recognized tricks. I could flip a bike end over end twice, but it doesn’t win anything because I didn’t do the Lazy-Boy. That’s not Freestyle.
Just as you need a good sense of balance to ride one of these ATV’s in real life, the game must have a sense of balance and fairness to help you enjoy playing it. Well, here’s a list of things you can do to cause a wipeout, which takes you from whatever position you were in and puts you in last:
Hitting a wall.
Hitting another rider.
Riding near a tree.
Riding towards a sign.
Hitting a barrier.
Jumping over something too fast.
Jumping over something too slow.
Steering your vehicle into a turn.
Seeing a shrub.
Driving straight into a tree, however, just bumps you back. ATV Quad Kings went in the opposite direction of Bigfoot: Collision Course and instead of sticking you in the ground, lets you tip over at the slightest provocation. It beyond sucks, but it doesn’t matter because even the cheap vehicles can catch up if you just play the next half of the course perfectly!
ATV Quad Kings fears innovation. As I’ve mentioned already, the trick mode isn’t fun. If that was better implemented, or if we paid homage to Road Rash and allowed for combat between the vehicles, I’d be able to rate this category, and this game, much higher. As it stands, this is an ATV racing game that could have been any other dirt racing game re-done with other vehicles and there would be no change. There’s nothing special about it.
So with all the negative things so far, will the game keep you playing? Ha! No. I dabbled about in each of the modes hoping to find something worth playing, but couldn’t. About the only fun thing was experimenting with different combination of weather patterns and opponent vehicles. You can do a mixed Quad/Cart race, but that only served to further make me laugh at the physics. You bump your little quad into a giant nitro cart… and the cart tips over. So yeah, unless you have a deep love of hilarious physics anomalies, you can move along.
9. Appeal Factor
A good extreme sports or alternative racing game can be a hell of a lot of fun. Sadly, this is not a good game. There just isn’t a lot on offer here. None of ATV Quad Kings features are unique to the game or offer a compelling reason to switch to this over something else. Aside from saying “This is a new game featuring off-road racing and a smattering of tricks,” there’s just nothing here worth getting excited about.
Appeal Factor: Bad
The only time I’ve actually been on an ATV was when I was four. We had a three-wheeler that my parents would use to tool around on the farm, though it was mostly just something for my dad to tinker with. I remember leaning back once and over-balancing it backwards. Effectively, this put us flat on our backs, but the three-wheeler didn’t crush us, at least. We got up, pushed it back flat, and jumped back on. This process took less time than the length of time it takes to get back on the four-wheelers in this game, and it was more fun than playing the game. When I look at this game, there are tons of room for little improvements that would have helped the presentation, the ambiance, and the enjoyment, but none of them made it into the game. I’d rather walk than ride this thing again.
Graphics: Pretty Poor
Sound: Pretty Poor
Appeal Factor: Bad
Final Score: Bad Game!
Short Attention Span Summary
ATV Quad Kings is a bland and uninspired game that won’t make you want to ride an ATV any more than looking at a Big-Wheel at your local toy store would. The graphics and sound scream middle-of-the-pack-last-generation, and the control barely manages to keep you going forward. Even the most extreme, nitrous-huffing, torque-ratio-memorizing ATV fan can pass this game up without much loss.