For some time, the MX vs. ATV series on the Wii has been the champion when it comes to good off-road racing. It's not as if others haven't tried, but when the best competitors to the throne are only on the PS3 and Xbox 360 and the Wii only sees games that can barely compete, holding on to that title is quite easy. Sensing its chance, Storm City Games has put forth a potential competitor with Honda ATV Fever. Unfortunately, it looks like this, too, will be regarded as nothing more than an also-ran.
Honda ATV Fever features several different modes for the single-player experience. Free Play lets you ride out on any of the unlocked courses with any ATV in order to get a feel for the experience without having to worry about other racers in the mix. Arcade mode lets you race against seven other AI racers using any of the unlocked vehicles on any of the unlocked tracks. Each section of the track is timed, and the race can prematurely end if the player fails to make it to the next checkpoint before time runs out. Slalom changes up a few things: Time moves forward, and players must try to make it through the course in the shortest possible amount of time. Players must also pass through special designated gates while racing or risk getting a time penalty if they miss any of the gates.
The meat of the single-player experience is Championship mode. Players can participate in one of two racing classes — Sport and Utility — as they complete in eight total events with 30 tracks between them. Like any race of its type, points given to each racer are determined by their placement at the end of each race, and the winner is the one with the most points at the end of each event. Placing in the top three not only guarantees the next set of events will be unlocked but that new, more powerful ATVs get unlocked as well.
While the modes are decent for a budget game, what makes this a tough game to play is the difficulty level. From the very first race, the opponent AI is set to ruthless, and even though they are prone to crashing into objects and making mistakes, they always seem to have enough power to zip right past you. It also doesn't help that you always start off with a vehicle that is far less powerful than the competition's. With only one available vehicle at the outset, it is a herculean task to get third place in the first set of events, let alone first. Since it feels like the odds are unfairly stacked against you early on, the chances of people quitting the game out of frustration are higher here than in most other games on the Wii console. With this game's target audience being families, it's not exactly the best first impression.
Another thing that works against Honda ATV Fever is the racing. Part of the excitement of racing with different vehicles is that they handle differently than a car. That isn't necessarily the case here. While the ATVs go slower, they also handle about as loosely as a car. Despite seeing the different types of terrain, all of the surfaces feel the same regardless of whether it's gravel, loose dirt or grass. The only thing that feels different is the puddles of water you race through, but you expect water to slow you down in any racing game. That lack of difference fails to make the game feel special and, in turn, decreases the appeal of the title for those looking for a different kind of racing game.
Multiplayer fares just as well as the single-player does, even though only two modes are available. Slalom mode is exactly the same as the single-player version while Pursuit is simply a head-to-head racing mode. All of the unlocked vehicles and tracks are available to race, though there aren't any modifications for multiplayer. Consequently, someone who's played these tracks before has a slight advantage over someone who's just seeing them for the first time. It's a serviceable multiplayer mode, but it only supports two players, and with no online support, the matches can get real old real fast.
As mentioned before, the level of difficulty makes it tough for any but the most dedicated players to enjoy. Compounding the problems are the controls. The game supports both Wii Wheel controls and the Nunchuk/Wii Remote combo, but it is the Wii Wheel that suffers the most because of overly sensitive steering. The game reacts to even the slightest of movements, and with the already loose handling for the vehicles, it becomes impossible to steer in a straight line for long stretches of time. Things fare better when a Nunchuk is put into play since steering is handled by the analog stick, but sensitivity issues still factor into the gameplay. It is easier to straighten things out when needed, but even slight movements of the stick trigger bigger shifts than expected. Overall, the controls only make an already difficult game much harder for the player to handle.
Graphically, Honda ATV Fever is fairly good. Both the bikes and riders are well modeled and well textured. There isn't a lot of detail, but what you see is good enough. The environments also look fairly good. The textures for the ground objects could have been better, but the look is clean, and there's good coloring and good geometry. The whole thing runs smoothly but it seems to have done so at a cost. Particle effects, like the kicking up of dirt or splashes of water, are almost nonexistent. It doesn't look like polygons clipping into each other, but the environments do feel a bit sterile. Another issue is that of pop-out and pop-in of background objects. This is mostly in reference to sky objects, like planes and blimps, but you will see them pop out of view for a few seconds then pop back in, all at the same distance as before. While it isn't important to the gameplay, it conveys a lack of polish for the overall product.
The sound is passable but certainly not terrible. The drone of the engine is still there, but it is varied enough that you can tell whether or not the engine is being given enough gas. The other effects, like crashing into barriers or other racers, are noticeable but they're muted instead of being loud. The music is generic rock material you've heard in budget games for years. It's bland but not really offensive or something that'll cause you to turn down the volume. As for voices, none exist here, but considering the sound, it's not exactly missed.
It's really too bad that everything didn't come together for Honda ATV Fever. It was rather impressive for a budget title in that it looked fine and had a decent amount of tracks and events. It's too bad that the controls were insufferable and the difficulty level was high enough to cause people to quit. If you have an infinite amount of patience, give it a shot as a rental. Otherwise, hold off on playing it unless you really want a session in frustration.
More articles about Honda ATV Fever