Some forms of racing get a bad rap for looking too “simple” but, in reality, require a great deal of strategy and focus. It should never be as simple as holding down the accelerator until the finish line, which seems a lesson unfortunately lost on ATV Quad Kings.
Quad Kings is a purely single-player run with three modes. The largest of these is the World Tour, which features four different points-based tiers ranging from 6-12 races. Players start at the bottom and work their way up, having to place in a championship and purchase a stronger ride with prize money to move on.
Starting at the lowest cc setting trumpets one of the biggest qualms about Quad Kings: for an ATV racer, it feels slow; dreadfully so, if you’re on the lower tiers. It’s so slow that it’s easy to zone out during earlier races and snap back into clarity later on, only to wonder how the 3-lap race hasn’t ended yet.
Speed increases as one climbs the tiers, but not by enough. There is a power slide button but it very rarely, if ever, needs to be used, and the vast majority of turns can be crawled around well enough with just the D-pad (the 3DS Circle Pad also works, but is more finicky). Speed boosts (yay, speed!) come in the form of a finite number of icons that can be picked up on the track and stored for later use. They can be helpful when recovering from hitting a barrier or whizzing past the five CPU opponents, although the latter almost feels unfair at times.
The CPU drivers are not the hottest competition, and it takes boosting the difficulty to its highest setting to provide much of a challenge. Most races, especially on lower difficulties, typically pan out to a couple drivers hovering within your proximity while the rest amble far behind in a pack of shame. There’s more of a presence on the hard difficulty, but still not an intelligent one. Riders stick to their lines no matter what, meaning a lot of annoying grinding in corners where they seem perfectly happy to buff the back of your driver’s helmet with their front wheels instead of navigating around.
Even on the toughest championship, at the highest difficulty, the pressure of winning isn’t very high thanks to the overinflated F1-style points system. The winner of a race is granted a whopping 25 points, while second receives 18 and the rest 14, 10, 7, and 4, respectively. As long as you consistently place in the top 3 — and you most likely will — odds are the other drivers will spread the remainder of the points among themselves and you’ll take home the trophy. We won the second-to-last championship on medium difficulty by 97 points and the last championship on the hardest difficulty by 63 points. The ATV riders here don’t wear gloves to guard against the nail-biting suspense, that’s for sure.
Oh, there are also tricks. Catch enough air and hit the X button to pull off a random little stunt, earning $250 if it lands and spinning out in a pure mockery of physics if it doesn’t. There’s really no other benefit than the money, but with prize money being plenty enough to buy new ATVs, there’s little point to showboat. It’s actually better to keep out of the air as much as possible, as it tends to waste time.
As for buying those ATVs, aside from needing a higher cc engine for the championships, they all look similar and have no customization options except for colour. They don’t even have stats to compare, leading to the assumption that the most expensive are probably the best? It won’t matter much.
There are 18 tracks to choose from with varying layouts but not much identifiability. The world theme places the tracks in different countries, but aside from seeing flat cherry blossom trees or some very pixelated mountains in the background, they could practically be anywhere. Neither the muddy graphics nor the generic, repetitive rock/metal tracks help in adding any personality, and it all comes off as effective as the green screen scene in Wayne’s World.
Apart from World Tour, there is also an Arcade mode to attack any unlocked course on its own at any time, and a Time Trial mode for posting the best laps. Since there’s no real way to share times, however, it’s difficult to find satisfaction in the latter.
ATV Quad Kings had some potential to be a good racing experience: a large selection of tracks, decent controls, and the skeleton of a championship system. However, the low speed, lack of engaging choices, poor AI, and strange points distribution combine to make it more of a soulless slog. Racing has to be more exciting than this.