It was an unfortunate release date that Motorstorm Apocalypse had chosen; it’s no fault (pun not intended) of Evolution Studios, of course, but it does almost highlight the lack of reason for these races to be taken place. Like most earthquake-based movies, the plot isn’t the main draw; it’s the spectacular special effects and the chance to witness a horrific event as entertainment. In this instance, the entertainment is stunning; with collapsing buildings, the ground opening up, and even a tornado, there is always something waiting to completely change the track on the next lap.
Apocalypse is the third game in the series (4th if you include the PSP outing) and sticks to the well established formula of racing in dangerous terrain, avoiding environmental hazards, and other racers. After the desert, a pacific island, and the arctic, Motorstorm has headed to urban pastures, but, obviously, this wouldn’t be exciting enough, so enter the earthquake. In fact, it hasn’t even deemed an earthquake dangerous enough, as the Apocalypse subtitle eludes, it’s the end of civilization and there are two warring factions to drive between whilst you race, if the constant earthquakes changing the track wasn’t enough.
The main bulk of Motorstorm Apocalypse takes place in Festival mode, which acts as a story comprised of a sequence of events from races, to elimination and duels. There is even a plot that ties the whole thing together with motion comics for cut scenes that tell the stories of Mash, Ty and Big Dog, but there are plenty of plot holes bigger than the San Andreas Fault. There is also an introduction of non circuit races serving as prologues and epilogues to the 3 chapters that provide more of an action game feel as you race to safety rather than victory. There are special events that, disappointingly, only comprise of 2 variations of time attack that feel dull without competitors or destructive events.
The gameplay is as solid as every with a different feel for each type of vehicle from motorbikes to buggies, cars and full on monster trucks. They, again, provide more than just handling differences; with them better suited to different parts of the same track, you have to plan your route wisely. Accessible at any time, boost is as important as ever; you’ll have to carefully manage its temperature, like an F1 racer, making sure you don’t overheat whilst keeping up the highest speed possible. Driving through fire will obviously heat up your boost bar quicker, whereas water can cool it down; a new feature is that when going over big jumps letting go of both accelerate and boost will also cool your jets.
The racing is as tight and competitive as you’d expect from a Motorstorm; with the AI drivers willing to shove you into obstacles and always able to catch up, it works both ways and is evenly matched in that if you crash (which happens often), you’re able to quickly catch up and get back in the action. If you manage to get straight out in the lead don’t expect an easy cruise to the finish line, as the rubber banding means you will be caught and have to fight for the win, and the slick slo-mo camera on the finish line for close races makes your last gasp race wins even sexier. Unfortunately, the online servers are not up at this point because of the game’s delay, so I can’t comment on the online functionality, but it looks to provide customizable vehicles and a variety of race modes.
The tracks are the star of the show with their constantly changing layout; one lap you can be cruising along a bridge no problem and the next it collapses, and buildings also fall into your path. The most memorable change being a tanker ship that crashes into the docks, flooding half the track, making it inaccessible, forcing you to take a new route. The stand out stage, though, features you tearing across rooftops and through buildings, featuring plenty of jumps to navigate and big drops to avoid. You can also expect to run through suburban homes, highways and train stations during your time with Motorstorm. The colour palette, unfortunately, is less inventive with a predominance of greys and browns, save for the odd spot of greenery or yellow from fire.
There are some nice lighting effects with spectacular shadows on smoke/dust; bloom from the sun and motion blur, though, add some nice gloss to an otherwise quite ugly experience. The textures, in particular, are surprisingly bad when compared to other Sony exclusives, which makes me wonder how much graphical fidelity was sacrificed for 3D. Yes, you can tell this game has been designed with 3D heavily in mind; debris litters the tracks and paper flies through the air along with a strange cardboard cutout effect for explosions all feature. Presumably, these are to add depth to the image, but in the latter case, particularly, can just look rough and flat.
Unfortunately I don’t have access to a 3D TV, so I can’t tell you how it looks, but I can say it feels like the 2D quality has taken a hit. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s still a shame. Dj Shadow, amongst other dubstep artists, have been drafted in to provide the soundtrack, which, surprisingly, fits thanks to its urban theme. There’s even a remix from the Bullitt soundtrack, which is appropriate considering the city Apocalypse takes place in is heavily based on San Francisco. Sound effects are well handled with different engine tones, big booms and whooshes for slo-mo action, all helping to create the blockbuster experience.
The blockbuster experience is what Motorstorm successfully creates; with plenty of big bangs and dramatic changes to course structure, its not just the other racers that provide a dynamic change, but also the tracks. This is what makes Motorstorm stand out from the chasing pack of arcade racers; it’s over the top natural disasters bringing a fresh take to action racing. With a wide range of vehicles and tracks and top draw action, Motorstorm Apocalypse will register on the Richter scale for measuring the best racers on PS3.
*A copy of Motorstorm Apocalypse was provided by SCEE to PS3Blog.net for reviewing purposes. Festival mode was played to completion and Special Events were played thoroughly. Online servers were not online at time of writing, so multiplayer was unable for review.
Motorstorm Apocalypse has been delayed worldwide out of respect to all affected by the recent earthquakes in New Zealand and Japan. It would be in incredibly poor taste to release it anywhere in the world at this time. Sony are also donating 300 million yen to help relief and recovery efforts for those affected.
No tweaks will be applied as the final product has been shipped and won’t be recalled, as far as I’m aware this review is the same code as the retail version. No exact date for release has been specified yet, but PS3Blog will, of course, keep you up to date. Please try to keep further posts on topic rather than debating the validity of the delay. Thank you.
This review is based on a retail copy of the PS3 version of Motorstorm Apocalypse provided by SCEE.
Written by: Trev
- Contributing Editor