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Platform

Playstation 3

 

Genre

Racing

 

Publisher

SCEA

 

Developer

Evolution Studios

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

May 3, 2011

 

 

- Gorgeous, never-ending destruction in every track
- Boost-based gameplay keeps things fast and furious
- Multiple types of vehicles to suit everyone’s tastes

 

 

- Sloppily done story mode filled with stupid people
- Too much eye candy distracts during races
- Online lacks in visual spectacles and multiple modes

 

 

Review: MotorStorm: Pacific Rift (PS3)

Review: Split/Second (360)

Review: Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit (360)

Review: Red Faction: Armageddon (360)

 

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MotorStorm: Apocalypse

Score: 7.5 / 10

 

motorstorm apocalypse          motorstorm apocalypse

 

As one of the first PS3 demos available on the console’s launch, MotorStorm held the dubious honor of showing off the latest graphical tech. The large racing landscapes and detailed devastation of the crashed automobiles certainly got people talking back in 2006, but ultimately it was also considered a gateway game to pass the time until Gran Turismo 5. The past is past, though, and with GT in danger of losing its relevancy in the ever-increasing world of racing games, what hope does MotorStorm have now? Sony and Evolution Studios seem committed to countering that argument with the third title in their exclusive catastrophic car

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racing game, and this time…the emphasis is really on “catastrophic”.

Realizing that most players enjoy MotorStorm’s devastating (and often excruciating to behold) crashes, Evolution has decided to base the entire premise of their game around an apocalypse, hence the subtitle. A suburban American city known conveniently as “The

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City” is under imminent threat from a tremendous earthquake that’s ready to destroy everything in its path. Entire buildings have been evacuated before they’re soon turned into rubble, but plenty of shell-shocked residents are rioting in the streets, while the police force ordered to bring law and order to the chaos are actually working for a seedy government agency that would sooner fill the refugees with bullets rather than blankets.

Sounds like the perfect place to set up a racing festival, doesn’t it? It actually doesn’t, but tell that to the MotorStorm racers, who are keen on turning the transforming terrain into their own hazardous race tracks. Players will witness the story through three different perspectives, which also make up the three levels of difficulty (Rookie, Pro, and Veteran), while also interacting with all the other morons ready to throw their lives away for that one big thrill, as well as a chance to join the “Brotherhood” league of top level racers.

It’s hard to care about any of these dimwitted stereotypes, from muscle-bound ethnic stereotypes to blonde bimbos supplying their own air bags, but even worse is the poorly conceived “motion comic” look of the cutscenes; looking like a horrible flash video from Newsground, the oddly warped caricatures and bland personalities give new meaning to the phrase “cardboard cut-outs”.

 

Fortunately, the story is only a momentary distraction from the actual racing portion. In singleplayer, you’ll be tossed from one vehicle to the next as you race in over 40 tracks competing with other AI racers. The majority of objectives typically involve reaching 1st place (or a lower qualifying position), but occasionally things will get mixed up, including sequences where the goal is to simply escape a portion of the city that’s about to come apart.

 

motorstorm apocalypse          motorstorm apocalypse

 

Boosting remains the single defining element to the game, regardless of what kind of vehicle you’re using; by holding down the X button, players can get a super-charged boost of speed whenever they feel like, but abuse it too often and the vehicle will begin to overheat and eventually explode. Boosting in moderation is usually the key to success, but Apocalypse now utilizes the environment to speed up or hinder the cool down period, courtesy of patches of water and flames, respectively.

But the biggest change to the gameplay is The City itself, which has the ferocity and unpredictability of a wounded animal. Seemingly normal racing locales like city streets and beaches have become danger zones due to the rampaging earthquake, and with the racing taking place during the apex of the catastrophe, players will witness the devastation with their very eyes (which should be on the road instead); buildings will collapse, streets will overturn, flooding will occur, and that’s just on the first lap. By the final lap, the destruction will ramp up with such intensity that there’s a button prompt just to slow things down. It adds an extra dash of tension to every race and it’s visually impressive to boot, particularly in the more insane racing courses (one track has you using the sides of collapsed buildings as ramps, while also racing inside vacated offices filled with trash and fire). There are also living obstacles in the form of rioting looters (who can be easily dispatched through vehicular homicide) or gun-toting helicopters (not so easy to shake down).

The visuals certainly add an extra bit of beauty to all the devastation, but it’s not without its flaws; certain textures, particularly tree foliage, looks rather underwhelming up-close (though the only times you’ll notice are during slow motion crashes), while cars falling into rivers will literally fall right through the river. The rampant debris and dilapidation can also prove distracting at times during the more open-ended courses, with misidentified detours turning into death traps instead. The biggest offender, however, is the online multiplayer, which features none of the real-time destruction in any of the tracks, producing an “after-effect” that’s mundane in comparison. It’s bad enough there are also only two modes as of this writing for the multiplayer (Racing and Elimination, the latter having players race until there’s just one vehicle standing).

Fortunately the game still plays as good as it looks; there are multiple vehicle types to choose from, and are all selectable for each track. Each two or four-wheeled racing machine offers different handling, requiring some practice to master them all, but ultimately it becomes a choice of speed versus strength; lightweight vehicles like motorcycles offer an advantage in speed, but can also be crushed easily by trucks and other heftier cars (and foul play is certainly encouraged, as there are buttons for shoving other cars in either direction). The reverse is true for the bigger vehicles, though there are also middle ground alternatives. While the main campaign forces you to use a certain vehicle for each track, it ultimately comes to a choice of preference during competitive races. It should be noted that the camera can sometimes have a hard time keeping up with the faster vehicles, which might require switching to first person view, especially with the already distracting obstacles in each course.

While still a bit rough around the edges, MotorStorm: Apocalypse is a unique racing experience that’s exciting to look at as well as play, even if that experience is partially neutered online.

 

- Jorge Fernandez

(June 11, 2011)

 

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