Review: MotorStorm: Apocalypse
Way back in the early days of 2007, there was a PlayStation 3 game that showed great promise, showing effectively what the system was built for and what the future held in store. That game was MotorStorm, an arcade racer that was a bit Twisted Metal, a tiny amount of Road Rash, and some Colin McRae Racing thrown in. MotorStorm was a dirt-drenched, mud-soaked racer built around high speed, sharp turns, and car combat. In essence, it was a fun racer that introduced the power of the PlayStation 3 to the world and provided a good time too.
Now in its third ride around on the PS3, MotorStorm: Apocalypse makes some notable shifts from earlier entries in the series, some for good and some for bad. The game now includes a story mode that introduces the player to the different aspects of the game. The MotorStorm Festival drives the game’s narrative as told from the viewpoints of three racers: Mash (“The Rookie”), Tyler (“The Pro”), and Big Dog (“The Veteran”). Each character represents a different difficulty level, and if veterans of the series want to get straight to the difficult races, be forewarned: the game forces you to play through the easier difficulty stages in order to unlock the harder ones. Each character also sees a different perspective over the course of the two-day Festival.
Races are divided by individual cut scenes styled as a motion comic, though for the most part these scenes were superfluous and unnecessary. Characters are poorly written and barely conceived, while bad voice acting only makes the whole experience more grating. (I swear, at one point I expected a character to shout “Radical!”) For the most part, the cut scenes aren’t linked whatsoever to the races and just serve as bad filler. If the game felt the need to introduce a story mode, I would’ve liked the developers to at least let the player create his or her own instead of controlling these three douchebags.
The one thing that I always enjoyed about the MotorStorm series was the easy ability to simply pick it up and play. Like most other arcade racers, the game is built to throw players, whether newbies or veterans of the series, together into the race. Keeping tradition with earlier iterations of the series, players are able to control a number of different types of vehicles, from motorbikes to ATVs and rally cars to big rigs. Apocalypse introduces five new vehicle types to the game, including superbikes, supercars, hot hatches, muscle cars and choppers. There’s certainly no shortage of vehicles that players can choose, though players must be conscious about each vehicle’s strengths and limitations: riding a motorbike can get you through a vehicle logjam in a tight spot, though try pushing aside a big rig and you might just find yourself flattened out.
The game is set in an apocalyptic urban area called the City, modeled on the Bay Area of California. The game features fully destructive environments affected by a massive natural disaster: players must drive through collapsing buildings, avoid falling airplanes, and navigate around a tornado as everything collapses around them. While seeing destruction on such a mass scale was fun, for a racer this proved to be problematic as the collapsing environments hindered my ability to see where I was going. At times, I couldn’t tell whether I was driving on the track or heading straight into a wall. Considering the track was constantly evolving and changing shape, this proved more frustrating than it was worth. Taking a page from last year’s Split Second, players are able to trigger destructive environmental effects when prompted to hit Triangle. That was one element of Split Second I always enjoyed, and I was glad to see that incorporated into MotorStorm: Apocalypse.
In terms of the racing elements, the game is for the most part just balls-to-the-wall acceleration across the finish line, though the player does need to figure out some nifty strategies in order to complete a race in qualifying position. Controls are simple: L2 and R2 control braking and acceleration, respectively, while X is used for nitrous boosts. Square and Circle are used to bump other vehicles left and right. Thankfully, controls are easy to pick up and play, though players will need to learn when to utilize nitrous and when to hold off. Hold down the boost too long, and your car will go careening off into a large fireball. Laying off on nitro when going off a large jump, however, can send you straight into the face of a building.
The game’s anarchical racing style proves to be a benefit when playing multiplayer, showing that nearly anything can happen in any race. The game can be played either online or locally via split screen, and an online perks system will find players always returning for more. With each level up, you unlock new characters, cars, and other unlockables. Sure, it may not be the deepest multiplayer experience out there, but MotorStorm: Apocalypse still offers a fun time racing with others, whether they’re friends or strangers.
MotorStorm: Apocalypse has the makings of a fun arcade racer, but the game suffers from being overloaded with distractions. New environmental disasters, while interesting to look at, hinder the actual race at hand sometimes and further frustrate the player. Couple this with an anemic single player mode, and you have a game not worth its full retail price.