MotorStorm Review

Ever since the first videos of it surfaced, MotorStorm has been one of the PS3’s most hyped games. Combining incredible visuals with adrenaline-pumping racing, Sony looked to score another grade A exclusive racer. Developed by Evolution Studios (the team behind the World Rally Championship games), MotorStorm takes place in Monument Valley’s desert badlands. Racing fans have come from all over to celebrate the MotorStorm Festival, and to compete for the title of MotorStorm Champion. Of course, you want the crown as well, so you’re more than happy to throw your hat into the mix. At this point, it sounds like a rather generic rally racing game, right? Wrong. MotorStorm may not have the greatest background, and it certainly doesn’t have the most unique setting. What it does have, however, is the most addicting and insane racing we’ve seen in years.

To compete in the races and get into the action, you’ll need to select a ticket. You start off with a few tickets unlocked; each of these contains between one and four races. As you win races, you earn points which go towards unlocking other tickets. Most of the races you’ll compete in have set rules (you’ll need to race in a racing truck, for example). While this approach to racing is a nice touch given the Festival, it also severely limits your options, as you’ll rarely get a choice of which vehicle to use.

The ticket system limits the game in other ways, as well. For starters, that’s really the only mode of gameplay you’ll get offline. There’s no quick race or exhibition race option, meaning you can’t pick a track, pick a vehicle and then take off — you’ll need to find the ticket with the right track/vehicle you’re looking for. This takes a lot away from the game, as most people will want to just pick their options for the race and go, especially after completing the tickets.

The other limitation in the game is the disappointing lack of a split-screen mode. True, the PS3’s online play is free, so anyone with a broadband connection can play multiplayer races. However, Evolution Studios forgot that many gamers like to play games with friends in the same room. These days it’s not a huge surprise to see a game with no split-screen support, but it remains disappointing nonetheless. Don’t get me wrong, though: the online play is fantastic. The ranking system is a nice idea (although flawed), and it’s always more fun racing against other players than the computer. The AI may be "cutting edge," but it’s no substitute for the ingenuity and skills some players will exhibit.

That’s enough about the bad points, because those two gripes are the only real faults with the game. When you get right down to it, the racing in MotorStorm is superior to almost every racer out there — especially if you’re looking for a fun, arcadey title. Coined a combat racer, it’s obvious from the moment you first hit the gas that MotorStorm places an emphasis on making contact with your opponents (and the environment). Each vehicle has its own advantages and disadvantages, and most of the time one of the main balancing factors will be which vehicle outpowers another in a contact situation. Obviously, the big rigs will rule any battle — but they’re slow. On the flipside, the bikes are the most maneuverable vehicle in the game, but the moment you get tapped you’ll go flying. The combat aspect adds a destruction derby-like feel to the game, making it just as fun to crash into other people as it is to go flying off of a ramp. It’s certainly no Twisted Metal, but it doesn’t try to be.

The physics in the game are also tremendous. With the large impact on crashing, it’s nice to see Evolution put a lot of work into damage physics. Depending on where your vehicle is hit, you’ll see various parts come flying off. You can end up stripping most vehicles down to barely more than their frame before they’ll blow up and be automatically replaced by the game. Without a true offline multiplayer mode, at least people in the room will have a lot to watch. Just make sure you don’t become too focused on causing the coolest damage to your car, or you’ll probably lose.

Speaking of losing, if you play MotorStorm expect to lose a lot. It may look like a simple arcade racer, but the amount of depth when it comes to tactics, the complexity of the AI, and the constant crashing makes it frustrating at times. There are some courses where you’ll end up retrying five times before you can qualify to move on. Since each vehicle handles so differently from the others, chances are you’ll have your best — and worst — vehicles. (For me, my worst vehicle was by far the bike.) It’s definitely a game with a very steep learning curve, but once you get it down you’ll find yourself placing in most races.

One of the most incredible features of MotorStorm has to be the track deformation. As you race over the track, you’ll carve it up in varying depths. This means that each lap will be different, and each race unique. Larger vehicles carve the track up more, creating muddy pools. Each vehicle also has proficiencies when it comes to track-types, meaning you’ll want to keep track of which vehicle is better on which surface, and try to plan your route accordingly. See a huge muddy area up ahead? Try turning on an alternate route.

Visually, MotorStorm is incredible. On an HDTV the graphics look extremely realistic, and the track deformation is beautiful. Damage to cars and crashes also look better than on an SDTV, but there’s not a lot of difference. On an SD, the game still looks incredibly next-gen, and you’ll still witness all of the neat features. Play it once on an HD, though, and you’ll never want to go back.

It’s hard to create an entry in the racing genre which gamers will pick over the already established series. With MotorStorm, Evolution Studios did just that. The incredible racing engine, physics, track deformation and vehicle types make for one very fun ride. On the downside, it’s obvious this is a first effort, because there just aren’t a lot of features to spice things up. From a gameplay standpoint, it’s hard to top MotorStorm. It is frustrating having a game so incredible be marred by a lack of modes, but with the framework solidly in place, hopefully the next MotorStorm title can add to it.


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Author: Brendon Lindsey View all posts by

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