For the third time this console generation, British developer Evolution Studios is treating us with a MotorStorm game. After having taken sunbathing trips to Monument Valley and Hawaii, we can now wreak havoc upon an undefined city on the American West Coast. During an earthquake, no less.
Yes, indeed; with Apocalypse, Evolution has gone over-the-top and has thrown the very last bit of realism in the series overboard. In Festival, the game’s story mode, you witness the last days of the San Francisco-esque city from the eyes of the game’s three main characters, that each correspond to a difficulty level (rookie, pro and veteran). Each difficulty encompasses around fifteen races, which should keep you busy for quite some time.
The barebones storyline is hardly worth typing about. It’s also being presented in a very dull way. Or does anyone honestly believe that comic book-style animations that shuffle across your screen are an interesting way of conveying narrative? Add to that the endless parade of clichéd characters (the clumsy rookie driver, the tough, experienced mentor, the bullying rival, the seemingly distant love interest,…) and the hilariously bad voice-acting and you might mistake the game for a Hollywood B-movie. I expected Chuck Norris and Steven Seagal to walk in at any time. I reckon it was the developers’ intention for not letting Apocalypse take itself to seriously, but that doesn’t change the fact the storyline’s lighthearted tone clashes with the raw and brutal races.
The game’s concept feels very familiar: in one of the thirteen vehicle classes (superbike, ATV, buggy, rally car, mud plugger, big rig,…) you try to ram and barge yourself to first place. To aid you, every car comes equipped with a boost system, that has the drawback of quickly overheating your engine. If you use it too much, you’ll explode into a thousand pieces (Havok physics for the win!). Luckily, enough puddles of water are found across the tracks that can cool your engine.
Like in previous MotorStorm games, every type of car has its favourite underground; buggy’s love buzzing over sandy wastes, while muscle cars are right at home on asphalt. There’s definitely a tactical side to the game; you’ll have to plot out the route which best fits your given vehicle.
And that’s not as easy as it sounds, as there are literally dozens of shortcuts and alternative roads to explore. On top of that, due to the earthquake, the terrain is subject to real-time change, just like in last year’s Split/Second. For instance, skyscrapers can come down while you’re driving next to, or -when you’re not so lucky- under them. And there’s more, such as collapsing bridges or exploding houses.
So as a grand spectacle, the game pretty much has its bases covered. Of course it helps that Apocalypse’s engine is still a technical marvel. Between all the action, there is no sign of framerate hickups, the particle effects (smoke, fire, debris,…) are some of the best ever witnessed in a racing game and the damage modelling is still exquisite.
However, with all the madness happening around you, it’s not unusual to sometimes lose track of where you should be going, which often results in a crash. The game is playable in 3D, but seeing how I don’t own a The sound is still ear candy: this is really the stuff surround sets are made for! The howling engines and deafening explosions cause more decibels than a normal person should stand to bear. It’s just a shame the soundtrack isn’t up to the standards set by previous MotorStorm games. For this installment, The Queens of the Stone Age and Nirvanas of this world have switched seats with some nondistinct electronic techno fare. Yuck.
For those looking to test their mettle against other players, MotorStorm: Apocalypse has everything their heart could possibly desire. Whether it’s fully customizable splitscreen matches with four players, time trials (with matching leaderboards) or the online multiplayer: the game has more options than you can think of. By doing well in online matches, you earn experience, which in turn unlocks all kinds of medals, ribbons and perks. Call of Duty: Racing Warfare, if you will. On top of that, if that’s your thing, you can change the look of your car with paintjobs, decals, unique parts and what have you. I can definitely see it happen that Apocalypse gathers a very loyal online fanbase around it, which could turn this game into a keeper.
Though it doesn’t break any new ground, MotorStorm: Apocalypse still offers more than enough enjoyment, both offline and online. If you can forget the ridiculous storyline -I have-, what remains is a exciting, spectacular and graphically stunning racing game that could keep you busy for quite a while.