Ever since its first appearance in a simply phenomenal CGI trailer, MotorStorm has been met with very high expectations. The men and women from Evolution Studios (known for their great WRC series) promised to deliver an innovating, truly next-generation experience, something no-one has ever played before. Let’s see if those claims hold true in the final version, shall we?
MotorStorm is a pure arcade racing game that takes you to the valleys, cliffs and gorges in and around Monument Valley, USA. Every race is a survival of the fittest; the only thing that matters is winning, no matter how. Races consist of around a dozen (sometimes a bit more, sometimes a bit less) competitors in all kinds of different vehicles that continuously try to ram each other of the road or force the other into obstacles. MotorStorm is vicous, violent and bloody fast.
When you first start up the game, you’ll notice it’s a bit of a bare-bones package. You can choose between ‘play’ (the singleplayer portion of the game) or ‘online’.
There is no splitscreen option, which is most unfortunate. Wouldn’t it be great if you could play with four players on the same console, just to see their faces after you justed knocked them off a cliff with your big rig? The online component is very similar to the singleplayer. Up to 12 different players can participate in normal races. There are no special modes. The online mode is good if you’re looking for a challenge (or just want to beat human players), but with more options, it could have been so much better. For what it’s worth: connecting to a race was very easy and none of the sessions suffered from lag.
The singleplayer mode is the bulk of the game. There are 21 ‘tickets’ in total and each ticket consists of up to four different 3-lap races.
To complete a ticket, you only have to finish third in each of the consisting races, but if you want to earn enough points to unlock all the vehicles, you’ll need to score gold medals. To keep things interesting, most races are only open to a certain class (though for some, you can choose the type of car you want). The different vehicle classes have a large influence on the gameplay. Each of the seven classes (motorbikes, ATV’s, buggys, rally cars, mud pluggers, racing trucks and big rigs) behaves differently and is best on a certain type of terrain. Big rigs and -obviously- mud pluggers simply love muddy surfaces, while lighter classes such as bikes and ATV’s are better on dusty cliff edges. The rally class is by far the fastest of them all, but it doesn’t like bumpy surfaces or -god forbid- mud.
Your class also affects the route you take. Big rigs will almost always have to follow the wide (and often muddy) main routes, while racing trucks and rally cars will take curvier (but shorter and dustier) roads and the lightest classes will use the high, winding and narrow pathways. Though the game only contains around 10 courses, because of the many shortcuts, alternative routes and hidden pathways, it hardly ever feels like you’re constantly doing the same races over and over again, which is a testament of the great level design. If you don’t know which route to take, it’s best to slow down a little and just follow the AI rivals (who are very agressive, if you haven’t figured that yet) out that are driving the same class as you. If you do manage to take a wrong turn, there’s no reason to panick. You still have a boost that you can use to get through unfit terrain much quicker.
Be careful though, because too much boosting causes your engine to overheat (and blow up). You have to give your engine some time to cool down after a boost. Blowing your car up by overheating the engine has one advantage though: if you’re in the final stretch, you can try to explode over the finish line. Because the explosion thrusts you forward, you might even gain one or two positions.
Though the game supports motion sensing to control your car, the Sixaxis’ sticks are way more accurate. Steering by using the analogue sticks is even activated by default. MotorStorm also makes good use of the new and improved triggers to make the controls feel more natural and realistic.
The game is a true marvel from a technical point of view. The graphics are very impressive, with highly detailed car models, colourful environments and spectacular explosions.
Racing through the mud even leaves tyremarks that are still visible in the following laps. Mud and dust accumulates on your chassis (which is even more visible in the cockpit view) and bumping into walls or other vehicles causes you to lose parts. When you blow up your car, a very cool slow-motion camera shows you where your parts wind up, similar to what happens when you get taken down in Burnout. Also, when you crash in an ATV or motorbike, the driver goes flying ragdoll-style. Needless to say, the Havok physics in this game are exquisite. Boosting causes a speed haze, another nice visual effect. Even more impressive is that, even with 15 racers and a lot of action going on, the framerate is very steady. It does dip sometimes (only when a lot of cars are destroyed at the same time), but even then it’s still very playable. Another annoying drawback is that it takes very long (at least 5 seconds) to render a car in the car selection menu. Let’s hope a future update can fix this.
But the best thing about MotorStorm is undoubtedly the simply staggering audio. The howling engines simply sound terrific, as do the explosions. Playing MotorStorm on a surround set, with the volume wide open, is a truly magnificent experience. The game also has a great soundtrack, with many great rock songs from great artists like Nirvana, Queens of the Stone Age, Slipknot, Black Sabbath, Wolfmother and many others. Superb stuff!
Though MotorStorm isn’t as otherworldly beautiful as the now infamous E3 2005 trailer, it is, however, a stunning technical achievement in its own right. The ultraspectacular graphics and physics are awe-inspiring, while the audio will simply blow anyone away. With all the technical prowess, the gameplay itself lags a little behind. Despite that, MotorStorm delivers an enjoyable and very refreshing experience. In short: if there’s one game to show off the PlayStation 3′s power, it’s MotorStorm.