MotorStorm comes from the loins of Evolution Studios; the makers of the World Rally Championship (WRC) series which spanned 5 games on the PlayStation 2. It’s fair to say that when it comes to making a great off road racer, there are few companies out there that know better.
The story takes place at the MotorStorm festival in Monument Valley; a vast desert area with rocky outcrops and mud gulches. The game is broken down into a series of tickets, with each ticket having between 1 and 4 races. The more races you win, the more you unlock and progress through the game. Races pit all classes of vehicles against each other, so winning a race is not only about the speed and handling of the vehicle, but the size and power of it as well. Bikes and quad bikes are fast and nimble, but can’t take too much damage, while rally cars, trucks and buggies offer a good compromise in all areas. Finally there are the big rigs and mudpluggers, which are the slowest but can knock the competition out of the way. Races are essentially the same throughout the game, completing a certain number of laps around a circuit. Some races are head to head, whilst others have everyone all using the same vehicle.
Your choice of route has just as much effect on your finishing position as your choice in vehicle. The bigger vehicles are better in the mud, whilst the lighter vehicles prefer the more solid terrain and are better in the air, with most tracks having various routes to suit all. There’s so much choice that you’ll be replaying through the levels numerous times just to find the quickest and most entertaining route for your chariot of choice.
As you start a race you notice just how barren the HUD is; the only items on the screen are lap, position, time and most importantly your boost gauge, which when activated sends your vehicle into overdrive and blurs the edges of the screen. Your Nitrous boost is another factor in winning or loosing a race. Timing its use is an art form, as misusing it can end in you car missing a corner, or even ending with your vehicle blowing up due to over use. The boost is best saved for the straights and the final stretch to either increase your lead, or pip your opponent to the chequered flag… maybe even utilising your car blowing up as that extra bit of momentum.
If all that wasn’t enough to contend with, you’ve got fourteen or so other competitors willing to do whatever it takes to win. The AI is one of the game’s greatest assets and is more than a match for us mere mortals, often leaving you frustrated, but also eager for revenge. Given the harshness of the AI and the fact that even from the start it’s difficult to win a race, it’s easy to see why some people would be discouraged. However, show perseverance and you’ll feel the satisfaction winning that final gold medal.
Unfortunately, if you want to share this experience with a friend, you’re going to have to take turns playing, as the game features no split screen option. This is the game’s biggest flaw; for a game that is so enjoyable to play, it seems strange that it’s been left out. Alternatively you can choose to venture to the big wild world of online multiplayer. It’s pretty much like the single player game, but with the added bonus of knowing that it’s real people at the end of your carnage. The only downside to the online aspect is that there are times when it suffers from lag, which can make the game unplayable.
Another thing that MotorStorm suffers from is its load times. Being a major first-party title, you might expect that load times would be kept to a minimum to show off the PlayStation 3’s processing power. Unfortunately that isn’t the case and it takes an age to load even something as basic as the livery on the vehicle. Fortunately MotorStorm delivers in the graphics department. The in-game videos look brilliant in SD, and even better in HD. The graphics during the races are just as impressive, not that there will be much time to look at them. The vehicles sound spot on and the music matches the festival setting perfectly, featuring bands such as Queens of the Stone Age, Slipknot and Nirvana.
The game’s masterstroke is the amount of destruction that it creates. Vehicles proudly show off their battle scars from a small dint, to losing wheels. MotorStorm also slows down time Burnout -style whenever your vehicle has been destroyed, fallen down a cliff, or flipped onto its side/roof. The first few times you’ll gawp at how stunning it looks, but it won’t be long before your frustrated at having to wait those extra few seconds. The vehicles aren’t the only ones to take damage; tracks carve up when the heavier vehicles rumble over, and wreckage interacts when hit.
The PlayStation 3’s motion sensing capabilities are utilised as well, steering your vehicle. However due to the nature of the controller, this method just seems light & airy and is more of a hindrance then anything else. Thankfully the game uses the traditional control system of R2 to accelerate, L2 to brake and X in charge of the nitrous boost.
Regular updates of downloadable content are another feature the game can boast. These vary from free seasonal liveries for the vehicles (Halloween and Christmas), to extra vehicles, races and tracks that have to be paid for. The price will soon mount up, since the total cost of the content is in the region of £15/$30, with more still coming out.
MotorStorm does everything you want it to. It’s fast, furious, gorgeous, addictive and challenging, however it is not perfect. The lack of split screen is a huge blow for the game, as are the long loading times, but these don’t detract from how good the game is. For those that prefer to play games on their own then this will be a great game to either start off your PlayStation 3 collection, or to add to it. If however you want a multiplayer game then this may not be the best option available.