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Motorstorm: Arctic Edge

When you look at the name Motorstorm: Arctic Edge, it’s easy to expect the tried and tested Motorstorm template but on snowy mountains. These assumptions are all well and good, but let it be said that Motorstorm: Arctic Edge has variety and character – a winning combination. Evolution Studios have delivered a deliciously frantic racing experience that provides a decent challenge, bundled within slick presentation and some cracking online play. Arctic Edge is certainly not just your average off-road racer ‘but set on ice’.

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Thrown in at the deep end, races start off in a daunting fashion; opposing vehicles growl and taunt with an alarming sense of menace, and from the start of the race you’ll get used to eating their dust. This is all because the handling takes a fair few races to get a grip on. Initially perplexing, vehicle control will eventually become second nature and you’ll be riding up there with the best of them. While it’s certainly not perfect and will haunt you on many occasions, the handling mechanic is adequate, and for the most part does what you expect of it, even if rides can get a little too bumpy. Probably not wise to jump straight into online, then.

Vehicles slide about the place, and most handle with tremendous weight. The terrain you’ll be driving through lends to this sense of loss of grip and it quickly feels impressively authentic, despite some overly bouncy physics. The variety in tracks and vehicles is huge, meaning there’s a lot of learning to do when it comes to sussing out how to go about each race. Big rigs for instance handle well and are brutally tough, but have awful acceleration, whereas ATVs have great speed and acceleration, yet lack decent handling and toughness. The developers have done a good job of making sure there is no ‘vehicle to end all vehicles’, so you never feel disadvantaged. Many people will opt to stick to one vehicle class, but the lengthy career mode serves to stop this.

Aptly named ‘Festival’, it is here where you’ll be spending the majority of your time. With over one hundred events to participate in, it’s a generous offering. Questions could be thrown about whether this amount is a little too much, as unfortunately this mode is simply a list of events to complete. It’s not all standard racing however, with three over events to participate in along the way: ‘time-ticker’, ‘speed’ and ‘invitational’ events. The former is where you need to stay in first place the longest through the race to win, with the speed event being a slalom through checkpoint gates. Invitationals are simply like tournaments, where you need to complete three events in a row and top the board to win. These crop up towards the latter half of the game. Generally, Arctic Edge is all about the race, and rightly so.

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Each event has a specific requirement, that is, you can only race it with a certain vehicle. There are a few races dotted around that accept all classes, and arguably these are the most exciting, but for the most part it feels more balanced when you are racing similarly able opposition. Getting on the podium after a race nets you points – points that unlock new more events. For every set amount of points you accumulate you unlock a new rank, which increases the difficulty and adds new courses to play. Stars can be unlocked in certain events by completing tasks such as ‘stay in first for ten seconds’, or ‘beat x time’, and these unlock the aforementioned alterative event types, like invitationals.

New vehicles, custom body parts, liveries, videos and the like can be unlocked through completing festival events, and these provide a good incentive to carrying on. Trophy-like support in the form of ‘badges’ also add longevity, with a tremendous amount of tasks to complete such as ‘jump 200m or more’, and ‘travel a total of 1000km’. There’s a great feeling of collection and content with Arctic Edge, with emblems themed around established Sony titles like LittleBigPlanet and Killzone dotted around the tracks for you to take pictures of with the game’s fantastic in-game photo feature. You’ll be spoilt for choice regarding what pictures to take, as you’ll frequently experience an inspired crash or nail-biting finish.

And you won’t forget these moments in a hurry; Motorstorm: Arctic Edge is just like its big brother and sister because it contains wholly beautiful vehicular carnage. The A.I. is supremely intelligent and is not perfect like in many other racing games – they make mistakes. You could be driving across a cliff edge when two rally cars pass by, shunting each other to pieces until one of them loses out and falls to their death. It really is a treat to watch. The A.I. sometimes do particularly odd things like boost until they blow up, which ruins the illusion of authenticity, but generally they are well realised. Vehicle damage is impressive too, creating an added layer of depth to the gameplay.

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The tracks on offer vary in both environment and quality. The developers have cleverly opted to include a great supply of terrains and locales, instead of basing all tracks on snow, and as such they demand a wide range of driving techniques. Some are more memorable and epic than others, and they all suit particular vehicle classes. The courses that scale the mountain such as ‘Ascension’ and ‘Vertigo’ are particular highlights, and tracks like ‘Wolfpack Mountain’ can’t help to impress as it takes you across various terrains in downpour, through caves, and around valleys. There are some weaker inclusions, however, like ‘The Chasm’, which is an exceptionally difficult and frequently frustrating course with an abundance of blind jumps and uneven surfaces.

One thing that is brilliant about all the courses is how finely crafted they are for reverse play. Usually reversed tracks in racing games feel too similar to the forward version, but in Arctic Edge they feel like completely new courses thanks to the different heights of platforms, jumps and alternate routes. The game is advertised to have twelve unique courses, but it might as well be twenty-four because the reversed tracks feel so different – It’s undoubtedly refreshing. Weather effects like snow and rain bombard the course too, and avalanches and ice bridge breakages sometimes invade the gameplay. Whilst rare, they consequentially kick the ferocity of play up a notch.

Online play is a big plus for the game, and enables six player races across all tracks. A solid ranking system has been implemented that utilises points and rank titles. Leaderboards, friends and a sturdy lobby system complement a lag-free racing experience, even with six players. Online gameplay is furiously addictive, and many gamers will see themselves stuck to online as opposed to the offline elements.

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The difficulty curve is finely judged so you’ll never feel cheated, but it’s impossible to not get frustrated sometimes as you clip some scenery, screw up a jump or get utterly destroyed by an aggressive driver. Musically the game boasts a twenty track playlist, but unsurprisingly it doesn’t take long before you’ve heard them all. The variety is welcome with Bullet for My Valentine, Radiohead, The Prodigy, Bodyrockers and The Bronx leading the pack, but some songs tire quickly which means you’ll soon be choosing a music-less soundscape of aggressive engine rumbles and the relentless vehicular bashing of the race, which is hardly an unfortunate compromise.

Unexpectedly brilliant, then, Motorstorm: Arctic Edge is an extremely likeable addition to the Motorstorm family, which provides a hectic racing experience that will get the blood pumping through your veins. Vehicles may not handle perfectly, and certain courses are not entirely effective, but for the majority of time spent playing Arctic Edge, it’s hard not to be taken for one of the most aggressive and entertaining rides of the year.

8 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2007. Get in touch on Twitter @_Frey.

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