Unleashing the PS3's potential
MotorStorm is a magnificent display of what the PS3 can accomplish in terms of graphics and physics.
- Amazing graphics, great performance, great crashes
- Not enough tracks, simplistic
I probably wouldn't buy a PS3 just for MotorStorm, but it is the first legitimate must-have title if you've already got one.
Price$ 59.95 (AUD)
Whether developer Evolution Studios has just cracked the seal on the PS3's potential or completely tapped the system for all it's worth, we don't know, and frankly we don't care because this is one of the best looking and performing console games yet.
A Finished Product
Unlike the non-online version that was released in Japan — to lukewarm reviews, natch — the North American version is superior, with improved graphics and online multiplayer. But what's most impressive is that the bump up in visual quality and the 12-player online matches result in no noticeable hit in terms of technical performance, which makes the U.S. version the one to write home about.
The little bit of plot featured in MotorStorm takes a backseat to the gameplay itself, and unlike other titles, this is actually a good thing. Aside from a hokey and brief introductory cinema, there's no plot direction at all — it's race, race, race, and really nothing more.
The game leads you through a series of race tickets which are comprised of four races; each ticket is further subdivided into four levels of difficulty. Completing races unlocks more races, tickets, and vehicles, and the game gets progressively harder as you finish events. Certain events will require you to finish in the number-one slot, so you will most likely have to repeat certain races.
Need for Speed
MotorStorm is about speed and smashing, but the game isn't the fastest around, nor does it cause the biggest pileups like, say, the Burnout series. What it does do is pair the speed and carnage together nicely. Don't think for a second that MotorStorm is all brawn and no brains, though: It takes a good deal of strategy to compete in the more difficult level 3 and 4 races.
I did wish that the game had more than eight tracks, but MotorStorm works around this restriction by offering different types of events on each track. For example, a track like Rock Hopper in a class 1 race with, say, bikes only might be rather easy to take the gold, but a class 3 race on the same track where you have to race ATVs against bikes and rally cars is much more difficult.
And that's why the game forces you to become familiar with the many paths and shortcuts of the game. These aren't the Midnight Club-like open-ended shortcuts though; MotorStorm races are confined to a general track area. But some of the tracks are huge, and the race-able space is often very wide. Each track has recommended paths, usually high and low, for each vehicle type. Bike and ATVs should generally stick to higher grounds and utilise jumps. Big rigs and mud pluggers (the game's best off-roading rigs) should mostly stay down in the dirty trenches where they ride best. But even though each vehicle has specific strengths and weaknesses regarding the terrain, you'll have to take risks to come out on top in the harder races.
Don't Drive So Close To Me
But if racing is the cake of MotorStorm, crashing is definitely the icing. The effect it has on the race aside, there are few things more rewarding than watching your vehicle blow up into hundreds of pieces. Better yet, you can pause during a crash and rotate/zoom the camera to view the carnage up close.
MotorStorm's controls and HUD are rather simplistic, but this was an obvious design decision, rather than an oversight. Cluttering up the screen with meters and maps would take away from the game's gorgeous graphics. You'll find no speedometer, no rear-view mirror, and no circular course map. All you get is race position and a boost meter that displays your auto's temperature, but really, that's all you need.
Dirt On Your Windshield
And yet, while MotorStorm is undeniably the best PS3 game yet, it has some frustrating shortcomings. First, the slim number of tracks is downright disappointing. The downloadable demo tricked us all into thinking the game would have loads of cars and tracks, but the final reality is that the final roster is somewhat lean. Second, because of the tight physics, flipping and veering into a tight jam is a usual occurrence, but righting yourself isn't. You can easily drop to last place from hitting one little rock. At times you're better off just booting yourself into flames to get a fresh start. And lastly, MotorStorm may seem very simplistic to the point of being boring to some gamers. I personally appreciated the simplicity but it may just be a matter of preference.
Regardless of how you feel, there's no denying that MotorStorm is a visual triumph. The game's realistic graphics offer a tantalising glimpse of what the PS3 may be able capable of down the line. This is the only racing game I've ever enjoyed playing from the first-person view, simply because I get to see all the game's details up close.
Just one last note about the 12-player online races: Shockingly, there's very little drop in performance, but who knows what will happen when the servers are popping with people. However, there's no denying that having that option is better than not. The lobby system is no frills, but a MotorStorm ranking at least shows what you're up against.
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