The thrill of racing mixed with a massive festival is always how the MotorStorm Series of games takes place. In most motor sports racing series, you take control and try to rise the ranks. MotorStorm Apocalypse is no different, taking the series to a new extreme in the form of a city being decimated by natural disaster you step behind the wheel and witness the thrilling speed, the beautiful vistas and a horrible storyline. MotorStorm: Apocalypse has a lot going for it and is possibly one of the best PS3 racing games to date, but with a storyline that would make the most extreme sports enthusiast groan, it is not for the faint of heart.
MotorStorm’s festival mode handles all the storytelling within the title. It is told though a series of motion comic cut scenes telling the story of three characters, Mash, Tyler, and Big Dog. You first play as Mash, the rookie of the bunch, a stowaway on the Motorstorm aircraft carrier as it sailed for a racing festival in a city that is being ravaged by natural disasters. With a massive earthquake expected this makes the perfect place for a racing party. The story is shallow and lacks any real impact. The characters are caricatures rather then fleshed out people and the things they do as this city crumbles around them lacks any real rhyme or reason. But this is beside the point, this mode is best seen as a tutorial mode that forces players to try out all vehicle types on different terrain and to get a feel for how the game plays.
Like the past two games in the series each track has multiple paths you can take. Each path is better suited for different vehicle types. With types ranging from super-bike to monster truck this will give you a large range to experiment with. The tracks are rich and beautiful with set-peice world destruction events taking place on the last lap. These can range from a bridge collapsing to the ground tearing it’s self apart as you drive across it. These are amazing to behold and even after many races on the track they do not get old. When new pathways open up as these events take place, the course of the race can be dramatically altered. The use of the environment to help your car remains present. Using boost more when in wet areas means the car will not overheat, or the mud may make your bike a little slower and harder to steer. These are all aspects that must be considered when choosing car and path to race.
The visuals have have always been a strong point with the MotorStorm series and this one is no exception. It may not have the same wow factor that the first game had when it hit the PS3 but it is up there with some of the best visuals on the console. The frame rate is solid and fast with a constant sense of speed as you race around the crumbling city. The visual flairs present as the streets crumble are stunning. Scenes with you driving over roofs as they turn and crumble is a spectacle to behold. The game did trade much of it’s lush bright colour pallet for a mainly brown and grey one similar to Gears of War, but it does manage some bright vistas on rare occasion with the seaside areas of tracks bright and vibrant.
The things that make this title unique may also throw some players off. This is an arcade racer through and through – there is very little realism on display here. Crashing is par for the course when first sitting down to play the game. You will often feel you spend more time crashing then you do racing, this feeling lessens as you play through and get to know the ins and outs of each track and vehicle but even an experienced player will be caught off guard and find himself in the ditch from time to time. The AI in the game also does all it can to ensure you do not finish a race, especially when you get into the Veteran level of the festival mode, you will find the AI constantly ramming you as you make turns, stopping you from taking the right path and generally getting in the way of enjoying the game. Nearing the end of the mode, these obstructions became tiresome, especially with the need to place well in a race to move on.
It is good that the game does not require you to finish first in all races. Within rookie you only need to place fifth to qualify for the next race, and with pro and veteran you need to place third or above to move on. This does not sound that difficult but with the AI difficulty and the track constantly collapsing as you race many tracks will take a few tries before they are mastered. If you are a completionist like me you will find yourself yelling at the game half the time and ready to throw the controller the other half. Beyond the Festival mode there are a few other single player modes to keep you busy.
Wreckreation is where you will spend your time offline if you are not in the festival. This mode is essentially a free play mode with perks. You can engage in quick races, special events, time attack and a hardcore version of the Festival mode where you’ll play through the same races as in Festival mode but here you’ll have to deal with more challenging AI. This is where you practice up before hitting the Internet to face real opponents. It is a fun way to play, and the ability to play Split-Screen with a friend makes it a good option if you are worried about the skill level of the Internet challenge.
The multi-player is the best part of the title. Racing a city as it crumbles with up to 16 other players is a nerve wracking experience, but one that needs to be experienced to be understood. Tie this in with a solid rewards system and the ability to bet on winners makes the multi-player something that a racing fan will not soon put down. The more coins you earn from racing means the more cars you can unlock as-well as the the small customizable options in the game. The player icon, colour scheme for the cars, etc all add to the enjoyment of the overall experience. It takes a lot of ideas from games like Kill Zone 3 and Call of Duty but these are implemented well in the racing framework and feel very at home within the game.
MotorStorm: Apocalypse is a great title that suffers from odd design choices. The new additions to the title are for the most part welcome and the ones that aren’t are easily avoided. The core racing that you come to love about the series is still present, and if you can overlook the ridiculous story the single player you please as well. You’ll even want to show it off, simply because the set-piece moments are so stunning. This is a solid entry into the series and I look forward to see what comes next for MotorStorm.