Welcome to the third iteration of the Motorstorm Festival, Motorstorm: Apocalypse – a racing spectacle that only the most hardcore racers can handle. Those who enter may not come out with their lives. Though those who are able to handle the insane conditions, outrageously fast speeds and constant danger will be touted in the end.
Do you have what it takes to race with the elite, in a loose interpretation of the state of California, which has been ravaged by an earthquake and natural disasters? Can you hold your cool when you’re racing alongside powerful storms such as tornadoes as they rip through an ocean boardwalk? If you think you’ve got the stomach, feel free to get on board as we head to the Festival’s epicenter. Good luck, rookie!
One of the first games to hit store shelves for the PlayStation 3 during its infancy was the original Motorstorm. An over-the-top racer that thrived on dangerous locations, steel contraptions and carnage, it became a hit overnight. Gamers loved the quick, balls to the wall action that the game presented with its arcade racing gameplay and explosive repercussions for those who made even a slight mistake. Not to mention its creativity in allowing for the use of many different classes of vehicles (each with its own unique strengths and weaknesses), which could be used to plough through one of many different routes on each desert track. As can be expected, it went on to spawn sequels, of which Motorstorm: Apocalypse is the second. It expands upon its predecessors’ core formula, but cranks the destruction, tension and carnage up to thirteen.
The main mode that is included on the game’s Blu-ray disc is its career mode, known as The Festival. This mode allows you to take control of three different racers’ stories and futures, as they battle their way through the crumbling metropolis, in an attempt to earn top honours as the Festival champion. Each of the three racers, the rookie, the pro and the veteran, each have their own reasons for wanting to prove themselves in the tournament, and you get to experience their stories first-hand through (brief) individual motion comic cutscenes with full voice acting.
It’s a lengthy mode that gives you a lot of carnage for your commitment. Race through each of the game’s 33 plus tracks (including destroyed variations upon core designs) as you try to place in the top few spots to ensure qualification in the next round. This is all done while you fear for your life at every turn. The competition is tough and fierce, with a penchant to try to take you out at any given moment.
Keep one eye on the road and the other on those who surround you to avoid incoming side-swipe attacks. Always having your hands at ten and two on the proverbial wheel is important, because you need to strategically maneuver your way through the best paths each track has to offer. Just be warned that the cornering is a bit loose – though this isn’t a precision racer by any means. Sixaxis motion controls are available, though they’re more of a gimmick than anything as they lack the feeling of complete control.
Events consist of traditional races, eliminator events that send a competitor packing after each timer countdown and a follow the leader style chase mode. The odd escape event is thrown in for good measure, asking you to drive your steel warrior out of the city as fast as you possibly can, to outrun the explosions and destruction behind you. Similar mechanics and designs are carried over into each of the four different event types, but they all feature enough creativity to feel relatively fresh, preventing boredom and repetition. The tracks themselves are so creative that they add a lot of charm to the game and keep you invested, because you never know what’s going to be around the next corner.
The aforementioned festival isn’t the only gameplay mode found on this disc. In fact, there are several other modes and game types that each pack quite a bit of punch with an added dose of chaos. Accessed through the second option on the game’s main menu called, Wreckreation, are the obligatory time trial mode, a custom event creator, and a hardcore version of the career mode with tougher competitions. As if the challenging career wasn’t already difficult. These modes add a lot of replay value to the experience from a single player perspective, which is great. Lone wolves get a lot of content for their dollar here.
That isn’t all though, folks. Motorstorm: Apocalypse also ships with a deep, competitive and insane online multiplayer mode, which allows up to two players from the same console to take on the globe. This competitive mode is structured in a similar way to Call of Duty’s online mode. What is meant by that statement is that it includes a perk system, level upgrades and player icons, which you unlock with each level upgrade culminating at a level cap in the late 70s.
Personalize your emblem and also the cars you battle with, using the in-game garage and a long list of unlockable parts, though they don’t seem to add any new abilities to your vehicles. Each of the thirteen vehicle types, ranging from dirt-bikes and ATVs to supercars and big rigs, are available for customization – each with unlockable vehicle types and parts.
Those who like to battle on the PlayStation Network will be impressed with how well the online portion works. It’s easy to get into games and there are a lot of customization options as mentioned before. There was no lag experienced during this review session, either. Plus, there’s also a great betting system that lets players bet their experience chips against other competitors, creating rivalries that can sometimes turn into vendettas and absolute chaos. It’s a great system for a well-designed online mode that could just use a bit more creativity in its structure for added investment. That’s a nit-picking complaint though.
Each of the three Motorstorm games has had its own personality, brought on by the virtual environment in which it inhabits. The locations greatly influence the gameplay style and the amount of utter destruction within. The first game had its barren wasteland and the second had its tropical island with lots of water and lava – each of which have opposite effects on your nitrous meter.
When you drive over puddles and through ravines, your nitrous meter cools down significantly to give you an advantage and to also prevent an overheating catastrophe from occurring. Conversely, lava and fire both heat up your vehicle which, in turn, increases your nitrous meter. The mechanic isn’t new to the series but it works really well yet again.
Motorstorm: Apocalypse features a lot more destruction than the others and feels different because of its city setting. Buildings crumble around you, gas stations erupt in an explosion of red and orange, and crazy hobos throw Molotov cocktails at you as you pass. It’s not like any racing game you’ve played before and that’s a good thing.
It’s fast, fun and frenetic. The only noticeable issue is the fact that it’s sometimes too fast and chaotic for its own good, which is definitely still part of its charm. However, it’s very easy to crash into obstacles if you’re not paying 100% attention at all times. Sometimes you’re moving too fast to see some of the dangerous environmental hazards that are waiting for you just ahead.
Presentation-wise, Motorstorm: Apocalypse is impressive. Detailed/colourful visuals combine with a great frame rate to provide a pretty and seamless experience. The vehicles are nicely designed and allow for a lot of creativity, which adds colour and effect to each race. Additionally, the game’s motion comics are some of the best in recent memory, with some nice facial motion work. All of this plus a pulse-pounding techno soundtrack add up to complement the game’s subject matter extremely well, making your heart beat fast from beginning to end. Three-dimensional visual support is included, though it wasn’t available to be used during this review session.
It’s hard to fault many things about the presentation, though the storyline is sometimes a little too overblown with girls whose assets are more prominent than need be. The cutscenes are more for a mature audience than a younger crowd because of some suggested sexual themes, mature language and a bit of violence. These scenes can be skipped though. Kudos to the developers Evolution Studio for trying to create a storyline for an arcade racing game, even if some parts are misses as opposed to hits. It’s average overall, but a bit cheesy to say the least, with some mediocre to poor voice acting work.
Overall, Motorstorm: Apocalypse is an impressive third outing, which PlayStation 3 owners should be proud to have as an exclusive. It’s well-worth the price of admission, due to polished gameplay, unique mechanics and a ton of content. It also features some of the most creative track design on the market. Sony should also be commended for pushing it back to avoid upsetting those of whom were affected by the terrible natural disasters in Japan, and for the fact that they included a code for a couple downloadable vehicles for those who patiently waited. If you think you can handle it, the Motorstorm Festival is awaiting you.