MotorStorm: Apocalypse PS3 Review

Publisher – Sony Computer Entertainment Europe – Developer – Evolution Studios – Genre – Racing – Players – 1-16 – Age Rating – 16+ – Other console/handheld formats – N/A

The MotorStorm series started life as an off-road racer, with both the previous PS3 games offering a lot of mud and dust. MotorStorm: Apocalypse bucks this trend – the third games’ tracks are set in dangerous urban areas, with natural disasters ripping the city apart. As you could imagine, there’s still lots of dust, though.

For the first time, MotorStorm: Apocalypse introduces a story in the Festival mode. The so called motion comics are silly, nicely drawn, inoffensive and brief, and if you’d rather get on with the racing, they’re completely skippable. The game follows the stories of a trio of characters who oddly enjoy racing through the destroyed city, with each individual character having a series of races over the course of two days.

MotorStorm: Apocalypse is certainly a more chaotic and violently visceral version of the more subtle previous games, and subtle and MotorStorm are hardly two words that can be found together that often. There’s just so much going on within many of Apocalypse’s races, so much destruction that it makes the previous games seem as if they have the subtlety of SEGA’s OutRun series, and that they most certainly don’t.

New vehicles include superbikes (pictured above), supercars, muscle cars, choppers and hot hatches.

The city and conditions degrade as you race through the Festival mode, with earlier races offering a calm before the storm, whereas later ones show off Mother Nature at her angriest. You’ll see bridges crumbling beneath your wheels as you race over them, obstacles being thrown into your path, and buildings tumbling down around you. It’s often the case that the previous lap is quite different from the one that came before it, with routes being blocked off or opened up by the devastation. Throw in people shooting at you, attack helicopters, explosions and debris, and Motorstorm: Apocalypse is a real thrill. The dramatic music certainly fits all of this perfectly.

It’s certainly exhilarating to be racing in the middle of all of this and tracks are generally laid out well enough to know exactly where you are supposed to be going. The ruined tracks are well designed and have you doing everything from racing down a toppled building, seeing the fury of wind combined with rain, to driving across once busy highways. The developer has certainly done a good job in making the city feel as if it has been hit by a major disaster.

So, what about the actual racing? Well little has actually changed on this front – the vehicle handling is still responsive and intuitive, if a little characterless, and the boost will do you favours in many a race. But wait, the boost has actually had a small but pleasing tweak: it’s now possible to relax your accelerator finger whilst your vehicle is in the air, which, much in the same manner as the water, quickly cools your boost meter down. This is an excellent little tweak which adds in some strategy to races.

As for the vehicle physics, there are some situations where you’ll wonder why your vehicle has crashed following a relatively small impact and others where you are almost certain that you should be sitting inside a complete wreck after what seemed to be a sizeable bash, it’s enough to annoy but doesn’t come anywhere near to ruining the fun entirely. Crashes are still spectacular and the scripted physics of objects in the environments are also dramatically violent, not forgetting to mention, mightily impressive.

The general opinion of playing the game in 3D seems to be that it really adds to the immersion. Sadly, I wasn't able to test this feature for myself.

Some may not like being restricted to one event and a specific vehicle at a time in the Festival, although finishing first is never a requisite, even in the later races. Evolution Studios have certainly made the festival mode easier when compared to previous games, but finishing head of the pack in a race does unlock a tougher hardcore version of that very race, in which you’ll have to finish within a given time limit against less forgiving opponents. They’ve certainly tried their best to please everyone.

MotorStorm: Apocalypse also has a very accomplished multiplayer mode, in which split screen and online play can be combined. There’s not enough four player split screen in games today, but Apocalypse has it, while two player split screen can be played with others online. Split screen does take a noticeable dip in visual quality, but it does remain fast and competitive. Online the game largely stays just as smooth as playing offline, and with up to 16 players racing at once, it’s huge amounts of fun. There’s even a Call of Duty style perks system as well as unlocks, which may just give you an edge over some of your lesser opponents. If I do have any complaints to make, it’s that it does take awhile to get a race going once you’re in a game, but really if it’s the price to pay for such a smooth experience, I’ll happily pay with a relatively small amount of my time.

MotorStorm: Apocalypse is a racing game that takes its inspiration from the action genre. Yes, it’s still about crossing the finishing line in the best position possible, but being in the middle of a gigantic disaster really adds to the thrill. Its changes may split opinion and it may have occasional annoyances, but Evolution’s’ game is a technically impressive racer and one that is immediately accessible to all.