|System: PS2, PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Virtuos [sic]||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SONY||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 20, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Andrew Groen
When the original MotorStorm first arrived on the PlayStation 3 back in 2007, gamers were wowed by the capabilities of the graphical marvel that was not only drop-dead gorgeous, but very fun as well. For PS3 owners it was an affirmation that their (at the time) unproven, expensive PS3 would eventually pay off by offering an all-new level of gaming experiences. Now MotorStorm is making its way to the PS3's older brother, and we're getting our first glimpse at how the MotorStorm experience plays without the graphics rendering capabilities of the next-gen system.
As it turns out, the MotorStorm formula is very dependent on the intensity and speed that high definition graphics capabilities and a fast processor can give you. Many games such as Wipeout or Burnout can seemingly be ported to just about any system while retaining their own personal flair, but MotorStorm: Arctic Edge ends up feeling like a PS3 game that was dumbed down to fit on a less capable system rather than an experience designed from the ground up with the PS2's limitations in mind. The result is a decent racer that has some bright spots, but ultimately it just doesn't feel like MotorStorm.
One of the main reasons why this game doesn't feel quite the same as previous MotorStorm games is the differing track design philosophy. It's a subtle difference perhaps, but previous MotorStorm games have had an aesthetic quality that made the tracks feel as if the track was only a loose framework carved out of a jungle or a mountain - as if the track was nature itself. However, in Arctic Edge this quality is lost, and most areas feel as if they were rigidly constructed by man. Tracks can be covered in metal and the figurative footprints of man. As I said, it's a subtle difference, but one that I believe affects the overall thrill of the series.
In addition, MotorStorm has always prided itself on not being a combat racer, but a game in which aggressive racing is part and parcel of the experience. So much of what makes that aggressive racing interesting is the dynamic of the vastly different types of automobiles, from snowmobiles all the way to dump trucks. Therefore it's a bit confusing why the multi-path tracks are designed in such a way that the player is encouraged to always take the high road (with lots of jumps) when on light vehicles like a motorcycle or ATV and to take the low-road (rough terrain) while driving a car or big truck. They're essentially separating the vehicle classes from one another and taking one of MotorStorm's most unique features out of the picture for half of the race.
Despite this seemingly odd choice, the vehicles are mostly still great fun. The dynamic of racers still works really well when a few different types of vehicles are vying for position in a close-quarters environment, each using their own personal strengths to get the upper-hand. Dump trucks will try to smash you into the ground, and motorcycles zip around with incredible agility. A few vehicles have some problems though. Cars and motorcycles are great, but ATVs are very difficult to control by comparison. It's like a mixture of a car's lack of agility, combined with a motorcycles lack of top-end speed and a tendency to fly off if there's so much as a stick in the road. The entire class of racer just isn't very well balanced with the others. The new vehicle addition this time around is the snowmobile. They're not perfect and could use some tuning, but in general they handle and race completely different from all the other classes. That simple fact alone makes them a welcome addition.
Obviously, it's a moot point to talk about the graphics not living up to the legacy of the MotorStorm series. This is a new system, and the fact is that this is a pretty good looking racer considering the system that it's on. In terms of graphics rendering and draw distance, the PS2 has aged rather gracefully. Automobiles looks pretty good, and there's a very minimal amount of pop-in considering the vast distances you're able to view in this game. However, the PS2's power inadequacies start to rear their head when the framerate starts to dip.