Destructible Tracks Are the New Speed Loop
Prior to MotorStorm: Apocalypse, it was easy to think that the MotorStorm had been everywhere it was going to go. From the frozen Arctic Edge to the delightfully tropic Pacific Rim, MotorStorm had done an excellent job of promoting virtual race track tourism, and created quite a few nice set pieces along the way. But it seems developer Evolution Studios was not ready to scout out a new location for their new MotorStorm game and instead went for a location that couldn’t be found on any map: the end of the world.
OK, so maybe the premise of MotorStorm Apocalypse isn’t exactly the Book of Revelations, but it sure does come close. Apparently there’s an island that’s about to be devastated by a planet-altering earthquake. The place has already been evacuated, and as condemned buildings crash around the landscape, there’s only one logical conclusion MotorStorm faithful can come to: it’s time for a MotorStorm festival! Unfortunately, there’s some complications. First off, there are quite a few drifters who have stayed behind, and aren’t willing to share their land with MotorStorm participants. And in even more bad news, the military has been called in, and they’re not happy that you’re sticking around. Of course, why they would be firing missiles at you while the world around you is already coming down is beyond me, but since the story is for an automotive game, we’ll forgive its contrivances.
But of course, the worst news of all is that tremors have started occurring, and between the earth-shaking below you and the storm clouds gathering above you, the world of MotorStorm Apocalypse really does look like it is coming to an end. Sure, the military and local militia can present driving complications, but it will be the shaking ground and spinning tornadoes that really make Apocalypse a challenging game.
Though the game attempts to tell a cohesive story about three main characters and their roles within the hierarchal MotorStorm world, the story and character really take a backseat to the world of Apocalypse, which is a wonderful thing to behold. You will be treated to several cutscenes that will drive the story forward and are presented as a stylized motion comic, but I’d be lying if I told you I sat through all the backstory before jumping into a race. The plot is just a little too contrived, and at the end of the day, when I play MotorStorm, I don’t care about feuds or characters. I just want to race. Fortunately, all the cutscenes are skippable, and you can get straight to the meat of the game without delay in most circumstances (sometimes you’ll have to wait a few seconds for some loading to occur).
Although most tracks start off fairly tame, from the moment you hit the acceleration button, everything starts falling apart. Evolution Studios has done a great job giving each track life as a living, breathing entity that changes almost continuously as you race. Buildings fall apart, bridges collapse, and even the road under your tires isn’t safe. MotorStorm: Apocalypse not only puts you in a dangerous environment, but invites you to become part of it. One memorable level has you racing around on the tops of skyscrapers as they fall to the ground. Time everything wrong, and you’ll go down with them. And as you loop around the track, you’ll have to find new ways of getting around, as areas of the track will become inaccessible as they are destroyed.
The game’s destructive elements reminded me a lot of last year’s Split/Second, but more extreme. While Split/Second featured a lot of explosions that would alter the course, these explosions were very contrived, and you could plan your racing strategy around avoiding them. However, in MotorStorm: Apocalypse, the nearly-constant destruction of everything around you makes racing a reactionary experience. While speed and strategy are still important parts of the MotorStorm racing experience, survival becomes an important tertiary element, and if you can’t immediately react to a flaming semi truck hurtling towards you or a collapsing overpass, then you won’t succeed in MotorStorm: Apocalypse.
By its very nature, the premise will take some getting used to, especially if you are used to the free-wheeling format of previous MotorStorm games. However, the game hasn’t changed its core mechanics, and the rally racing element is still at the forefront of the game experience. The game features thirteen different vehicle classes, and you’ll need to master them all in the game’s career mode. Old favorites like the dirt bike, big rig and ATV are back, but the game also includes five new car classes to master: the supercar, superbike, muscle car, hot hatch, and chopper. The new vehicles are tons of fun to play around with, and certainly add some replay value to the experience.
The story mode in MotorStorm: Apocalypse is surprisingly long, but like any current-gen automotive game, the real meat of the game experience comes from playing online. MotorStorm takes a very simplistic approach to the online mode, and it’ll be up to you to find and create matches online. There is a “bet” system that allows you to earn credits for unlockables as you progress, but after you earn everything, there is little point to the bet system, other than bragging rights. However, the online mode does have one feature that will keep you coming back: a loadout system. The customizable loadout system allows you to equip earned skills (such as increased grip and extra boost) and use these skills as you tear up the track. Earning and using new loadouts was certainly the highlight of the online experience for me, and helped separate MotorStorm: Apocalypse from the crowded world of online racers currently available.
Visuals in MotorStorm: Apocalypse are breathtaking, and the amazing world that Evolution Studios has created is certainly something to behold. The stylistic choices made to represent both a persistent natural disaster as well as longstanding urban decay make the world of Apocalypse feel like a living, breathing place. Though the cars aren’t as shiny as those you might find in Forza or Gran Turismo, the real star here is the environment and set-pieces, and those are all presented beautifully.
Some people like realistic automotive games. If you are looking for finely-tuned, customizable cars and real-life tracks, then MotorStorm: Apocalypse is not for you. However, if you want a racing experience that feels completely unique, and features some bold design choices, MotorStorm: Apocalypse is definitely a game worth checking out. With a robust single-player experience, fun online component, and plenty of vehicles and tracks to blast through, this is one end-of the-world party that you certainly won’t want to miss!
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.5 Graphics
The end of the world never looked this good, with highly detailed tracks, environments, and of course, shiny vehicles. 4.3 Control
Different vehicles have wildly different learning curves for control, and you’ll pick some up faster than others. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Music is a bit repetitive, but automotive sound effects are great. 4.1 Play Value
With forty tracks, thirteen vehicle types to master, and a fun (if somewhat basic) online mode, this is one you won’t be able to put down. 4.2 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|