Third Time’s a Charm
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.
When this happens, it becomes rather clear why racing in this game feels so much slower than past iterations. All the objects in the game are rendered quite well, but that comes at the price of speed, as the processor is unable to render those graphics very quickly if you’re moving too fast. It’s a bit of a trade-off, and if nice-looking graphics are more important to you than the speed of play, then you’ll have no problems with this. However, many racers will come away wishing that the gameplay had taken precedence over the visuals.
There is no such trade-off in the audio department, though. Arctic Edge is great across the board featuring foremost an expansive, up-tempo track list full of big name bands like the Queens of the Stone Age and The White Stripes. Ever since Burnout 3 showed the gaming world how effective an up-tempo soundtrack can be, this feature has been a must for any arcade racer worth its salt, and Arctic Edge really delivers the goods here. Sound effects in this game are also particularly well executed. In a lot of ways, the audio has a big responsibility in this game due to the fact it now has to make up for a lot of the shortcomings of the PS2’s visuals. Thankfully, Arctic Edge has a very good audio system that adds weight to crashes and really makes you feel like you’re pushing the petal to the metal during boosts even though, as was discussed earlier, you’re not actually going that fast. Which makes it all the more impressive.
This is a racer for PS2 fans who haven’t yet made the jump into the current generation of consoles, not for MotorStorm fans looking for their next fix. The original MotorStorm and the follow-up, Pacific Rift, are both better games than this, and those who are looking to replicate those experiences will come away disappointed. However, this is still a pretty good, late-life PS2 racing game, and if you’re looking to squeeze a few extra drops of life out of your PS2, then this is a competent racer for a good price.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.3 Graphics
The PS2 is really starting to show its age as the modern consoles leave it further and further behind. However, for a PS2 racer Arctic Edge looks great. Huge mountain vistas are gorgeous and there’s minimal graphics pop-in. 3.7 Control
MotorStorm controls like a standard racer, and for the most part they’re intuitive and easy to use. The cars control quite well, too. And with the exception of the ATV, every one of them is fun in its own way. 4.3 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The soundtrack in Arctic Edge is expansive and upbeat. It’s a great addition to this game and helps you get pumped up for the race. Sound effects are magnificent as well, helping the player feel the power of the vehicles. 3.5 Play Value
MotorStorm is somewhat lacking in modes and multiplayer, but the core game here is good. If you like the MotorStorm formula, then you’ll find something to like here, just don’t expect to be blown away. It’s not an especially large gaming experience, but it’s also priced at an inexpensive $30, which helps sooth some of those woes. 3.7 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.