Not So Pacific
MotorStorm: Pacific Rift takes PS3 owners back to the mayhem of the world’s most dangerous racing festival. The red Coyote and Road Runner landscapes of Utah’s Monument Valley have been substituted by a far more diverse Hawaii-like Pacific island. The change in geography, subtle tweaks to gameplay, and even more polished controls make this beautiful racer a more enjoyable experience than its predecessor, while maintaining the arcade feel and festival vibe of the original.
The MotorStorm uninitiated should know that this is an arcade racer that uses incredible graphics, a wonderful sense of speed, off-road tracks, bump and grind tactics, and branched routing to distinguish itself. Unlike sim racers such as NASCAR and Formula 1, players are free to find their own lines to the finish. As such, courses race very differently depending on what route you take, which vehicle you choose, and even what lap you’re on (shortcuts previously closed off by obstacles may have been opened up by the A.I. blasting through on the first lap). If I had to compare this racer to anything, I would say MotorStorm: Pacific Rift is most similar to the X-Games’ Boarder-X, but with 16 cars and a lot more destruction. The resulting hectic gameplay is a blast with both humans and A.I. competitors.
The Pacific island backdrop of MotorStorm: Pacific Rift proves to be the perfect setting to show off the series’ trademark visuals and to expand the types of tracks available to participants. Track environments run the gamut from lush tropical jungles filled with mud and waterfalls to the desolate fiery inferno of obsidian-laden, volcanic debris fields. These courses are divided into four types: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. As you can imagine, each course under that descriptor uses the element to define the track. Earth tracks tend to be muddy and filled with vegetation. Air tracks feature suspended sections and jumps. Fire races have players manage the extreme heat of lava fields and avoid the perilous magma at all costs. Finally, Water courses feature a lot of stream beds and waterfalls.
Players will advance through the MotorStorm festival by bopping around the various terrain categories, earning points for a win, place, or show, and then unlocking new tracks, racers, custom paint jobs, vehicles, and challenges. All this unlocking, like in the original, propels gamers forward by rewarding their accomplishments with worthwhile content; while rising up through the MotorStorm ranks, players will be treated to interesting twists on new and familiar tracks with expanded sections, cool new automobiles that handle very distinctly, and challenges that completely change a race’s characteristics. Familiar tracks are continually being augmented with new portions that force you to learn new lines.
Also, Pacific Rift offers players eight different classes of vehicles to choose from, including monster trucks, ATVs, rally cars, buggies, motorbikes, race trucks, mudpluggers, and big rigs. The multitude of interesting and disparate vehicles that become available all control very uniquely, and they allow players to take on tracks in completely different ways. Often, I found tracks to be a breeze to pass through with certain vehicles, but then they became quite challenging to best with others, until I found the appropriate line to take. This provides for a lot of replay value.
Finally, opening up new challenge tickets will also test your driving ability in distinct ways. For instance, the aptly named Wreck Limit challenge is similar to a standard race except you’ll have to get around the track without exceeding a crash allotment. This makes you take a far less aggressive approach. There are also Speed challenges that feel like a cross between a slalom course and the old Outrun! arcade titles, where your time is extended by passing through gates. This challenge emphasizes finesse and efficiency. Finally, my favorite challenge was that of Eliminator, which removes contestants from the race every 15 seconds by exploding the current last place challenger’s vehicle until only the winner remains; talk about seriously frantic fun!
All in all, there are 16 courses, each packed with a lot of variety. Every course is meticulously crafted, establishes its own characteristic, and keeps gamers guessing. Though 16 courses is certainly a reasonable offering, I couldn’t help but wish there were a lot more of them. Mostly this is due to the fact that each course is beautiful and a lot of fun to race, but partly it’s due to the fact that there’s a lot of repetition over the course of the single-player campaign. Doubtless, the amount of tracks will be increased with future DLC, but I would have loved to see another half dozen out of the box.
I keep hinting at the pristine visuals but haven’t gone into depth. Well, suffice it to say that MotorStorm: Pacific Rift is not only one of the prettiest racers but also one of the best-looking games out there. The environments take detail and lighting to another level, the mud and water effects are astounding, and every race runs incredibly smoothly; there are no stability issues whatsoever. Moreover, the varied environments of the Pacific island location blow away the dusty visuals of its predecessor.
All the vehicles, physics, and crash animations are nicely depicted. Speaking of crash animations, players will be relieved to know that they have been refined and fine-tuned; no longer will players have to restlessly wait through over-the-top animations that emphasized visual awe rather than actually adding to gameplay. This is perhaps the best minor tweak to the game. All in all, the game looks even better than its predecessor.
Sounds in MotorStorm: Pacific Rift falter when compared to the excellent visuals. The effects while racing are fine, but the music selection, though fitting, is a haphazard mix of mass-marketed garage bands that haven’t gotten over the fact that amps allow for sound distortion. I realize taste in music is subjective, but the selection has a very narrow appeal. Graciously, turning down the background music in the options menu is a possibility, and the responsive control scheme the game employs will have you forget about the initial cacophony of dime-a-dozen axe-slingers. Controls remain largely untouched from the original title. In other words, they are very accurate, familiar, and user-friendly. What’s more, it seems as though the addition of new vehicles has prompted the team at Evolution to rethink the way each handles. The result is an enjoyable experience that emphasizes the strengths of each ride while causing the player to be supremely in tune with its weaknesses.
Last but certainly not least are the expanded multiplayer options in Pacific Rift. Though online multiplayer is almost identical to what was found on the original (why weren’t challenge modes offered online?), local split-screen multiplayer has been added. This allows 2-4 players to race at home with friends or family members. While split-screen action loses a lot of the visual appeal and even some of the hectic feel of the single-player campaign, it’s still nice to be able to race against people in the same living room.
MotorStorm: Pacific Rift takes everything enjoyable about the original (great graphics, hectic races, multi-route tracks, etc.) and adds a lot more variety from the new locale. Players will definitely find Pacific Rift to be a very enjoyable arcade racer that puts their PS3 to good use.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.8 Graphics
Some of the best visuals around. The sense of speed is tremendous, the environments are incredibly detailed, and crash animations have been refined. 4.4 Control
Controls are accurate and accessible. Players will appreciate just how differently each of the vehicles control. 3.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The sound effects are just fine, but the music literally screams to be muted after a while. 4.0 Play Value
This game has a wonderfully frantic racing mechanic that has wide appeal. However, improved multiplayer options aren’t quite enough to extend the very short glory of the single-player campaign. 4.3 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.