Off Road and On Track
MotorStorm, from Evolution Studios and SCEA, is a hardcore racing romp across a fictional Monument Valley. Mud, truck parts, and drivers all will fly when you open up the throttle and motor through the chaos. This racer focuses on delivering the highest quality graphics and frustratingly difficult A.I. The craftsmanship that went into the title is apparent throughout the game. Racing fans start your engines! MotorStorm will transport you to an exhilarating world of off-road adventure.
The opening intro sets the tone for this gorgeous racer. The CG trailer has you gliding around the ancient rocks of a parallel Utah, following the dusty rooster tails of far-off vehicles, and then swooping in close to witness a muddy, visceral off-road competition. The voiceover work here is great and you will feel as if you were watching the trailer for a summer blockbuster. The game’s story is based on a festival where racing fanatics congregate annually to listen to alternative rock and watch an unsanctioned off-road world championship. Take up the challenge and try to become the festival’s champion by accumulating enough points across the various stages to be crowned the king of the mud and dust.
The graphics in this game are the heart and soul of the title. Great care and attention to detail was paid to the environments and the physics. You will feel as if you are actually in an off-road race, busting around corners and spraying up debris. Mud will spit off your treads realistically, and crashes are a thing of beauty. Regrettably, after the first couple of races you will wish you could skip the crash sequence because it takes so long for it to play out. Also, the mud that spits up onto your windshield in first person mode is novel. Lamentably, not all vehicles allow you to choose a first person view, and the mud will still blur the third person camera, which gets pretty annoying. Overall, this is a visually stunning game that will put your PS3’s hardware to the test as evidenced by the occasional shutter and glitch.
The gameplay of this racer is similar to Evolution’s World Rally Championship (WRC) games, but with a much harder edge. Winning, obviously, is the objective of every race, but more times than not, just surviving the perils of the course seems to be a challenge in and of itself. To make matters worse, the other competitors will do their best to ensure you do your worst. The A.I. in this racer is quite good and will actually adjust its aggressiveness to match those of the player. These opponents will try to cut you off, bump you into rock walls, and T-bone you. They will react to the track conditions, take the best lines, and find the quickest paths for their vehicle. Many times, I have been cruising toward the finish line, only to have my car smashed to smithereens by a big rig or be pushed into an errant boulder by a wimpy ATV. This is at times frustrating, but will serve as a training ground for online battles, where human opponents, from half a world away will be equally as ruthless.
Online play is an absolute blast. Rubbing up against the competition in this “no holds barred” racer will have you shrieking with delight. Your PS3 will autosave your profile, making sure your hard won stats are safe. While joining a new race in the lobby, you can check out the vital statistics of the other entrants to find out who’s the top dog. This will prove useful in divining a race strategy. Again, winning isn’t everything, but ending an eleven-year-old gaming prodigy’s win streak at 24 by careening him into a rock face will be quite satisfying. Unfortunately, the limited number of tracks will have the luster of this title’s online play fading quickly. Be prepared to shell out some extra dough, in order to purchase more tracks and vehicles, to keep the flame alive.
Terrain in this game is a character all its own. This is due to the game’s implementation of real-time track deformation. Every vehicle that passes through the muddy course will leave its own ruts that will stay throughout the race. This is a really neat visual effect that adds greatly to the realism. However, except for the smallest vehicles, the ruts left never really slowed me down or changed my strategy in any marked way. The visual component of the track deformation is really nice though. In addition to track deformation, the courses utilize a branching track layout, which makes for challenging races. The different paths have varying terrain types and road conditions. These differences can either be an advantage or an impediment, depending on the vehicle you have chosen. For example, big rigs absolutely tear up mud, while buggies just spin their knobby wheels. I am not sure if that makes much sense, but that’s how it is. Conversely, motorbikes are quick and agile and are great for taking on the dusty high roads, leaping from rock to rock, and from ramp to ramp. If you tried this with a racing truck, you would find yourself frequently falling from the precarious heights. As a rule of thumb, the bigger your vehicle is the lower on the course you should stay. To keep yourself on track and competitive, look for the little yellow warning signs along the paths that indicate which type of vehicle will excel there, and which ones will be utterly useless. This is really handy in the beginning, when you first come across a track. Furthermore, because the game is set in Monument Valley, you will find yourself constantly challenged by the topography. The careless will often find their vehicles scattered into hundreds of pieces at the bases of giant rock formations. On the other hand, the overly prudent will find themselves at the back of the pack, never challenging for hardware.