Thursday, May 5, 2011

"MotorStorm Apocalypse" mixes racing, natural disasters

Developed by: Evolution Studios
Published by: Sony Computer Entertainment
Available: NOW
Available on: PS3 exclusive
Rating: T (for Teen)
Price: $59.99

The Motorstorm franchise has been about one thing - winning the race, no holds barred. Second is not good enough - you either win races, earn respect, or come in last. The crashes and explosions are as fun as the devil to watch. When I heard the newest Motorstorm was set in a knock-off of The City - aka San Francisco, my interest was piqued.

Developed by Evolution Studios and published by Sony Computer Entertainment, Motorstorm: Apocalypse does something that no other Motorstorm in the series has - change tracks during the race.

You remember the racing video game Split/Second? You know how obstacles would fall into your path and you'd have to swerve to avoid them? Well, buckle your seat belts, race fans, you're in for one crazy ride.

The single player campaign takes place in three stages. First, you play as the rookie, Mash. After finishing from his viewpoint, you play as Tyler, the pro. The cycle continues when you play as the veteran, Big Dog. Each stage, as expected, gets much harder. As Mash, you have to finish in the top 5. As Tyler, you have to finish in the top 3 racers.

That is where the comparison to other racers ends. The racing takes place on this ritzy island that is about to be hit with an earthquake. *Most* of the locals have been evacuated and a security force is there to protect the wealthy assets left behind. The only people left are Crazies - and I am not kidding when I say crazy. They find themselves on the tracks during races and often end up as fender ketchup. This aspect of the game was really a shocker for me. I have let my children play the first Motorstorm in the past.

This time, instead of busting a move with SOCOM 4 while my children were in the room, I plopped Apocalypse into the PS3. The first cartoon-like storyboards were interesting. Then, as the race started, I noticed the people scattered on the track weren't moving. I blinked for a minute and thought I was Niko in Grand Theft Auto IV! And I won't mention the Molotov cocktails those clowns were hurling during the races, which contributed heavily to my engine running hot.

Yes, I've dealt with haters on the track before (the closest movie scene where something similar happens is during the Anakin Skywalker pod race in The Phantom Menace) but they weren't the only obstacles. The security detail, Dusklite, is set on cracking down on racers with deadly force. They have helos, heavy weapons and will use force to get you out of Dodge.

The other interesting thing about MA? The tracks you race a lap around sometimes change. Dramatically. Throughout the game, you'll witness skyscrapers falling from the aftershocks, you'll see helos crashing and exploding cars that you'll have to negotiate to win races. You may find a shortcut you love on a level, but alas, in your next lap it may be completely gone thanks to Mother Nature.

As far as racing, know this - you will crash. Often. You'll find yourself hitting X or the select button to reset yourself. Don't get mad. You've been warned. However, it's still fun to zip around past falling buildings, exploding vehicles and even going NASCAR on your opponents and rubbing them while you are racing.

The graphics are good, but not great. The explosions and sense of speed is killer, and the deteriorating environments are wicked. The car models look good though during a few races, I noticed some pixelation on the cars, including my vehicle.

The sounds are intense. I rocked the game with the Turtle Beach PX5 headphones and the surround sounds were sweet. You can hear the bombs exploding on all sides, as well as Dusklite's choppers going OFF. The soundtrack is an interesting mix, though it's nothing to write home about.

Stop,  drop, shut 'em down, open up shop ...

Stop, drop, shut 'em down, open up shop ...

Really, Motorstorm would have worked great without a story. Sure, it adds some depth to the game, but overall, anyone buying this video game will buy it for the insane and over-the-top racing. If someone wants to play a racing game with a story, I'd motor past this one.

Should you pick it up? I had a blast with it, though the Crazies and the Jack Bauer body count was something I didn't really expect. Still, it does what it does best - give you a solid racing experience, even if it's wild and over the top.

Editor's note: Due to PSN being offline, I was not able to play any multiplayer modes of the game. I am basing my score on single-player mode only.

The Verdict? 8 (out of 10). The racer reminds me so much like Black Rock Studio's hit Split/Second, with all sorts of obstacles thrown at you to race past. Add the unpredictable element of a rowdy crowd, natural disaster and a security force with heavy weapons, and you have the makings of Twisted Metal. Still, it's fun, but be warned: You don't need young children in the room during racetime.

A glitch explained: I noticed some of the sound cut during one of the cartoon cutscenes. Thought it was just me and overlooked it. After seeing the original cutscene on Kotaku, I realized it was just edited out, probably last minute, especially with one of the characters mentioning "There goes Tokyo," in reference to Lena kicking over the toy city, with an obvious nod to Godzilla. Thankfully, the line was edited out, but without any sound there, it raises a lot of red flags.

Here's the scene - the retail version vs. the original cut.

No comments: