Motorstorm Apocalypse Impressions – GDC 2011

There were many games playable in the Sony Bloggers Lounge at GDC 2011, but one was getting quite a bit of attention, and that was the 2 kiosks running Motorstorm Apocalypse. Fully playable in 3D or not, the franchise has gotten even bigger and more fantastic than before. In this instance, the races all take place in a fictional city that’s all too similar to San Francisco, and the tracks available were a testament to how much fun driving through a disaster can be (without the threat of actual death as a 50-story skyscraper falls on top of you.)

I was able to play a few tracks over the course of the week, some in 3D and some not. What a saw was a much larger upgrade than we saw from the first to Pacific Rift. Also, this time the venues are a bit more on the fantastic side than the landscapes that we’ve previously raced on. The first race I had took place along the sea. A hurricane had rolled-in, and as waves crashed against the sea walls, rain and debris pummeled my vehicle. At the same time, control was at a premium, as the huge winds were actually pushing me around the track. Everything looked brilliant, with all new lighting, and textures that stunned my senses, all while never stuttering or slowing in any way. The newest feature you’ll notice are the environmental events that can be triggered in certain circumstances. Unlike Split Second (you’ll see a lot of comparisons elsewhere) that has events in the same spots and can only be done when you’ve built-up a meter, the events that can be triggered in MS:A rely more on what’s happening at that time, and if any race competitors are in front of you. During this track, an icon appeared to hit Triangle. When I did so, I suddenly saw a huge ship quickly appear on the left of my screen, as the storm washed it ashore and onto the left side of the track, blocking one of the forks in the road.

Other events can include rock walls shooting-up from underground, huge buildings toppling onto the track, and even a tornado that can scoop enemies up. I heard more than a feel people exclaim their surprise and amazement while playing the game, and the ways that the tracks can suddenly change is pretty breathtaking. All of this is capped-off by a very noticeable bump in graphical fidelity. The Motorstorm games have always looked great, but Apocalypse definitely takes the crown as the best looking in the series, especially since it was built from the ground up for 3D, and it shows.

The 3D is some of the smoothest I’ve seen yet, and like in Gran Turismo 5, actually helps by giving the proper perception of depth around corners and when avoiding obstacles. I was amazed that it never got obtrusive or annoying, and that nothing was lost in terms of framerate or texture resolution (some 3D games seem to get a bit muddy when in 3D mode, but not this one.)

Another new addition this time is night driving, and I can’t believe how well done it is. The headlights actually work like you’d expect from a real car, and especially while driving through tunnels and in the subway, the effect is quite beautiful. Racing through the city streets at night added another layer of excitement and terror, and honestly, I can’t believe we went without this option until now. It definitely shakes things up, and the added variety just keeps the game fresh for that much longer.

The best part of all of this is that it still has that Motorstorm feel. Everything is there from bumping to boosting and searching for tight shortcuts. As far as we could see, all of the vehicle classes that you know and love are present, and the interaction with the track is even better than before. This isn’t just some quick update to the franchise, this is really an entirely new re-imagining of what’s already out there. We got even more details in an interview, which you’ll see exclusively in PlayStation Home very soon. Check it out if you’d like to hear even more details, including the new multiplayer wagering system, and the ability to upgrade and customize your vehicles. Oh yeah, customizable race types anyone?

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  • I love how there’s a tank in one of the screen shots, lol

  • The MotorStorm franchise hasn’t interested me in the past, but the trailer for Apocalypse has definitely piqued my interest. It lookes like a cross between FUEL (Codemasters, 2009) and SPLIT/SECOND (Black Rock, 2010). Would that be a fair assumption? Is MS Apocalypse like any racing game we’ve seen before?

    • Anonymous

      Have you played Motorstorm? Motorstorm: Pacific Rift is pretty awesome! The game engine is pretty cool on the realism of collisions. You should check it out and add me as a friend on the PSN, okay. 😉

  • Anonymous

    This is the first Motorstorm game I actually like! I live in Europe, and have therefore got the game earlier than you, Americans. Really digg the game 🙂 I’d give it a 5/6

  • Anonymous

    I am so excited about this game. One thing that is not entirely accurate in this article is about night driving. The first Motorstorm had it sometimes too. I was annoying though as it would seem too dark at times.