Review: Motorstorm Apocalypse (PS3)

Title: Motorstorm Apocalypse
Format: Blu-ray
Release Date: May 3, 2011 (US territory)
Publisher: Sony
Developer: Evolution Studios
Original MSRP: $59.99
Extras: 3D Compatible

Why tinker with a good thing? I’ve been asking that question since first getting my hands on Motorstorm Apocalypse. I’m a huge fan of the Motorstorm franchise and as is typical with fanboys I was hoping for more of the same rather than a new approach to my favorite racing series. Change isn’t always a bad thing however as Evolution Studios has proven with Motorstorm Apocalypse.

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 214 of the podcast.

At its core, Motorstorm is still an arcade racer with an emphasis on vehicle interaction within rugged terrains and off road racing. Vehicles range drastically from ATV’s and motorcycles all the way up to rally cars and monster trucks.

The fun is in combining the different vehicle types with tracks that have multiple paths which cater to the strengths and weaknesses of the vehicles. ATV’s and motorcycles can access higher ground and tighter areas whereas the larger vehicles are more tied to the beaten path and can handle muddy sections more optimally.

The developers have taken a different approach with Motorstorm Apocalypse and have changed the backdrop to a city that loosely resembles San Francisco. In order for a city setting to work, an apocalypse motif has been added and it’s quite the addition.

Driving on city streets during the apocalypse is more akin to off road driving and therefore is a better fit in the Motorstorm universe. Racing through a downtown area that is being ripped to shreds by a hurricane or across rooftops and blown over buildings is where it’s at.

The single player story (Festival mode) is told through the eyes of three main characters; Mash (rookie), Tyler (pro) and Big Dog (veteran). Played in order of difficulty each character’s story is presented through motion comic style cutscenes between every race. Each story intertwines but for the most part is unique to each character.

The total of all three stories takes somewhere between 4-8 hours if no time is spent searching for the collectible cards that are hidden throughout the races. If the campaign is approached more meticulously, the time of completion increases significantly especially considering the difficulty in finding all the hidden cards some of which are only available once during a race. In addition to the story mode there are other races and race types available through ‘Wreckation’ (free play).

Driving each vehicle type is fun in and of itself. Rather than fighting with the controller, time can be spent learning each track and the available paths which is almost required later in the campaign. On higher difficulty races the opponent “rubber banding” is sometimes tough to beat so not crashing becomes more key.

Especially as the tracks destruct and deform as dramatically as they do. Sometimes lap 2 and 3 look different from lap 1 due to the changes occurring as a result of the environmental destruction. This factor contributes to more crashes and creates the need for memorization on later tracks specifically memorizing where and when certain parts of the track will change or when new obstructions will appear. Destruction is not necessarily a timed event but does tend to occur at the same time and location. Steering feels looser than prior Motorstorm games but like most other racers you get used to the style after a bunch of playthroughs.

The apocalypse events are a sight to behold and look magnificent! Driving through all the destruction is an absolute blast. Vehicle and environmental textures look sharp but not as sharp as the best games on the system. There’s some disparity between the motion comic cut scenes and the in-game graphics specifically with the lead characters.

In game characters look “realistic” unlike their motion comic counterparts so when switching from a cut scene to a race you can immediately spot the difference and it is sometimes is strange to look at. Most graphically impressive is the lighting system. Not only are vehicle headlights functional in dark races, they also reflect off environmental surfaces as they would in real life. It’s quite impressive to say the least.

The same is true with the lighting that relates to destruction events. A fire caused by an event can be seen shining in the distance and when you drive closer you’ll start to see the fire’s light reflecting onto other buildings, in water, etc. For a game that puts so much emphasis on racing through destruction, Evolution Studios has done a fantastic job creating a world and race venues that feel as epic and over-the-top as you’d hope.

NOTE: I did not try the game in 3D mode since I didn’t have access to a 3D TV

Crank up the surround sound because the sound effects are superb. They compliment the destruction nicely and explosions boom and rattle like some of the best sounding Hollywood movies currently hitting theaters.

In-game music has changed from formerly being rock/alternative to more of a trance/electronic style. Works well with the frantic racing but is definitely different from prior entries in the series which seemed to focus more on the hard rock sound. That’s OK because you can utilize custom soundtracks and listen to whatever music you’d like. Not saying the music is bad however; trance music just isn’t my style of racing music. All sound is adjustable so finding your preferred blend of in-game sound effects and music is just a couple sliders away within the options menu.

The Call of Duty Modern Warfare experience points and perks system continues to influence not only first person shooters but also other genres. Evolution Studios chose to add their own form of experience points known as “Chips”. Before each online race begins, you can wager chips against one other racer.

If you best that racer at the completion of the race you can win the number of chips wagered. These opponents appear with a “rival” marker over their vehicle during races which makes it easy to quickly see if you’re near, behind or in front of them. There’s increased risk/reward with wagering chips because the more you win in a row, the more chips that can be earned.

Online multiplayer also includes perks that can be used to tweak your racing style before each race similar to the perks in Modern Warfare. Additional perks can be purchased with chips.

Online races can include anywhere from 2 to 16 players. There’s also split screen options, something that’s sadly becoming rare these days, and allows up to four players on one television. You can mix and match split screen and online races which allows for you and a few friends to jump into an online race together all whilst playing on the same television or a combination of same television and online. Creates many options for multiplayer racing.

Motorstorm continues to be my favorite arcade racing series this generation of consoles. Apocalypse takes all that I enjoy with the series and ramps up the chaos even further which I previously thought impossible.

The inclusion of destruction events not only is a blast to navigate through and look at, but it also creates more tension and excitement within each race. Add to that the depth of online multiplayer “chips” system and Motorstorm Apocalypse is sure to please even the most dedicated and hard-core racing crowd. Some minor gripes aside Motorstorm Apocalypse is a must own for PS3 racing fans especially those that like more of an arcade, chaotic race.


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