Gone are the desert, tropical island and arctic tracks in this latest MotorStorm game, replaced instead with a city in the grip of a natural disaster. That’s variety for ya!
The MotorStorm brand of arcade racing games have always offered a pure arcade experience pitting different types of vehicles against each other across some incredibly memorable, and quite often visually impressive, tracks. Apocalypse is no different in this aspect and will certainly be memorable given the subject matter of a natural disaster and the relative proximity of the release date with what is one of the worst natural disasters in history. But the timing was just unlucky on Sony’s part.
Stringing together the games Festival Mode is a story of sorts, all told through animated comic panels. Whilst this is something new to link together the linear gameplay, and it is presented reasonably well in an adrenaline junkie style, the story is largely forgettable and really has no impact on the racing. The game has three difficulty levels, with each needing to be progressed through to unlock the next, and each represented by a different character whose tale is intertwined with the main story. The festival takes place over the course of two days and the player will find themselves racing at different times of the day, in different vehicles, with each of the characters, having to come third or better to progress, until the climax.
There is absolutely no choice for the player in Festival Mode. You move from one race to the next and drive whichever vehicle you are given. But there is quite a selection of different vehicles, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. From the small motorbikes and ATVs, through buggies and rally cars, right the way up to big rigs and monster trucks, the variety is impressive. As with the other MotorStorm games, the main highlight is pitting these different vehicles against each other. The small, nimble bikes can take advantage of more shortcuts, yet will get pummeled if mixing it up with a monster truck. Supercars have the speed, but the handling is much looser than the rally cars. As the player has no choice but to use each vehicle that is offered, they will be constantly forced to adjust their tactics, keeping the game fresh.
Beyond Festival Mode, the player has the chance to set up their own races, choosing whichever tracks and vehicles that they want. There is also the multiplayer option, which includes both four-player local split-screen and up to 16 players online. I have not been able to try the game out online yet, due to the PSN downtime.
Arcade racing games are relatively standard fare now and MotorStorm Apocalypse doesn’t really bring anything especially new to the table. But what makes it stand out, above a lot of the other games in this genre, are the visuals and track designs. Due to the races taking place in a city that is falling apart around you, the tracks can change from one lap to the next, as debris clutters the roads or massive buildings tumble, revealing a new shortcut. Then there are some of the tracks themselves, racing across a suspension bridge that is violently shaking or across the roofs of skyscrapers, where plummeting to your doom is a very real possibility. The tracks, with everything going on around them, are very impressive and give a real sense of urgency to the racing. The visuals are all very well polished and give the game a very appealing look.
But these constantly changing tracks also have a down side. Given the linear nature of the Festival Mode, which is the main game mode, it just becomes too easy to accidentally catch some debris, or turn too early, or make any kind of mistake and find yourself going from first to last and failing to complete the race. This becomes even more apparent as the player progresses to the higher difficulties and finds themselves having to run the same race over and over, looking for third place or better, just to unlock the next race. So easily can the player get tapped by one of the somewhat aggressive AI racers and find themselves spinning out of control and losing the race. It can be slightly frustrating.
But that can be overlooked as the game looks so damn pretty. The developers have done an excellent job of creating a city in the midst of a natural disaster that becomes a playground for adrenaline junkies. The MotorStorm games have always played really well, and Apocalypse is no different. Fans of the series will enjoy the new dynamic location and newcomers will be eased in with the gentle learning curve variety of different vehicles. It may not be groundbreaking, but what it does, it does whilst looking damn good.