MotorStorm: Arctic Edge Hands-On: From The Land Of The Ice And Snow

Sony's MotorStorm series is making the move to the PSP (and PlayStation 2) later this year, trading in sun, sea, and sand for snow, with MotorStorm: Arctic Edge, Bigbig Studios frenzied frosty sequel.

Sony showed off the latest version at its most recent PlayStation Gamers Day, giving us hands-on time with the PlayStation Portable entry, which did an impressive job of capturing the feel of the previous entries, MotorStorm and MotorStorm: Pacific Rift, just on a smaller scale.

Normally, I can't tolerate ice levels, but Arctic Edge seems surprisingly capable, a testament to Pursuit Force developer Bigbig's PSP prowess.

What Is It?
MotorStorm: Arctic Edge is an on-the-go version of the over-the-top multi-vehicle racing series that does for snow what the first two MotorStorm games did for dirt and mud. The visual fidelity is obviously nowhere near its PlayStation 3 predecessors, but little else seems to have been sacrificed. Arctic Edge supports up to 8 players in ad hoc wireless mode and adds snowmobiles to the vehicle lineup.

What We Saw
I played through two of the game's tracks, Wolfpack Mountain and Ascension, testing out the new snowmobiles and the big rig. It was a strictly single-player affair.

How Far Along Is It?
Good question. The game's release date is still officially TBD and the dev kit build we were working on was clearly in the alpha stage of development. Only a couple of tracks were playable.

What Needs Improvement?
Visual Information: Arctic Edge, because it's set in so much snow, delivers a lot of white, gray and brown to the LCD screen. It may just take some getting used to, but the layout of each course was a little difficult to sort out, especially at high speeds. Bigbig has tried to offset some of this by using brighter colors for signage and other markers, but it was a little visually confusing.

Crash Physics: I crashed. A lot. And I used to be rather good at the original MotorStorm, so it was a tad frustrating. Occasionally, explosive crashes happened during unexpected nudges with the environment, a problem that reared its head when playing pre-release versions of the original MotorStorm. That may just take some collision detection tweaking—or maybe just a bigger dose of racing skill.

What Should Stay The Same?
The Feel: Arctic Edge unmistakably feels like a MotorStorm game, even if it doesn't carry some of the same bells and whistles of its bigger brothers. It's speedy, maybe a little too barren, but looks like a respectable portable version of the previous games.

The Color Scheme: Bigbig has gone bold for the Arctic Edge interface, using bright magenta, cyan and yellow throughout, helping menus and on-field items stand out. That's a good start, but could still use a little tweaking, to make track paths easier to suss out. They'll probably take some flak for their retro choices, but I dig it.

Final Thoughts
MotorStorm: Arctic Edge may lack the visual fireworks of its forebears, but its still a solid-looking racer. Can we just cool it with the pre-rendered MotorStorm trailers please?