After pausing to pay its respects to victims of Japan's earthquake crisis, the latest Motorstorm races to store shelves today, but first it must navigate the assembled video game critics in the Motorstorm: Apocalypse Frankenreview.
Motorstorm: Apocalypse is the third game in Evolution Studios' over-the-top off-the-road racing series for the PlayStation 3, an evolution of the original Motorstorm and its sequel, Motorstorm: Pacific Rift. This time around the action shifts from exotic locales to exotic circumstances. The City has been struck by a devastating earthquake, and when the regular citizens are evacuated, it's time for the brain damaged racers to come play. They'll race through crumbling buildings, dodging and weaving as the streets heave and hurl around them.
The tracks are more perilous than ever in Motorstorm: Apocalypse, but not quite as perilous as attempting to garner the favor of the assembled video game critics.
It's an extremely unfortunate time to be releasing a game with a theme like this. However, developer Evolution Studios can't be blamed for failing to anticipate current events in Japan, and it's to Sony's credit that they've decided to hold back the game's release, saying "We're doing everything we can to be as sensitive as possible to the situation. Although the game itself is already in distribution, we are ceasing any further shipments and removing as much of the marketing materials as possible." Those who had been looking forward to the game can rest assured that the extra wait to play it will be worth it. It's a seriously fun and very over-the-top racer that should provide hours of entertainment.
The most meaningful change to Apocalypse is also its most obvious one; the setting. Every track takes place in and around a fictional city that has been and continues to be devastated by natural disasters (not to mention the occasional crashing planes, airstrikes and derailing trains). This new location not only helps give the game a greater sense of identity but also allows for some impressive and track altering set pieces. Structures and parts of the landscape will impressively crumble and shift to block or open up parts of the environment which initially encourages some quick thinking from players. However, with persistent play you'll gradually learn where and when said events will occur so the illusion of dynamism doesn't last all that long.
You play through this two-day festival three times, from the perspectives of a Rookie, a Pro and a Veteran. There's a story of sorts written around these three characters, presented in rough but snappy 'motion comic' cut-scenes between races: it's inconsequential, but doesn't take itself seriously or waste much of your time. The great benefit of Evolution's approach is the sharp sense of time and place lent to each race as the light and weather change (there's a terrifying storm in the grey early morning of the second day), the quakes worsen, the city collapses and war breaks out between the mercenary and lunatic gangs also roaming the disaster zone. This is cleverly strengthened by the triple perspectives on the festival, giving you the chance to see the same locations at different stages of ruin as well as try new track configurations.
The unpredictability of the end of the world is equal parts frustrating and refreshing. Not having any control over the changes in the environments is what makes Motorstorm Apocalypse so thrilling, even after restarting a race for the first or 15th time. As tracks change, memorization becomes more important than quick reflexes. Make no mistake: you will crash in Apocalypse. A lot. Everything moves so quickly that it's tough to avoid the dense debris. It's a sensational feeling to narrowly avoid a new obstruction, but losing at the last minute because of it incites controller-crushing rage.
The addition of a four-player, split screen offline mode is an absolute God-send, but the multiplayer mode is really where MotorStorm: Apocalypse's longevity lies. Sixteen players can go head-to-head across all the tracks from the single player campaign, with a plethora of options available. With the ability to take advantage of a cool variety of load-outs and perks for your vehicles, it's a rewarding levelling system that offers a well-paced progression through the ranks. Customization is also fairly in-depth with the ability to modify the handling of your vehicle and apply vinyl's to pimp your ride. It's unlikely anyone will take any notice as you hurtle around the tracks at lightning speed, but it does give you the option to apply that personal touch and is easy to get to grips with to boot. You can't beat going head-to-head against human opposition in any racing game, and with the chaotic scenes engulfing the scenery around you, MotorStorm: Apocalypse's multiplayer component should keep arcade race fans busy for some time.
If MotorStorm Apocalypse proposes in his solo part of the fashion festival a great opportunity to have fun immediately without taking the head with a great show, fun and adrenaline at its height, it is in truth the whole way he must bow low to his options, game modes and Multi. Well above the previous section, this album is finally balanced, pleasant to take control without being too straight forward ... but also completely blocked! In short, a défouloir high quality, advising fans to race!