PS3 Review – Motorstorm: Pacific Rift

Set in a breathtaking tropical landscape, the latest racing title from Evolution Studios sets out to rectify several glaring problems from the original Motorstorm, as well as refine the racing style that has defined this series so well.Though some may view this title as an expansion rather than a full-fledged sequel, the inclusion of water, fire and vegetation within Pacific Rift’s environments adds another layer of depth to the gameplay.

For those unfamiliar with the franchise, what makes Motorstorm so unique is its diverse vehicle roster. While other franchises focus strictly on Cars or ATVs, Pacific Rift offers a total of eight different vehicle classes. This list includes Motorcycles, Buggies, ATVs, Rally Cars, Racing Trucks, Mudpluggers, Big Rigs, and Monster Trucks. Although the number of vehicle classes involved is staggering, the developers have made great strides to ensure that the game is accessible for those who are new to the franchise.

During the early stages, players are exposed to just a few vehicle classes in each race. This forces players to pay attention to the distinct advantages and disadvantages of each vehicle class, and often encourages experimentation. In addition to this, the environments have multiple pathways, hidden shortcuts and varied terrain. The verticality of some of these levels is impressive, and guarantees wild speed runs down cliffs and mountainsides.

The truth strength of Pacific Rift’s level design is exposed when the player ends up playing the same track over again, but in a different vehicle class than before. And this will happen dozens of times over the course of the game. Just when you feel that you’ve mastered Caldera Ridge or Paradise Beach, the game forces you to rethink your racing lines and driving habits. Paths that were once safe when facing motorcycles or ATVs suddenly become death traps when pitted against the Big Rigs and Monster Trucks. Jumps that were annoyances in the heavier vehicles become havens for the motorcycles. And shortcuts blocked off by barriers can be plowed through if the player’s vehicle is big enough. With sixteen tracks to choose from, excitement is never in short supply.

The single-player Campaign is based off the ticket system used in Motorstorm 1, but with the levels clearly divided by four themes: Earth, Air, Water, and Fire. There are four in each section, and the user has an RPG-like progress bar that keeps track of how well they’re doing overall. Bronzes will do just fine in order to progress through most of the game, but silvers and golds are rewarded with higher points, and thus open racing opportunities much faster. There are also a ton of secrets to unlock, such as artwork and videos.

Also worth mentioning is the included Photo Mode, which is accessed during single-player by pressing the Start button on the controller.  The camera can be freely moved through the environment, allowing you to choose the optimal angle. All photos are stored on the hard drive for easy access. While not as robust as the Photo mode in Wipeout HD, it’s still loads of fun to navigate crash scenes that are frozen in time.

Multiplayer is enhanced with the addition of split-screen, and it supports up to four players at once. Online has also seen some improvements as well. Instead of the annoying server roster that was patched into Motorstorm 1, Pacific Rift’s online system is quick and easy. It offers Ranked, Unranked, and Custom matches against online adversaries. Other than that, there’s little else the game offers besides the usual Time Attack mode.

While some additional modes would have been desired, what matters is that the content that IS there is amazing. Everything from the music to the art direction is spot on, and the developers have definitely outdone themselves in level design and physics implementation. There’s no better off-road title to show off to your friends than Pacific Rift. It’s polished, kinetic, and full of heart-stopping action.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

Physics interactions are much improved.

Clever use of fire, water, and vegetation.

Filled with countless heart pounding, action-packed moments.

9 out of 10