Over the last four years, Evolution Studios has creating visually stunning arcade racers for the PS3 in their fantastic Motorstorm franchise. But what was mind-blowing in 2007 is taken for granted in 2011. Does Motorstorm: Apocalypse meet today’s expectations? Motorstorm is back in the only logical place left on Earth. After traversing the dusty and muddy canyons, to the lush and tropical islands of the Pacific and the cold, wintery world of Alaska, the urban environment seems like the best place to go. Franchise staples such as mind-blowing speed, gut-wrenching turns, and intense action are all taken to the next level in the trilogy’s ultimate conclusion. Not only will you be competing with your opponents but against other people trying to ruin the entire race, and even Mother Nature herself. Sounds like a walk in the park, right?
Making its first appearance in Motorstorm is a story mode, explaining the nuances of the Motorstorm Festival. An earthquake has ravaged a coastal city and, after being evacuated, the Motorstormers decide that it’s the perfect place to fit their thrill-seeking addiction. While at the end of the day the game is still a racer, the story mode doesn’t detract any bit from the overall experience. There is an odd quirk though that seems contradictory to the franchise experience. Extravagant crashes have always been part of the Motorstorm experience, but you always get back right into the action to continue the race. It seems too contradictory to the subtle jabs at human mortality in the story. While it doesn’t hold the core game back, it’s just something interesting to think about.
The story mode also nicely sets up the difficulty stages for the game. Apocalypse follows the lives of three different racers throughout the Motorstorm Festival, a rookie, a pro, and a veteran. Each character experiences the entire Festival from a unique point of view, so to get the entire story you must play through all the levels. The AI can be a little inconsistent though. While the earlier races seem impossible to get anything BUT first, the later races seem hard to just qualify in. Of course it’s possible to win, but it won’t be happening any time in the beginning. Changing the pace between the action, the cutscenes are told in stylized motion comics, very similar to Sucker Punch’s work in Sly Cooper and inFamous. No matter what part of the game you are in, the visuals are stunning. Fortunately, the gameplay is just as good.
Motorstorm‘s appeal has always been the depth of the different vehicle classes, and Apocalypse doesn’t fail to impress. The next entry actually brings in five new vehicles, adding to the other games’ eight, for a total of thirteen to choose from. Well, “choose from” is a relative term. Throughout the entire story mode, the game decides which ride you’ll be using in any particular race. This forces you to become at least proficient, if not comfortable, with every racing class in the entire game. You may be particularly partial to the new Superbike, but you can’t use that as much as you want until you leave single player. This greatly improves the campaign by being able to design the track layout to the smallest degree that would make the game that much more difficult or enjoyable.
But even with the campaign courses designed around a specific type of vehicle, that doesn’t mean they are completely unraceable in a different craft. In fact, that only adds to the difficulty and fun of the experience overall. Nearly every twist and turn of Motorstorm: Apocalypse has a branching pathway to travel, encouraging you to go off the “main” course and explore the beautifully rendered landscape. Another new treat introduced with Apocalypse are small collectible cards. They offer nothing but small pieces of concept art from across the franchise, but they are so expertly hidden in each of the courses that you might not see any of the possible 5 in just one level. They exist for no reason but trophy lovers, but it creates for yet another layer of replayability. Continue reading…