MotorStorm Apocalypse Review
Now, I was going to go into this review with a royal slating; my first initial impressions of MotorStorm Apocalypse weren’t all that great, but I took some time to reflect on my thoughts and came back to it the next day with fresh eyes. Thankfully, for this game’s sake I did, because now I ‘get’ what its developers, Evolution Studios, has decided to do with this off-roading franchise – however some fans of the series might not appreciate how this game has turned out.
If you are like me and have enjoyed the previous two titles of the series then on first play of this game you will be in for a little bit of a shock. In this third outing of the franchise, MotorStorm Apocalypse has had number of new decisions made and is something that maybe older fans of the series may not appreciate at first, but with some perseverance in the game you will soon uncover what the MotorStorm franchise is really about and that is adrenaline fuelled, edge of your seat, racing.
In the Festival mode its developers have decided to focus more on a story rather than a series of tickets that were found in the previous two games. Its animated comic book style that tells this story sadly gave me the feeling that I was witnessing placeholder video, instead of fluid CGI sequences that we have come to expect in most recent titles. Mix in some mediocre voice acting and you find yourself more or less cringing through each story sequence rather than taking it all in and understanding the rather shallow story. They really shouldn’t have bothered giving this game a plot. The old saying of ‘if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it’ fits in very well here. If you need a story to see you through, from track-to-track, and some of you might want that, then it is here in this game, just don’t expect anything deep, meaningful, or winning itself any gaming Baftas.
However we’re not here to watch cut-scenes are we? We’re here to race, and that is what MotorStorm does best. The story mode races have been cut into three skill-based chapters; from Rookie, Pro and Elite. Each chapter tells a separate story about these raw and rugged racing jockeys, their taste for victory and their search for the next insane racing location in the apocalyptic world that the game is set in.
As you can gather from each skill named chapter, things progress harder in difficulty as you chip away at the different racing events in the game. Another drastic decision in this game is the change to a more linear progression in the events set for you. In the previous titles of the series, if you found a race a little difficult you could at least choose to attempt another. Sadly you cannot in this apocalyptic world, if you want to progress you have to finish in a qualifying position before you are able to continue. Throughout the Rookie chapter this is not a problem, with goals of finishing in at least fifth position to qualify for the next race event, however it is in the mid-range levels you might be casting your PS3 pad out the window in fits of rage for not finishing in a qualifying position. In later levels there are times where you have to boost as much as your vehicle is able to at least be in with the chance of qualifying, let alone finishing in first place!
As annoying as this may sound, this is where MotorStorm excels, where that ‘just one more attempt’ comes in. This feeling is mostly down to seeing that route you didn’t take which might have shaved off some precious seconds and may have kept you in a qualifying position. Most of the time you will just be cursing and screaming at your PS3 as it brands the ‘You did not qualify’ message across your screen.
Some races can be so much on the razors edge that without being so transfixed to the road ahead, you will never make it. Throw in a natural disaster event every now and again and you have a shiny new spanner placed in what used to be a comfortable planned route around the course. Whether it’s a tornado, an earthquake, a few falling buildings, rising roads or part of a bridge collapsing beneath you, there are plenty of triggering events that take place in each race that will instantly change your once comfortable racing line. At first you will come face-to-face with these new obstacles, most likely with your bonnet, slowing you down and most likely putting you near the back of the pack. In time, and with many repeated attempts, you’ll soon learn when and where these events trigger within the race and you can plan your route around, over or under them with ease.
The many apocalyptic events in each race show off this game’s graphically prowess. At first I was a little shocked with the overall quality of this game’s graphics and presentation. The art direction has really shifted down a gear from the previous titles of the franchise and is something you just have to accept after the initially visual heartache. Being a 3D compatible title I feel the graphically fidelity may have been harmed a little in order to keep the framerate running at a decent speed whilst displaying the double images it needs to in 3D mode. For us non-3D gamers the feeling of being short-changed comes apparent here; however that was my view at first. In later race events the graphical splendour starts to pick up to a level that we are used to seeing in MotorStorm, even more so when you start to see the entire road you are racing on collapse beneath your wheels. Sure you may have seen this done in last year’s Split Second, but not in this scale. These aren’t just one-off events either. Many events will trigger throughout your three or so lap races.
With the Festival story mode complete the next port of call is in the game’s multiplayer and free play modes. In Wreckreation you get to choose from such various options, from having an offline split-screen race with up to four players, or you can hit the Multiplayer and put your racing skills against other gamers online whilst unlocking new content along the way, in the Special Events mode you can compete and submit your fastest times online in the various solo events that you’ve unlocked in the story mode, and finally Customisation of your vehicles round up the feature set in the Wreckreation area. Sadly though this feels a little tacked on, or maybe it is just me getting old and not having the patience to sit in front the screen for hours playing with colour schemes and liveries. If however that floats your boat then there are plenty of things you can alter and tweak on your ride before showing it off in game.
Out of the three titles I found MotorStorm Apocalypse to be the weakest of them all. I’d admit, it is brave for its developers to take this new approach to the franchise but as a result I feel the game as a whole has been harmed, but not in an apocalyptic way, as there is still some good to come out of this game. After getting over the initial damage there is an enjoyable and fairly challenging game here, and there is also some online multiplayer and card collecting to keep you playing after the story mode has been exhausted too. If you are a fan of the series, or you prefer a more fantasy-based racing experience, then it is probably worth giving MotorStorm Apocalypse a test drive, especially if you fancy some pad-throwing induced races, just don’t create the same level of destruction in your own home with your rage, make sure that stays in the game!