Motorstorm was a joy to behold when it released on the PlayStation 3 way back in 2005. Casting multiplayer woes aside, the game was an adrenaline-fuelled racer that felt solid and had a variety of racing vehicles and tracks to please any gas head. Sadly, the brown coloured desert tracks of Monument Valley soon had you craving for some greenery or some H2O to dip your dirty vehicle through. Thankfully the guys at Evolution Studios have taken note of this and after a few years of developed they have answered our calls by swiftly taking us to a new location on an abandoned fictitious Pacific island.
On the first boot of the game you are taken to your garage. This is basically your home, your own space in Motorstorm Pacific Rift. From here you have the ability to choose your driver, from their gender through to choosing from a range of Mad Max style outfits. Your choices don’t end there either, you can select from a choice of shells for each vehicle class as well as colour schemes and liveries for each shell. The choice of outfits and shells is initially limited, though on successfully winning races (thus earning you points) you will soon be unlocking, not only additional races, but more outfit styles, vehicle shells and skins.
Seven of the core vehicles from the first game are present in this sequel, all physically modelled, taking the handling in Pacific Rift one-step further. Due to the handling being more aggressive, some vehicles have had some gameplay elements added to them, such as the motorcycle, where you can duck low-hanging trees and bunny hop over fallen rocks. Apart from the motorbike every other vehicle is on four wheels, from the light-weight ATV and Buggy, the midrange Rally Car, Racing Truck and Mud Plugger, through to the overwhelming Big Rigs, there is plenty of variety in your choice of vehicle as well as its specific characteristics and handling.
There is one new addition to Pacific Rift’s vehicular line-up this time round – the Monster Truck, which has been a request from Motorstorm fans since its first release. With lots of mud on track these behemoths are the vehicle of choice when it comes to ploughing though deep water and muddy terrain, as well as bullying your opponents into walls, off cliffs and into ravines. The downside to all this glorious carnage is its lack of speed. Just like the Big Rigs, their lack of speed is made up by having the ability to smash their way through objects, allowing you to access shorter routes of the track where smaller and lighter vehicles would crash in to.
The tickets make a return to Pacific Rift; this time though they are spit into four element zones: Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Each element zone takes you to specific tracks situated around your Pacific Island location, all featuring their own characteristics, style and visuals. In the Earth zone you will encounter dense jungle and thick vegetation that are just asking to be avoided at all costs. Mist and the odd river makes its appearance which are also handy to cool down your regularly over heating boost meter. Water zone features much of the same track aesthetics as found in the Earth zone but with a much more emphasis on water, so you will find yourself jumping through cascading waterfalls, ripping through rapids and water logged marshes. If you like to take to the skies in your ride, then the Air zone will be a destination for you. Here you will be riding alongside some knife-edge cliffs to jumping off ramps – freefalling down hundreds of meters. Wrapping up the final location is the Fire zone. Here you will encounter heat of the highest degree (if you excuse the pun) as you jump over and race alongside some active and passive lava flows. Fire zone is the only elemental location that inflicts some heavy damage to your ride. Get too close to the lava and you risk boosting your engine temperature to the point of explosion. To counter this, sprinklers, water falls and rivers are located around each track to cool you back down. Ahhh Nice! Overall, each track feels unique without too much repetition; with the number of routes you can take, mixed with the number of vehicles at your disposal, it will take some time to find the most rewarding path amongst the rich and challenging terrain.
Graphically, Pacific Rift is a mixed bag. At times your jaw drops to the carpet as you gaze at the rich vegetation and the extensive draw distance found in each elemental track; but there are other times where you feel a little disappointed that Evolution Studios didn’t push the graphical boat out that little bit more. It appears polygon counts have been at the cost of graphical fidelity, to a point that the game runs at 720 and not the magical 1080. Don’t get me wrong; with four times as much track detail it does look stunning, but it feels more like Motorstorm 1.5 than 2.0 in the graphics department.
There is no expense spared with the audio in Pacific Rift however. A good range of toe tapping tunes feature once again. Pendulum’s signature tune – “Tarantula” makes its return to the track list along with Queens of the Stone Age, Fatboy Slim, Nirvana, Primal Scream and other adrenaline pumping artists. If neither of these appeal, your own custom soundtracks via the XMB is also supported. Engine notes and spot effects are also of a high calibre here, making your racing experience even more immersive.
The multiplayer issues and missing features from the previous Motorstorm have been thankfully addressed in Pacific Rift. The original engine was not designed for split screen, which is why it never came to fruition as downloadable content. This time around four-player split-screen racing is here, while still keeping a fairly solid frame-rate. Online, Pacific Rift offers up to twelve online opponents in either Ranked or Casual game modes. Overall, the Multiplayer in Pacific Rift is much more accessible now; there is a better lobby system featuring match making, ranked games, custom races and game modes. Load times are quicker and there is a better voice communication available too.
A whole host of Trophy challenges are present in the game, each with their own variable difficulty in obtaining them. The casual gamer will be getting their racing gloves on to only a handful of trophies, where as the most dedicated racer will need to put in some serious game time both on and offline in order to win them all.
So overall Motorstorm Pacific Rift is a worthy racer for your PlayStation 3 racing collection. Like its older brother, you still need to put in the time to tackle the uphill learning curve that this game requires from you. On the other hand, if you are just picking this game up for a quick dip in the mud then this can easily suit your style too. You can chip away at each of the tickets in each of the elemental zones as and when you wish, and still have good fun in the process, but it is not until the later half of the tickets that this game will ask for your time and skill in order to win races. If you are coming from the original title, there is enough depth here to warrant a purchase, just don’t expect a revolutionary successor to the first game, but more of an evolution to the franchise.