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MotorStorm Review

Developer: Evolution Studios Publisher: SCEA
Release Date: March 6, 2007 Also On: None

Ladies and gents, it’s finally time to get down and dirty on your PlayStation 3. Evolution Studios’ MotorStorm, a motocross-style racing game and one of the first PS3 games ever shown, finally explodes out of the gates in style. What makes this filthy, dirty, explosive racer so much fun? Most importantly, despite being a blast, is it actually worth the $60 admission?

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MotorStorm is a very simple game at face value. In fact, the gameplay is akin to Burnout–braking is hardly ever needed, and alongside accelerating you’ll be using a boost feature to stay ahead of the pack. However, Evolution Studios’ racer is much more technical in practice–each of the eight tracks featured in beautiful Monument Valley are loaded with jumps, blind turns, hidden paths, and slippery pits of mud. In fact, there are several different lines throughout each track. Rockhopper comes to mind when I think of multiple paths, narrow jumps, and huge drop-offs. The circuit offered in the downloadable demo was the high-altitude Raingod Mesa, which has one of the most exciting banked turns and cliff side stretches in the game. The Coyote Rage track is condensed but still features a lot of different paths and makes a wonderfully varied track for any vehicle. At The Grizzly, anything goes–it’s extremely diverse and alway exciting no matter what vehicle you’re driving.

The racing is very physics-based, and because of the various obstacles and racing lines, Evolution Studios offered seven different types of vehicles. You can choose from several kinds of rally cars, bikes, racing trucks, ATVs, buggies, “Mud Pluggers,” and big rigs. In that very order from left to right you lose speed but race the easy ground–bikes will always beat Mud Pluggers in the straight, but the ‘Pluggers will flat-out dominate them in the slippery low grounds of each track. Big rigs shove everyone around, but are clumsy to drive and incredibly slow to accelerate. Buggies were always enjoyable rides because they have a great balance of speed, control, and can handle most of the game’s different lines without a problem. Each vehicle controls differently in different terrain; rally cars can’t handle anything less than solid ground while ATVs earn their acronym by handling well in all terrain. Generally every vehicle handles well; I really liked the responsiveness of the ATVs and bikes, but the sluggishness of the big rigs and ‘Pluggers helped in the low grounds. Different vehicles also have different boosting advantages and disadvantages: big rigs can boost for a much longer time than other vehicles, but the boosting still doesn’t make it a speedy candidate. Bikes and rally cars explode forward but take some time to cool down. Learning each vehicle is just as important as knowing each of MotorStorm’s tracks.

Despite the fact that there are only eight tracks and seven vehicles, none of MotorStorm’s races grow tiresome or repetitious thanks to how much fun the racing actually is. You see, MotorStorm usually throws you into races against several different types of vehicles–sometimes all seven–and each vehicle’s strengths and weaknesses really show. If you’re a rally car you’ll be enjoying wonderful handling and speed, but you’ll really have to pick a line as far away from the bigger vehicles as possible. MotorStorm’s CPU-controller opponents generally form large packs during the race, so gaining positions and fighting to stay alive (especially on bikes or ATVs) is always exciting. The different lines intersect at several points throughout each race, so oftentimes you’ll be riding along without anyone around when all of the sudden an entire pack of big rigs come flying out of the low grounds. Again, it’s always very exciting.

I hadn’t mentioned crashes before now, but it would be a sin to further neglect them. I mentioned Burnout earlier, and even EA’s “crash porn” racing game doesn’t have crashes like this. MotorStorm flexes the PS3’s muscles with smoky, fiery explosions, destructible vehicles and environments, and all of the itsy-bitsy particle effects that should accompany all of the above. There is nothing more satisfying than fighting through a pack of vehicles, ramming an ATV, and watching the poor sap careen into a huge rock formation, just to explode and be ejected into the abyss.

MotorStorm offers 21 “tickets” in its main gameplay mode. Each “ticket” lets you race in one to four different races, and as you win races, you earn points, new tickets, and new vehicles. It’s a design that is completely lacking in flashiness but it never ceases to be a fun challenge. There are five levels of difficulty, and by even the fourth level you’ll be forced to know each vehicle’s strengths and weaknesses very well before expecting to even place in the top three. MotorStorm’s races can be frustrating, especially the long-winded ones, but I never found myself in a position where I didn’t want to restart the race or keep the SIXAXIS in my hand. Speaking of the SIXAXIS, MotorStorm features a motion-controlled mode that lets you twist and turn the controller around to steer. It’s not the preferred method of control, and it’s actually disabled by default, but it works surprisingly well.

As stated before, visually MotorStorm is stunning. It is quite easily the best-looking PS3 game to date and jumps in line with some of the best-looking console games to date. The Monument Valley location is absolutely beautiful; you’ll never tire of the vibrant red cliff sides contrasting to the baby blue skies. Shrubbery, signage, and other obstructions litter each track. Never did I feel like there wasn’t enough to look at while tearing across dangerous rocky ridges. MotorStorm is also quite possibly the loudest game I’ve ever played. The top-notch, perfectly-fitting soundtrack blares in the background while engines rip and explosions blast out of your speakers like no other. I noticed that the 21 songs in the soundtrack didn’t recycle well, though–the game’s automatic shuffling of songs seemed to pick “Breed” and “Automatic Thrill” a whole lot for me, and though I enjoyed the songs every time I heard them, I do like some variety.

MotorStorm’s praises sadly come to an end when you start to think about long-term value. The single-player mode offers a lot of races and challenges, but once you’re done with that, an online mode is the only other method of play. There isn’t even a split-screen multiplayer mode–all multiplayer races are done online. Fortunately the online mode allows you to earn ranks and the like, so it’s got a decent amount of depth as well. Still, anything else would have been nice–a crash mode, perhaps a stunt mode for the bikes and ATVs. Also, loading times grow very tiring. It takes about 10 seconds to load a vehicle in the vehicle selection screen, and about 30 seconds to load a race. When you consider that Coyote Rage races are only about 2:30, a 30-second load time is pretty long.

Overall, MotorStorm is one of the better PlayStation 3 games on the market. It is one of the only racing games I feel deserves to be called “visceral,” and only by bolding “exciting” do I stress how thrilling this game really is. It’s got the top visuals, excellent soundtrack, explosive crashes, detailed courses–really, the only thing more you could want is a little substance, but in the end, MotorStorm is still worth the purchase. PS3 owners needed something to do anyway.

Graphics: 9.5
Sound: 10
Gameplay: 9.5
Creativity: 7.5
Replay Value/Game Length: 6.5
Final: 8.6
Written by Cliff Review Guide