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By: Jason Giacchino

Motor Storm
Earth Rumbling, Dust Eating, Grit Grinding Fun, Motor Storm for the PS3 Review

Screen shot from Motor Storm for Playstation 3 game console.

 

Screen shot from Motor Storm for Playstation 3 game console.

 

Screen shot from Motor Storm for Playstation 3 game console.
Screen shots from Motor Storm for Playstation 3 game console.

Weíve all been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the true ATV racing experience on the latest batch of video game consoles. Sony partnered up with Evolution Studios to bring its first off-road racing game experience to the Playstation 3. And while Motor Storm attempts to pick up where games like the ATV OffRoad Fury series left off, it is safe to say that this title is by no means a direct sequel.

Thanks to a pretty slick marketing campaign that included intense TV commercials, Motorstorm is without a doubt one of the most anticipated titles to be released for the PS3 thus far. After one look at the graphics, it isnít hard to understand why. Evolution Studios has pulled no punches in terms of impressive visuals. The textures of the soil and rocks that make up a bulk of the race courses are spot-on as are the vehicle models themselves. Prepare to take a fair share of diggers on purpose just to witness the incredible crash animations over and over. Gamers accustomed to the unstable frame rates of the Playstation 2 predecessor titles will be immediately floored by the buttery-smooth frames of the Playstation 3ís increased computing power. It would not be exaggeration to claim that this title is the finest showcase of the young systemís capabilities thus far. However, since a solid race title relies upon more than good looking visuals, weíll take a look at all of the factors that make up the Motor Storm experience.

Motocross and Supercross aficionados will find little to appreciate right off the bat as Motor Storm more closely resembles a rally race format that has been mixed with a dose of Twisted Metal for good measure. And while there is vehicle variety in the form of buggies, quads, motorcycles, and trucks, the real kicker is that itís all out war in Motor Storm; regardless of which vehicle you favor, they all share the track at the same time. Aside from a melee of various sports doing battle, each track is loaded with multiple paths that can be taken. The trick is coming to understand which vehicle works best for the given path. ATVs, for example, are allowed on narrower trails loaded with jumps and timing sections while rally trucks are better suited to the wider, mud ridden roadways.

However, Motor Storm isnít about selecting a vehicle and simply holding the throttle wide open. Aside from trying to master the track, the player is forced to deal with the incessant attacks from all of the other racers on the course. The larger vehicles have the advantage of crushing the smaller ones without much effort, but the compromise lies within the handling of the zippy quads, buggies, and bikes--canít hit what you canít catch. Besides, in true Road Rash fashion, quad riders have attack moves that can send other riders to the terra firma in a twisting rag-doll of dust as they pass.

If it sounds fun so far, rest assured, it is. Unfortunately, this is about the extent of the depth found within Motor Storm. There are only eight tracks in the entire game and of those eight, there is little variety to be found aside from various background effects (all have a very desert-like tone). Expect to take a few runs with various vehicles to understand the intricacies of each trackís layout. Once you decide itís time to get serious, youíll have your hands full with the enemy racers gunning for you much less attempting to master the track for the first time as well.

Screen shot from Motor Storm for Playstation 3 game console.

 

Screen shot from Motor Storm for Playstation 3 game console.

 

Screen shot from Motor Storm for Playstation 3 game console.
Screen shots from Motor Storm for Playstation 3 game console.

Now for the bad news--Motor Storm really only offers two forms of racing: A shallow single player campaign and an online mode. The single player mode uses a system of event tickets which basically allow you to race in various venues. Placing well in an event earns you points. You can spend your points to purchase locked tickets until eventually all eight tracks are at your disposal. Sure there are vehicles to unlock with your points along the way, but these are simply visual upgrades; the machinesí performance is unaffected. Sadly, there is only one type of race to choose from as well. Forget time trials, freestyle, item collecting, or free-riding. In Motor Storm you race against the track, and your opponents, take it or leave it. Whatís worse is that the single- player mode becomes more and more difficult as the events are unlocked (meaning the computer controlled racers will cheat to take you out). The odds of throwing your controller toward the screen increase with each new track opened--youíve been warned.

About the only redeeming factor to the lack of game play options is that there is immense fun to be had in the online mode. Like the original Twisted Metal games, there is something terribly addicting about thrashing on other racers when you know that theyíre being controlled by another human being (be it friend or otherwise). For whatever reason, the programmers even threw a few extra features into the online mode that are absent from the single player campaign: Namely, the ability to select from any of the available vehicles whenever. Clearly, Evolution was well aware of the fact that the online mode would be the main attraction of the game.

The gameís audio is fairly well done as well, offering a wide range of accurate engine roars and revs. The music score is a bit lighter than whatís currently coming standard on the latest quad DVDís which isnít to insinuate that itís fluffy, either. Gamers will find everything from early 1990ís alternative to some of todayís scream-rock. While the music doesnít either add or detract from the experience, you may find yourself turning it down just to enjoy some of the ultra-realistic crunches and creaks of the amazing crash sequences. Speaking of, prepare to witness vehicular carnage in its finest form once youíve lost control or (hopefully) caused someone else to. Vehicles literally come apart at the seams--cart wheeling to their demise.

Overall, Motor Storm is a fun, if fairly shallow, experience. True race fans should probably steer clear as the game avoids the simulation aspect of racing at all costs. This coupled with a complete lack of options results in a very one-dimensional experience. On the other hand, gamers looking to escape reality with a little bumping and grinding out in the desert will find Motor Storm to be quite entertaining (especially the online mode). The graphics are simply stellar as are the dust effects and crash sequences. Motor Storm proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Playstation 3 is a very capable platform. However, true ATV race enthusiasts are going to have to keep on waiting for their ship to come in. Had Evolution Studios used this game engine with the career depth and option sets found in previous ATV OffRoad Fury titles, it is likely the perfect quad game would be reality.


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