We’ve had the desert wastes, the tropical island, even the arctic tundra, as settings for Sony’s first party arcade racer – now the setting turns to The City. This is no ordinary city however and, because of that, a game which should already be expectantly sat on shelves is not.
You see, the seemingly San Francisco inspired ‘City’ depicted here stands empty, evacuated due a series of devastating earthquakes that have wracked the metropolis. We won’t dwell on the obvious parallels with the tragic real-world goings on in Japan, but suffice it to say that Sony deemed it in bad taste to release Motorstorm: Apocalypse so soon after those events; putting the game back to 31st March.
Back to the game, we’re heading into the (mostly) abandoned city, onboard a series of landing craft. It’s here where we get a first run out, exiting our ship in the shoes of player character Mash – the archetypal ‘rookie who comes good’ type. Motorstorm has always been a good-looking franchise and our first look confirms that Apocalypse is the finest so far; cars and environment finished with a well-studied flair.
The city itself is a crumbling, constantly shifting spectacle, perfectly complimenting Motorstorm’s iconic brand of frantic racing. The assorted tracks – little more than loosely marked out paths through suburbs, over rooftops and past crumbling skyscrapers – challenging both gravity and reflexes with equal measure.
As ever, courses are replete with multiple paths, shortcuts and ramps, while impressively, tremors are a constant threat, causing bridges to collapse, roads to shift and obstacles to fall into your path. Indeed so remarkable are some of these shiftings, that it’s sometimes hard to keep your eyes on the track. Keeping your wits about you being the order of the day, with no two laps quite the same.
Handling-wise, you won’t be surprised to learn that this is no GT5, unreservedly entrenched in the arcade camp of racers. That said each truck, buggy, bike, etc., does have its own style, with variations in weight and speed of cornering. The application of boost is also sufficiently oomphy – the constant battle of cooling your rapidly overheating engine one of your most important challenges – and the game’s engine powers proceedings on at rate of knots, barely skipping a beat.
More forgiving too is the amount of damage your vehicle can take before falling apart, with minor prangs causing a crash cutscene much less frequently. Of course you will crash and crash often, but mercifully you’ll be hurtling away in a brand new car quicker than ever; allowing you to enjoy the show of the crash without losing too much ground on your fellow racers.
Opponent AI is sufficiently smart (or perhaps that should be dumb?) that they will crash just as much as you do, meaning you’ll never feel like the recipient of a bad deal when it comes to finding a safe path through the chaos. Meanwhile extra modes of play, such as ‘Elimination’ where the car in last place is eliminated every ten seconds, add to the variation.
While Pacific Storm’s limited progression might have created a certain apathy surrounding Apocalypse’s release, by bringing the ‘crazy’ back to fore Evolution Studios have successfully reconfirmed the series’ credentials. Multiplayer modes, the ‘Wreckreation’ free play mode and the sheer in-your-face attitude on display cementing this as one of the best arcade racers around right now.