Hands-On Preview: Back of my neck getting burnt and gritty...
PlayStation's off-road racing series has never been too fond of subtlety, but the latest entry ties it to a chair and kicks it out of a forty story window. After two outings on the PS3 and an acclaimed debut on the PSP, Evolution Studios is poised to blow away all expectations fans have come to have of the series. With all new settings, vehicles, mechanics, game modes, and 3D support, MotorStorm Apocalypse seems to be proof that ?sequel' does not have to mean a glorified expansion pack.
Having already taken us to the rocky terrain of Monument Valley, the tropical diversity of an island, and the frosty mountains in the arctic, many gamers wondered where the series could go next. While some even ventured that we would be treated to a space odyssey bouncing around in monster trucks on the moon, even those theorists couldn't have guessed that we'd be going to a crumbling city. It almost seems like a practical joke, that after establishing what is arguably the premier off-road racing franchise of this generation, an urban environment would be host to the next game. But be at ease - with the dynamic destruction occurring, this is very much still the off-road racing, terrain-thrashing extravaganza MotorStorm has been known for.
Even when you're racing on the concrete of the streets, it's torn up and littered with debris. Some sections of the road may be pushed up and raised while others dip lower below ground level. This made for an interesting return of MotorStorm's mechanics of having different routes for different vehicles, where the lighter ones like bikes, cars, and ATVs can speed along the high ground taking advantage of jumps while bigger vehicles like rigs and trucks can barrel down the low road, plowing through obstacles like a knife through butter. Overall it allows for much more diversity within each track, which will play out considerably differently depending on what vehicles you take.
In the demo I played, the familiar racing truck (in the middle of the vehicle chain and recommended for beginners) was available as well as a new addition to the series - the super car, which represents the tricked out Japanese imports with ultra-violet lights you see in movies like The Fast & The Furious
. They both felt very familiar to vehicles from the previous games, with the new super car feeling a lot like the rally cars. I asked if they were a replacement, and the PR rep said they would both co-exist, yet it remains to be seen if the difference will be anything more than cosmetic. In any case, they both work within the MotorStorm formula - the racing truck is very reliable, affording a good amount stability without sacrificing too much speed. You can expect to knock over the smaller riders with these, but still hold your own against its larger brothers. The super car is true to its name - it accelerates very fast and reaches a higher speed than anything else I saw in the demo.
The new dynamic destruction has both style and substance to it. While it looks absolutely astonishing to see a massive building crumbling before your eyes (especially in 3D), this is followed by a spur-of-the-moment decision: do you try to go around it on a side road or do your best to maneuver past the remains (and other opponents)? At the end of the track in the demo an underground pipeline seems to explode, creating a giant flaming crater in the center of the road just before the finish line. The player must hope to have already built up enough speed to clear it, or hit the boosters in a last-minute attempt to make it over.
One of MotorStorm's key features has always been things being taken apart - whether it's obstacles being splintered as racers crash through them, or the vehicles themselves shattering into heaps of metal and screws after a high-velocity crash. Incredibly, this plays out in 3D exactly how you wish it would. When you add in crazed pedestrians, imploding buildings, and spontaneous explosions happening all at the same time, this game really gives Killzone 3 a run for its money as to which PS3 game will be the best showcase of Stereoscopic 3D. While the dynamic destruction amps up the spectacle and strategy, it's 3D that really pushes the game into the stratosphere and makes it one of the most ridiculously over-the-top titles on the horizon for next year.