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Motorstorm

 

Motorstorm

ESRB: Teen - T
Platform: PS3
Category: Racing
 
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Developer – Evolution Studios
Publisher – Sony Computer Entertainment

Features

1 player (Offline)
2-12 players (Online)
Headset Compatible
PS Network Compatible
720p – HD Capable

I remember E3 2005. This was supposed to be the big one where Microsoft let out all the details about the Xbox 360. However someone forgot to tell Sony as they touted some pretty aggressive video footage of games that were coming for the Playstation 3. The entire buzz that followed Sony’s Press Conference was positive, and one of the games that got a lot press was Motorstorm. The early footage was stunning and it looked to take driving games to the next level, both visually and play wise. Well fast forward to 2007, Sony has finally released a finished version of Motorstorm to the PS3 gaming crowd. Does it live up to the standards set so many years ago?

Graphics

Everyone is well aware of Motorstorm’s target graphics video that Sony showed the world in 2005. Although the actual game does not reach those lofty heights it definitely is a looker. I would have to say that this is the first PS3 title that I really want to show off to my friends as it is that good looking. The game runs in 720p and looks great. From the panning of the track at the start of the race to bumping and grinding with the other racers in game, everything has a lot of pizzazz to it. Each of the available tracks is finely detailed right down to the ruts that are created by the racing field. I was somewhat amazed at how the tracks take on different forms during the race as the ruts that are created stay there during the whole race and how debris from items on the track (e.g. fences, old cars, metal barrels) stay that way through the race too.

Evolution Studios seems to have mastered the lighting effects on the PS3 and the game’s visual really benefit from their work. Racing can take pace at different times during the day. From the bright mid-noon sun to orange glow of dusk, shadows and lighting take different forms during different times of the day. The shadows are spot on and the lighting really gives you that sense that you are in the desert racing at different times of the day. There are also great reflections on the vehicles as well and they are not just static either as they reflect what ever surroundings you are racing in.

Something that also took me by surprise was the scope and of the tracks. I was showing the game to fellow reviewer Frank N and as I was racing on one of the multiple paths on a track I was down below while other racers were much higher up. As I was racing you could see the racers above hitting the various ramps and flying high in the air on top the track. This was pretty amazing as I actually felt a sense of depth as they were so high and all the action was going on above me without a hitch. To add to the scope of the tracks, the draw distance is incredible too as you can see what seems to be infinitely into the horizon. The larger tracks are incredible, while even the smaller and tighter tracks are just as amazing.

Motorstorm has a feature that was somewhat cool and will make your non PS3 friends “oooooooooooo and awwwwwwwwwwww” as you show them. Pause the game and you can use a free moving camera to see all around the vehicle. Sure it sounds simple, but it really allows you to see the fine details of the graphics in this game and this is really evident during a crash. You can use the camera to move around, over and under the vehicle and zoom in as well allowing you to see tiny details you don’t see when the game is in motion. It really allows you to see the work that went into this game and you really appreciate it.

There really isn't any negative to be found in the visuals of this game but if I had to nitpick I would comment on two things. I did get a tiny bit of slowdown on occasion, but this occurred so infrequently that did not take away from the game. The other thing is that some of the backgrounds are static. People standing around the track are still and motionless and this was quite evident during crashes when everything goes into slow motion. These two things that I mention are very small indeed, and do not affect the overall visual polish that this game displays.

Sound

The quality of the sound in Motorstorm is top notch. Each vehicle sounds distinctly different, as you would expect, but something I really noticed was the varying pitch of the engine as you raced. I loved the sound of my buggy or racing truck as I let off the accelerator, hit the e-brake to negotiate a tight corner, and then hit the gas again. The sound of the engine revving up as I came out of the tight corner and hit a straightaway was quite exhilarating indeed. This was heard not only in your own vehicle, but others as well. When an opposing vehicle came up behind or beside me, their vehicle’s sound was right in the surround speaker and corresponded to the type of vehicle they were racing in. You’ll know when an ATV or a racing truck is coming up to attempt to pass. Along with the great vehicle sounds are a great set of general sound effects to compliment the rest of the audio package. The sounds of your turbo boost, the explosions from crashes (your own or the computer AI), the splash of mud and the crash of debris on the track are only some of the sound effects package that make the audio stand out.

The soundtrack in Motorstorm is also very suitable and quite diverse. From such bands as Nirvana, Queens of the Stone Age and Slipknot, the artists included in Motorstorm provide some pretty great alternative rock and techno music that suits the on screen action to a tee. And although the music is spot on for this game, I found I went into the menu and turned down the volume of the music down to 60% as it could be a little too loud. However I am sure some of you rockers out there will most likely keep it cranked as it isn’t that bad of music at all.

Finally I have to comment on the use of surround sound. Should you be playing this game in a nice home theatre set up then you will definitely not be disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, the sound is good no matter what audio source you play it through, however the ability to play it in Dolby Digital is only more reason to love the audio. The surround sound effects are very well done and your subwoofer does get a pretty good workout, especially during the explosions of your own or the computer AI’s vehicles. All in all anyone with a mild mannered to a wild sound setup will enjoy all the aural effects in this game.

Gameplay

Motorstorm is an all out racing game, plain and simple. It was designed with the PS3 in mind and along with the great graphics it has some great playability. The game takes plays in Monument Valley, Arizona. It’s a quiet and peaceful place until the Motorstorm Festival comes thundering into town. This festival is a week of no holds barred racing and music where the rules are few and the music is loud.

You will find yourself racing in a variety of vehicles. There are a total of 7 different classes. These are MX Bikes, ATVs, Buggies, Rally Cars, Racing Trucks, Mud Pluggers and Big Rigs. As Motorstorm had somewhat of an arcade feel to it, I was thinking that there really wouldn’t be too much difference in these vehicles in terms of control and racing style, but man was I ever wrong. Each vehicle does take some time getting used too and each has its’ strengths and weaknesses. I had a heck of a time when I first raced the MX Bikes as they seemed so sensitive, especially when you compare them to the big rigs and how they can just plough though anything as they lumber about the track. However with time I got some control of the bikes. Of course the bigger the vehicle, the more of a beating it can take too. I was quite happy with the differences in the vehicles and it made Motorstorm’s racing somewhat more interesting having to learn how drive each one in regards to how it handled and how much damage it could take.

There are a total of 8 tracks to race on throughout this festival. They range in name from Sidewinder Gulch, Rockhopper to The Mudpool. Each track has a specific type of terrain too from dangerous canyons, to mud bottomed boulder-strewn valleys to sticky trenches and riverbeds. Each track offers its own type challenges that are somewhat specific to each. There are also multiple paths on each track too, but these have a purpose as each path is more suited for one vehicle over another. Some paths are more suited for the lighter vehicles where others are suited for the heavier ones. I found watching my AI opponents dictated on what path I took, especially when I was racing in the same vehicle as them.

Racing only consists of Play Mode. Here you race on the various tracks to make your way through the game. Each event is known as a “ticket” and these are spread across four levels of difficulty. Within these difficulties are a variety of different races. The races are locked to a specific type of vehicle as well. “Tickets” are unlocked by earning what Motorstorm calls “respect” points by placing in the top three spots of each race and eventual event. Not only do you unlock new events found in the “tickets”, but you also unlock new vehicles as well. Racing is only done in this Play Mode as Evolution Studios chose not to include any other method of racing. You can only work your way through the game through the straight out racing and there are no other modes (e.g. elimination) to satisfy your racing appetite. For those looking for a quick fix you cannot choose a quick race either as it does not exist. I do not know why there is only one racing mode, but maybe this can be addressed in some form of downloadable content.

The computer AI is somewhat formidable and makes the single player game somewhat enjoyable. As I made my way through the game I found that the challenge ramped up as you got further into Motorstorm’s Play Mode. The computer AI racers manage to put up a fight and they definitely make it hard for you. I had to chuckle more then a few times as I went to pass an opponent only to have them make a solid effort to knock me into a rock or off of a cliff. There were even a few times when two vehicles sandwiched me in between their vehicles. I have to give this game some serious props too for not utilizing rubberband AI as the computer opponents were prone to make mistakes and wreck their vehicles just as much as I was. It was nice to see they were somewhat “human” as they did not have picture perfect racing skills.

If there is any true negative to be had in Motorstorm it is that there is not a lot to do in the single player game. Once you beat the Play Mode the game is pretty much over. As I mentioned earlier there is no way to just play a quick game via a quick race mode, nor are there any other special modes to challenge your racing skills. However not is all lost, as Evolution Studios have added a pretty good multiplayer mode. But I should warn you that this multiplayer mode is only online and there is no split screen racing in this game.

The online multiplayer is a blast as up to 12 players can vie for true racing supremacy. The game also supports voice chat so you can talk smack as you knock your opponent of a cliff or into a rock wall in one of the eight tracks. Online play also allows for the host to dictate specific options, such as turning the catch up assist off/on or locking in specific vehicles. I have my PS3 running through a wireless router and gameplay was not that bad in my multiplayer sessions. Sure I ran into some hiccups now and then, but overall I found that playing sessions were pretty enjoyable and there are some pretty good racers out there over the PS3 network. The online multiplayer is somewhat of a saving grace for the gameplay of Motorstorm as it adds to the longevity of the game. It is my hope, as with the single player game, that Evolution Studios adds more gameplay modes to the online multiplayer (e.g. team based) and new tracks through downloadable content.


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