Motorstorm PS3 Preview - 13/01/2007

Motorstorm comes from the hugely talented people at Evolution Studios, responsible for the WRC series on the Playstation 2 console, and comes at a time when Sony desperately need another flagship title as well as Resistance: Fall of Man, to sell it’s product.

People so far seem to love to hate the PS3. Of course, some people swear by it, and I’ll certainly be getting one come the European launch – despite the problems. Of course, stock shortages are never going to go down well, but I think people need to start realising that there are some genuinely good games available for the console, and many more that are coming out in the future.

Motorstorm may not be as innovative as Afrika, but it does a select few things superbly well, and is a landmark for offroad racing games and arcade racers on the whole. Boasting stunning graphics, intuitive controls, and deformable terrain, there’s plenty of reasons to place a preorder for Evolution’s latest game.

One issue that I know is concerning people, and myself, is the environments. From the Playstation 3 demo, and hordes of gameplay movies now available, all the racing seems to take place on desert cliffs. Unfortunately (depending on which way you look at it), this is true. As a result the game doesn’t host a particularly large number of courses or vehicles, but what it does do, it always does very well.

In the game, all the tracks are set in the desert, but the developers have cleverly used lighting to create unique looking courses out of the same tracks. Much like the technique of reversing courses, it adds a whole new dimension to the levels. Because the races are so fast paced anyway, and the barrage of vehicles that populate the maps, no two races are ever the same and changing the light to a moody dusk, or stark night, means races can play out entirely differently. Hopefully we’ll see a sequel, with racing taking place on a snowy mountain, or grassy plains.

Still, there’s no time like the present, and the point behind the game, as you’d expect, is to win all your races at the MotorStorm Festival. Here you will take on all the diehard offroaders eager to prove themselves as the best of the best. These opposition vehicles all look like they are controlled by human players, making mistakes, ramming other vehicles, including yourself, and generally acting in a most unpredictable manner. You can race either as one of seven vehicle classes: Motorbike, Buggy, ATV, Rally Car, Racing Truck, Mud Plugger, and Big Rig, all of which have unique plus and minus points, and handle very differently to eachother.

Clearly, racing as a bike will give you more acceleration and a higher top speed, but you’re going to be much more liable to crash and go off the edge of the tight cliff roads. Rally Cars may be slower, but they take a direct hit to come apart, and their handling means you can keep them on the cliffside much easier. The AI and course design gives you two main options as you decide how to take on each race. You can choose to take it slow, ramming opponents and trying to eliminate the opposition one by one, or go for sheer pace, and take each corner skilfully and quickly, to win the race outright.

Not all the races take place on the tight cliff edges that the majority of demos and movies show. There are also wide open plains and tight canyons, with cruel bottlenecks only allowing one vehicle through at a time. These make up the eight levels in the Japanese version of Motorstorm.

A great new feature of the game is the crash cam, which activates when you drive off a cliff, or your vehicle explodes. Pretty much any direct hit from another vehicle can cause you to blow, and you can see that Evolution Studio’s rally influences run through the spine of this game, with a huge amount of destructible and uniquely damageable parts on each and every vehicle.

The crash scenes rival the Burnout series at times, with pieces of debris lodging in the track and sending other drivers to their doom with just a slight impact able to send a vehicle out of control on the muddy surface.

AI aggression looks set to depend on the aggression of the player, as is commonplace in racing games nowadays. Rest assured however, that if the only route to victory is to ram your car into submission, then the AI player won’t hesitate to do it. There are also multiple routes through each race, meaning other cars can be flying over the top or underneath you, to try and gain an advantage. Boost also plays a large part, and will no doubt be used more tactfully than we’re used to in Burnout (i.e. hold down the boost button non-stop).

Something people didn’t believe when they saw the E3 pre-rendered trailer was that the tracks would deform in real time. This definitely occurs, as gameplay movies and others’ playtests confirm. This also directly affects the handling of your vehicle, as wheels dig into ridges and traction becomes looser in the deep mud. On that note, the graphics are also pretty close to the pre-rendered movies. One effect that may take some getting used to is the mud that sprays up, rather unrealistically, on the screen, much like the blood in Gears of War, and it doesn’t particularly look realistic in the gameplay movies. Perhaps once we’re playing it there will be a definite purpose for it, as you can see how it might make it more atmospheric in the right quantity.

An interesting feature is the Real-time audio manipulation, which essentially means the music and sound effects react to the frantic nature of the race, the speed at which you are going, and the amount of cars around you, to make a unique atmosphere for each race.

The most exciting thing about Motorstorm has to be the graphics. The tracks crumbling and scarring after each lap should make for some really frantic and fun-filled multiplayer gameplay. Or it would do if multiplayer was included. It’s one player throughout, or at least the rushed Japanese version is. Rumours say that Evolution are adding scores of new content to the game, in a entirely different version, to make up for what is essentially a fleshed out demo in the Japanese market.

Let’s hope so – stay tuned to TGSN for all the developments, and, if they can deliver a multiplayer component and some more tracks and vehicles, this could be one of the finest arcade racers ever.


Sony CE
Evolution Studios