Motorstorm Apocalypse Review – Ground Breaking!

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Note: Originally published March 29th, Republished on May 3rd for the US release.

One of the most action packed games I have ever played

It’s not often that a racing game can make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. While “ destructible racers” are nothing new, Motorstorm Apocalypse has successfully revolutionized the genre, rendering its competition ‘obsolete’ in the process.  The folks at Evolution Studios have created one of the most action packed games I have ever played, oh and the core racing experience is pretty good too! Last year both Blur and Split/Second attempted to unseat Burnout as the destructible racing king but both games failed, at least in term of public perception. However, the sheer level of anarchy in Apocalypse is second to none. I went back and played a few Burnout games after spending several hours with Apocalypse and I can honestly say that it is now time for Criterion to give up the crown.

Evolution’s third Motorstorm game offers so much more diversity than any racer before it. One minute you’re racing through the streets being targeted by missile shooting helicopters and Molotov throwing hooligans, the next, the ground has opened up from beneath you, forcing you to make your way through the sewers below. Before you know it, you and you Motorstorm crew are crashing your way from one collapsing office building to another, demolishing any work cubicle that dares to stand between you and certain victory! Unlike titles such as Split/Second, the destruction seen in Apocalypse feels like part of the race rather than just a string of set pieces. During the more extreme moments the game displays some astonishing slow motion effects as an on-screen prompt encourages you to hit the triangle button to take a closer look. Half the thrill comes from discovering these apocalyptic moments for yourself so I’ll do you all a favor and shut up about them now. Motorstorm Apocalypse also races ahead of the pack in terms of vehicle types with a total of 13 available. These include Dirt Bikes, Rally Cars, Monster Trucks, ATVs, Buggies, Big Rigs, Super Bikes, Muscle Cars, Choppers and more. As always, well-time boosting is vital but being too trigger happy with your NoS switch will cause your vehicle to explode. I personally felt that a few of the vehicles control too loose as I often found myself colliding with inadament object for seemingly no fault of my own, however with enough time and sheer determination I was able to overcome this issue.

Playing in stereoscopic 3D only adds to the intensity

Set in a fictional location only referred to as ‘The City’, Motorstorm’s paper-thin story sees a group of thrill-seeking racers burning rubber amidst a cataclysmic earthquake. Due to the severity of the ‘quake the entire city has been abandoned, leaving only a group of rebels who refuse to evacuate and the military who are stationed to restore order in a city which is literally falling apart. The story is told through the games Festival mode which followers the racers through their two day Motorstorm’ing stint. Although the city initially looks stable, as you progress and the earthquake continues the once metropolis area will soon look like an atomic bomb hit it. Chaos ensues around almost every corner in Apocalypse. The constant explosions, environmental shifts and collapsing building will keep you on the edge of your seat right until the moment you cross the finish line. Playing in stereoscopic 3D only adds to the intensity but I’ll talk more about that later in an upcoming feature.

I won’t waste much more time detailing the story, and I almost wish the game didn’t either. All you need to know is; racing + earthquakes = fun.  The motion comic-inspired cutscenes that precede each race in the Festival mode range from average to abysmal, but thankfully each of them can be skipped. The game introduces three characters for you to choose from, each of which represents a different difficulty level. Mash (Rookie) is a Motorstorm newbie who is just about ready pop his proverbial cherry, playing as Mash is recommended for all newcomers. Tyler (Pro) is ideal for those who already know a thing or two about Motorstorm and Big Dog (Veteran) is for, well, veterans! Each of their stories run concurrently with each other although they all have their own individual cutscenes. Festival mode is broken up in to as many as 16 chapters (depending on which character you choose) with each chapter consisting of a race on a predetermined track, in a predetermined vehicle.  The requirements for completing each race also depends on the difficulty level but once those requirements are met it’s on to the next chapter! The whole earthquake scenario is much than a narrative hook, it also impacts the gameplay. So even though there are only nine different tracks to race through, each time you revisit an area the effects of the ‘quake will appear more prominently. The level of destruction also ramps up as you progress so while things may see chaotic during the afternoon of Day 1 just wait until you see the same level on Day 2!

Apocalypse also breaks new grounds with its online multiplayer

Outside of the Festival you can compete in individual races thanks to the new and improved Wrecreation mode. Here you simply race sans any narrative or sense of progression. Available modes include Quick Race for up to 2 players, Online Multiplayer and Special Events which are unlocked during Festival. Additionally there are four different race types for you to choose from in the both the Quick Race and Online modes.  Standard Race provides your standard Motorstorm affair, Festival lets you re-play a Festival event but using any vehicle you want, Eliminator features a countdown timer which periodically eliminates the racer who’s in last place and Chase forces you to keep up with the leader of the pack. Apocalypse also breaks new grounds with its online multiplayer by adding new systems not yet seen in a racing game. The much appreciated Betting system lets you the bet “chips” against another player in the race, and from there on the only thing you need to focus on is beating him/her. This makes online races far more enjoyable, especially for those who aren’t yet good enough to dominate every race. The Perk system is also a welcomed addition, it allows players to choose from a number of Handling, Combat and Boost perks designed to improve your success rate. More helpful perks can be unlocked by earning chips but exactly which ones you should chose depends on your own personal play style. Racing online will also unlock rewards such as medals, accolades and parts to customize your vehicles. Decking out your ride is a pretty fun and since all of the parts are purely cosmetic you don’t have to watch Top Gear each week to know what you’re doing. The game also features an excellent photo mode which allows you to take snapshots and export the results to your PS3 library. From there, you can transfer them to an external device or upload them directly to Facebook.

All in all, Motorstorm Apocalypse is an excellent racer that pushes the boundaries set by the Burnout series. If you own a 3D TV this is an essential purchase, but even in 2D the game excels on almost every level. The frantic racing experience, destructible environments, excellent music and unique online systems all congregate to form one of the best racing games of this generation. Evolution Studios have exceeded all expectations with the third instalment of their Motorstorm series, giving Sony yet another exclusive franchise that they can be proud of.

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