Thu, Jun 10, 2010 | 17:30 BST
Impressions: Motorstorm Apocalypse
It’s rumour no more. Motorstorm Apocalypse is out in the open. It’s coming next year and sounds properly awesome. We were in London to check out the game.
We also chatted to game director Matt Southern about the game. Get our interview here.
[Word by Adam Hartley]
The ultimate party at the end of the wor
MotorStorm Apocalypse is the name of the third outing in Sony’s massively-popular arcade racing series, due for release at some point early next year. It is set in an apocalyptic (note, not “post-apocalyptic”) and unnamed west-coast US city that is literally falling apart as you race around it.
At the start of the game, the MotorStorm posse arrives on a massive aircraft carrier to discover this incredible urban racing playground at the end of the world. The former population has left and the crumbling metropolis has been taken over by three factions – renegade military contractors, random bunches of crazies and looters and you and your mates, who just want to race and party on through till the (very imminent) apocalypse.
Perhaps one of the most interesting and new features in the new MotorStorm game is the storyline and character-led nature of the game. In the single-player game you can play as one of three characters, each of which represents the three different difficulty levels in the game.
“Rocky” is the beginner level character, “Survivor” is medium difficulty-level, and the frighteningly-hard looking biker “Big Dog” is the character that will take you into the ranks of the elite racers. With a clear nod to Starfox, it’s certainly an interesting take on how to structure the learning-curve and the difficulty-levels in a racing game.
Once you start racing around the city you can also expect to be shot from the ground or from the sky by the aforementioned military contractors. On top of all that you might well be attacked by looters with wrecking balls or Molotov cocktails by the crazies and looters that roam across the city like vermin. It is complete and utter chaos, yet the gameplay and controls are familiar to anybody that has played a previous MotorStorm game. And very easy and quick to pick up for anybody that hasn’t.
Total. Fucking. Lunacy.
For some, describing MotorStorm Apocalypse as an “arcade racer” certainly does it a massive disservice. The latest game in the series is perhaps better described in the words of Evolution Studio’s game director, Matt Southern, as “the perfect playground for an urban racing festival” (or as he tells us in our 1-1 interview later in the day, as “fucking lunacy.”
Going from this first demo level that we saw and played at a recent pre-E3 Sony PR event in London, we couldn’t agree more. Perhaps one of the most noticeable aspects of the game when you first play it is the fact that the cityscape is actually falling apart as you race through it. Roads rip open, buildings fall, bridges twist and collapse as you race over them. At a high concept level, it is what Evolution’s developers refer to as the “perfect subversion of urban racing.” At the level of playing the game, it is both mental and mesmerizingly instant fun. It is also how they hope to take the MotorStorm ethos of crazy no-holds-barred off-road racing into an urban environment.
As the city falls to bits, you get the opportunity to race through its subterranean tunnels and sewers, in addition to being able to race across the rooftops of the surrounding skyscrapers as they crumble around you. You can also drive up and around buildings as they collapse and tilt around you, creating half-pipes to boost off as you race through the falling metropolis.
Perfecting urban chaos and total devastation
Of course, we always knew that the new MotorStorm demo would be polished, but for a pre-alpha demo this genuinely almost looks like a finished product. Evo has clearly taken some inspiration from urban chaos racers such as Burnout and Flat Out and others hardly worthy of mention, yet have fashioned a game that just seems to work much better than those games on the level of a quick-fix “race to be number one” type experience.
Whether or not the new and improved story-mode and the difficulty levels/new characters and the promised multiplayer improvements will make MotorStorm Apocalypse into something more than a “quick ten minute hit” type of game remains to be seen.
Evolution reps also kept talking about three things at the recent pre-E3 demo of the game – chronology, persistence and continuity. If you are racing around a track and a building collapses around you, that building is still in bits the next time you race that track.
After you have finished playing through the single-player experience that is just the beginning of the game, we were also informed by Evolution and SCEE reps, because MotorStorm Evolution features a “massively expanded” multiplayer recreation mode. They reckon that the average gamer will be looking at around 150 hours of unique gameplay based on this new recreation mode alone. Quite a claim.
The online multiplayer game also features a detailed vehicle customisation mode, which is going to appeal to those gamers that like to tinker with their vehicles when they are not actually playing the game. Facebook integration and community websites sharing vehicles designs and the like will surely be inevitable in MotorStorm Apocalypse’s attempts at community-building and taking the game beyond the console. Additionally, the multiplayer game will also offer a variety of “perks” following the success of such features in action shooter such as Modern Warfare, so you will be able to get boost, handling and combat upgrades for your vehicles.
After GT5 releases later this year, MotorStorm Apocalypse is the next major PS3 exclusive on Sony’s release list. This was a fantastic first look at what could well be one of the PS3’s best games to date in 2011. After all, this is Sony Computer Entertainment and Evolution Studios. These guys just do not mess about. They get E3 preview demos right! And whatever you want to call the genre, it’s all semantics, because, to date, from the initial fun of barrelling around the deserts in the first game, through to the pacific vistas of the island in the second game, MotorStorm has pretty much defined off-road arcade racing.
Key title for Sony’s 3D gaming push
This latest instalment in Evo’s off-road racer series has already been in development for over two years to date. The developer recently told VG247 that they were aiming for a release of the new MotorStorm game in the first quarter of 2011. (We should also mention that they were quick to add that well-worn “we’ll release it when it is done” caveat, so read into that what you will). Still, for those of us that aren’t big enough petrolheads to be fully pumped about playing Gran Turismo 5 later this year, it’s great to have a “fucking lunatic” arcade racer to look forward to getting stuck into in 2011.
Right now, for us, there is no doubt that MotorStorm Apocalypse will be one of Sony’s biggest games at E3 2010. The demo level that we had a chance to briefly play on in London this month was a magnificent and highly-polished taster of what we really hope the rest of the game we play in 2011 is going to be like. And it is obviously going to be shown off on in its full glory on 3D-ready Sony Bravias very soon. This could well be one of those games that Sony uses to really push 3D TVs into our homes over the next year or two.
2007’s MotorStorm and its 2008 sequel MotorStorm: Pacific Rift have been two of the most popular PlayStation 3 exclusives to date. Yet for many the “arcade racing” genre (or whatever you want to call it) has been getting a bit tired of late. Creativity in the racing genre has waned since those early PS3 belters. And those of us that like ‘serious’ racing games have waited far, far too long for Gran Turismo 5. Sales in the category have slowed in recent years as the many fans of fun, quick-hit arcade racing games have moved across to get their kicks from action-adventures such as Uncharted 2 and war games such as Activision’s mighty Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series.
From our first look and all-too-brief first play, there is a serious chance that MotorStorm Apocalypse could well be the title to reverse this trend.
Motorstorm Apocalypse releases next year for PlayStation 3.