Developer: Evolution Studios / Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment || Overall: 9.0/10
MotorStorm is the greatest dirt racing festival to ever be conceived. You’ll race in Monument Valley — the middle of the desert — and take on all who challenge you. You’ll use practically any type of vehicle that can be used in a dirt race: Motocross Bikes, ATVs, Buggies, Rally Cars, Racing Trucks, Mudpluggers, and Big Rigs through the course of the single player festival. Each vehicle has its own advantages and disadvantages, and using both sides of the coin intelligently will help immensely in winning a race.
To control your vehicle, you’ll use the R2 trigger to gas. If you haven’t already gotten used to the PS3’s new trigger yet, MotorStorm will train you how to use it. You’ll be pressing it down almost non-stop during gameplay, and just like any other trigger, the further you push it down, the more your vehicle will gas. Each vehicle also utilizes boost. Boost is a very important tool to use in MotorStorm and, when it comes down to the wire, will make the difference whether or not you take that qualifying position or are left in the dirt, literally. A boost gauge in the lower left-hand corner will show you how much time you can use your boost for before you overheat your engine and blow it up.
Bluntly, the game has amazing physics. Not only is this seen during regular racing, but during crashes as well. Crashes are a very important part of the visual experience in MotorStorm. You experience the aftermath of each of your crashes in slow motion. Even though you’ll never see the crashes that your opponents have because of you, the crashes are awesome. Depending on how you crash, thousands of pieces of your vehicle will fly every which way. If you’re on a bike or ATV, the driver will fly into the air and slam onto the ground. In most scenarios, you would be dead after having a crash at such high speed, but since this is a game, you respawn to the track to continue your race after a crash. Allowing your boost gauge to fill up will also create a slow-motion crash as the engine in your vehicle will blow up.
There are two ways to play MotorStorm: You can play offline single player or online multiplayer. The single player mode consists of 21 “tickets.” A ticket, when unlocked, gives you the chance to race one to four events. Qualifying in each of the events you have access to consists of placing in the top three, and the more events you qualify in, the more points you’ll gain in unlocking more tickets. Some tickets may only require a certain amount of points, but others will require you to get all bronze, silver, or gold in each of the events for a certain level before unlocking that particular ticket.
Each event will permit you to pick a certain type of vehicle. Sometimes that means you can pick any class of vehicle you want (the ticket will be denoted by a MotorStorm logo), or the game will tell you to race using a specific class of vehicle for the event. Each event will take place in one of the eight available tracks, either during the day or at night. The possible combinations that can comprise an event can create a very unique challenge considering each vehicle takes time to master, as well as learning about all the multiple routes a certain track may have and which would be the best way to go considering the type of vehicle you’re using at the time.
The AI in MotorStorm is the biggest challenge of all. Unlike many racers where it is easy to just pull out ahead of your opponents and win the game, you’ll have to fight to keep your place in line. Even if you’re in first place, making one stupid move could cause you to end up in nearly last place. Even when you’re in last place, you’ll be fighting to keep that spot. The game’s AI is that hard. You’ll have to pull out all the tricks you can to move up the ranks in a race, or be left in the loser’s circle. A really cool part about MotorStorm is that you can have nearly fifteen opponents to compete against in a single race.
It is almost assured that you will not win every race you enter the first time around because of how difficult the AI is. Thankfully, there are absolutely no load times to be considered when restarting a race. The beauty of this is that you could be playing the game for nearly thirty minutes without dealing with any load times at all because you’ll be retrying many times before you actually complete a race. The only real problem the game has with load times is when you are selecting vehicles. MotorStorm doesn’t use the hard drive to cache anything, so it takes a lot longer to select your vehicle since it’ll be loading off the disc each time you change it. This is a major oversight, considering the vehicle selection is the first thing you do for each race, and it can feel like it takes longer to pick your vehicle than it does to load the race you’re about to enter. After selecting the vehicle, you’ll experience about twenty to thirty seconds of loading for a race, which is not bad considering it’s a race that’s being loaded and not a vehicle model.
Online multiplayer nearly mimics the single player mode in gameplay, except that you’re racing against humans. Racing up to twelve players online through the PlayStation Network is a pleasant experience, to say the least. I’ve experienced almost no lag in twelve-player games, though it is possible to experience some every now and then. While the user interface could have been a bit better (I’m spoiled by Resistance’s online multiplayer mode), the main thing that counts is how well the game actually plays while online, and it works just as you should expect it to. There is also stat-tracking that shows which vehicles you like the best, as well as your win percentage.
There are grievances with online multiplayer, however. My main criticism comes with how long it can take to actually join a game. Since you’re able to join a game that is already in progress but not actually race in the game until the race has finished, you could be sitting down doing nothing for too long. Unless you want to hop around from game to game to see if there’s one that’s about to begin, there is no indication in the online game lobby to tell you whether a game is about to start or not until you’ve actually joined the game. This is a problem unless you host a game. Hosting a game gives you many options, such as selecting which vehicles players are able to choose, and which tracks you race on in each game. It is also unfortunate that private games cannot be created.
The biggest problem the game has is actually in its value. Even though I have found the game to be quite awesome, it’s just that there isn’t much to actually do in the game. Having only eight tracks is probably the biggest unfortunate aspect, and when making a parallel to a game series like Burnout, MotorStorm could have benefited from having one or two extra modes of play. I’d even go so far as to say that MotorStorm is what Burnout would be if it were in the dirt, but since there’s pretty much only one way to play the game, it undershoots that status.
The visuals and sound experiences are really top notch. I literally say “wow” during races because of the visual effects and beautiful desert imagery. The frame rate is very solid, with little to no slow down in a usual race. Vehicle models that start out clean show damage and get progressively dirtier as a race goes on. Track deformations are also shown and as each lap goes on, they appear as if cars had actually driven through them (because they have). The realism that is visually portrayed is quite astounding.
The sound effects drive the realism, as each vehicle actually sounds like its real-life counterpart. Although the ATV’s horn sounds like it’s a bus, the sound really helps in the experience hearing the skidding of vehicles driving through the dirt on a tight bend. The music is intense, going well with the chaotic nature of a typical race. If you dislike a song in particular, you can go to the sound options and check off a song you don’t want to hear anymore.
MotorStorm is a great addition to the PS3’s library, especially early on in its lifecycle. While there may not be so much to do in the game as the racing genre has seen in the past, the physics and visuals of the game are wholly impressive — the game is worth playing just to experience them. Single player mode will take a large investment of time to beat completely, and the online community is populated enough to have a new challenge present itself each time you enter a new game. MotorStorm is a solid racing title.