MotorStorm Apocalypse simply cannot seem to win. The third entry in the series has been plagued by delays due to the nature of its content and now it lands during the great PSN outage of 2011. It also hasn’t helped that this entry is the first title to truly stray from the formula that the Motorstorm series has become so famous for. Still, you have to give credit to Evolution Studios for being one of the first PS3 trilogies. That, in and of itself, makes a statement. Apocalypse somehow rises from the ashes with moments of brilliance beneath its rough exterior.
Mixing a narrative with a racing game is usually a recipe for disaster. Apocalypse takes another swing at it by placing its racers on an island that is on the brink of destruction due to a massive earthquake. The story is moved along by comic book cutscenes featuring voice acting and some limited animation. I am not going to lie; most of them are terrible and skipping them will not hinder your experience of the game. What I do like is how the scenes progress the festival with each difficulty pertaining to one character and his/her three-day experience.
The real star of the show, though, is the track design. Anyone who played Split/Second will have an idea of how things play out. Basically, this is a warzone. The quake has caused the evacuation of nearly every citizen of the city except for some crazies that generally run in front of the racers tossing Molotov cocktails at you. The natural disasters also alter track routes significantly on certain tracks and just make for some interesting races. This also leads to some frustration in certain instances. For example, when a track changes, it is entirely too easy to get snagged up on some changing debris and be treated to the slow motion crash and lost ground.
Still, you can’t help but appreciate what the developers have done with the destruction in the game. You can get a glimpse of the action at certain points as the game prompts you to tap the triangle button to see the carnage in slow motion. There are also plenty of locales to lose yourself in, making the tracks the single hottest selling point.
The racing itself is in typical MotorStorm fashion. Letting off the gas is rarely warranted and cars all handle similarly enough that switching between a dirt bike and a big rig simply requires you to adjust to their girth and speed. The turbo system makes a return with a newly added feature that has been long overdue. Now, whenever you are airborne you can let off the gas and let the wind cool down your engine. Flames still increase the temp, while driving through a section of water lets you nail down the throttle a little longer.
The aspect of rubber-banding also returns with extreme prejudice. In single player, it isn’t a huge issue until you get into the thick of the harder difficulty levels. Winning races is not genuinely difficult at first, and oftentimes you will find it hard to lose regardless of the number of times you crash. This method also makes an appearance when playing locally, keeping races close until the very end and much more exciting. Like it or not, it does make the game seem more competitive and equal for gamers of all skills.
If I had to identify a negative about the presentation, it is actually the eclectic visuals. The game runs flawlessly as far as frame rate goes, even when it is split four ways across your screen in local multiplayer, but it also seems to get hit with the ugly stick far too often. The game can look absolutely brilliant one minute with tons of explosions and action onscreen, and the next be muddied with poor textures and flat color palettes. It is one of the most inconsistent visual looks I have seen in some time, especially from a series that was built on its incredible attention to detail.
The music is hit or miss depending on how much you enjoy the beats of the dubstep genre. Thumping tracks blast into your eardrums with more prominence than the explosions at times. The effects are absolutely outstanding. Testing this game in my new PX5 7.1 headset truly shows off the dynamic range of explosions and raw metal crunching. The voice work in story mode is decent with Mr. Wolverine himself, Steve Blum, voicing the main character, Big Dog.
I would love to talk more about the online functionality of the game, but at the time of this writing, PSN is still down. If it comes back up anytime soon we will return to this review and deliver opinions about this feature.
MotorStorm Apocalypse has certainly had more than its fair share of obstacles to reach release. Now that it is here, I would be remiss not to mention my disappointment with some of its features. Still, the more I dug into the game, the more I found myself appreciating the direction the developers took. The tracks are outstanding, the racing is traditional MotorStorm and hopefully when PSN comes back online, we can get our race on.
Review copy provided by publisher.