When I first bought my PS3 MotorStorm was high on my list of must-have games. Being a long-time fan of the series Rally Cross and Rallisport Challenge it was nice to finally see a truly next-gen off-road racer. After investing countless hours into the demo the final version has finally landed on my doorstep. The burning question is did it live up to the hype generated from that gorgeous E3 trailer, or was this simply another tech demo turned game to showcase the power of the PS3?
With the recent drought of PS3 software I have no doubt that MotorStorm is going to sell; and sell a ton. Owners of Sony’s $600 wonder machine are chomping at the bit for a new experience and what better way to satisfy that hunger than a gorgeous off-road racer that supports online play. What you end up getting here is certainly a solid package, but one that suffers from too many shortcoming common to a new franchise.
Let’s start with the single-player game which is by far and away the biggest culprit. There is only one mode of play to be found in the solo affair and it is the career. This consists of series of races that earn you tickets which in turn you use to move on to the next event. There are no arcade races, time trials, or even split screen multi-player to be found here, which for a racing game is a serious offense. Couple this with the incredibly frustrating AI in the campaign mode and a measly eight tracks and you will soon discover just how shallow the offline portion is.
The most frustrating part about offline though is the cheap AI system. While I love having a close race as much as the next guy there simply isn’t any other type of race here. You could run a perfect lap; simply blazing past opponents just to be passed on the final stretch by a giant rig causing you to redo the entire race, and some of these tracks are huge so that could be upwards of a 6-10 minute race.
This only gets worse as you progress through the game as the AI tends to get more aggressive the further you get into the events. Some events even require you to use a particular vehicle class, which is fine for learning which route is best suited for your vehicle, but it also leads to some truly uneven and exasperating races.
The worst part of all this though is that the single-player is far too long for it’s own good. You will spend countless hours pushing to unlock all the vehicles and skins, but after that you will never go back to it, making this game a definite rental to those without online.
This brings me to the online portion of the game which is where Evolution Studios obviously focused all their work. Here you can race on any track with any style of vehicle in a virtually lag-free environment. This is where most gamers will definitely be spending the majority of their time with this racer so thankfully it works great for the most part. My biggest gripe is that it still uses the archaic lobby system which really makes playing with your friends a pain.
You can also not create private matches for just your friends, so unless you can call them up and have them find your game as soon as you create it you are left playing with strangers. This takes away from the community aspect of playing online and I hope they fix this with future downloadable content. Of course these are minor issues that stem from being spoiled on Xbox Live, but when Resistance and Untold Legends implemented it better you really expect Sony to deliver on this anticipated title.
Visually this game is drop-dead gorgeous. Gigantic landscapes with almost infinite draw distance and lighting that really shows off what the PS3 is capable of. While the original target footage this is not, you would be hard pressed to find a better looking game on the console right now. The frame rate is also rock solid rarely ever dipping and the particle effects such as kicking up dirt are phenomenal in true HD.
The game only supports up to 720p which is a shame as it would really look incredible running at 1080p, but honestly that is a small gripe. The physics engine is also worth noting as each car interacts with the environment in a realistic fashion. Seeing the mud part and splash about will certainly turn heads and the track design is utterly dazzling. The crashes in this game are some of the best I have ever seen perhaps aside from the Burnout series. Each altercation goes into a sort of slow-mo Matrix style motion showing you each and every detail in stunning realism, truly beautiful.
Sony has a potential franchise on their hands and a truly impressive engine. It has already been announced that the next WipeOut game will utilize it and that is really exciting. With a few tweaks to the online functionality and the addition of some single-player options this game could easily become a fan-favorite. Right now with its small selection of tracks and shallow career mode the game falls short of being a classic. Still if you are a PS3 owner in need of some new software MotorStorm will satisfy in just about every area.