Motorstorm: Apocalypse Review
Call it the worst timing possible. Just before Motorstorm: Apocalypse was set to release in mid-April, Japan suffered one of the worst natural disasters in history: a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami that killed thousands, leaving many more in danger of nuclear radiation.
So Sony did the right thing and delayed the game to May 3. Unfortunately, the game has been launched just a week after a massive series of tornadoes blew through the middle of America, killing hundreds. If that wasn’t bad enough, the PSN shutdown means Motorstorm: Apocalypse is missing its basic online infrastructure. Sorry to say it, but Motorstorm: Apocalypse has terrible luck.
However, the game itself is fine (note that I could not review the online multiplayer portion of the game). If you’ve played any of the previous Motorstorm titles, then you’ll be instantly comfortable with the controls. They take a little getting used to, as they're both drifty and stable, a somewhat odd middle ground to handle. Once players figure out the mechanics, they should be more than happy with the overall feel of the game.
A few core elements stop the game from being great. Levels are unusually dark, especially for the nighttime races. Even shady areas can appear quite dim, making visibility a problem. Prepare to brighten your TV if you want to play well. Also, this is a game about racing through the ruins of a city. Unlike previous Motorstorm games, set in the desert or on an island, Apocalypse’s focus on soaring across buildings or racing next to a waterspout or through the remains of a financial district leaves plenty of stage geometry to smash into. You crash a lot, and while it’s not a hindrance at first, losing a race over and over again due to a last minute crash is infuriating.
It’s kind of sad that Motorstorm: Apocalypse is arriving during such a chaotic year, as the best facet of the game is the disasters themselves. Racing through a massive metropolitan city on the west coast (a fusion between San Francisco, LA, and Seattle), buildings collapse, tornadoes rip through bridges, and explosions warp the surroundings. With over 40 levels based on nine or ten different city regions, Motorstorm: Apocalypse creates an exciting racing environment. With plenty of collectibles, shortcuts, and other hidden areas to discover, the level design is superb.
Unfortunately, the story is really stupid. Told through three chapters revolving around three characters, Apocalypse likes to present itself as XTREME. It feels like the year 2000 all over again, with bros so set on their XTREME devil-may-care attitude and race for adrenaline that the exposition is laughably bad. “OH MAN. THESE GUYS ARE SO BAD-ASS. THEY PLAY ARCADE MACHINES AND HAVE HOT CHICKS AND DRINK BEER IN THE MIDDLE OF AN EARTHQUAKE. SOOO COOL.”
Ugh. And with a generic urban-stylized art direction that is sorely animated in “comic book cutscenes,” you just hope the game can reign in the brotasticism.
The game itself isn't bad. The different vehicle types offer broad control mechanism, and the “anything goes” races can be thrilling. While the stage-based action is technically static, it is exciting to watch, though it’s nothing fancy compared to Split/Second. For anyone looking for a fresh new racing game on the PS3, things could get a lot worse than Motorstorm: Apocalypse, but they could also be a little better.