Motorstorm: Apocalypse

When Motorstorm came out in 2006, people found the PS3 exclusive offered a unique take on off-road racing, allowing players to use many different vehicle types in a single race. Two years later, Motorstorm: Pacific Rim offered a sunny locale and even more vehicles. Now Sony and Evolution Studios are bringing Motorstorm to the city, but the idea isn’t as surprising as it might seem.

While the previous two Motorstorm games focused on a rugged desert setting and a tropical beachside region, respectively, Motorstorm: Apocalypse slides into a slightly more disastrous direction. The area known as “The City” is in the midst of a major catastrophe. Suburbs lay in ruins, skyscrapers have collapsed, and waterspouts have ruined a nearby pier. The whole city, designed to resemble California’s Bay Area, is in shambles.

The story behind Motorstorm: Apocalypse (as if the game ever needed one) is that “The City” has been assaulted with natural disasters. Looters and survivors run loose and drive rampant around the tracks while military personnel try to maintain order. When the Motorstorm event comes across the city, officials set up a tournament even as the city falls apart.

Yeah, the plot is silly and makes no sense, but the premise does make for a great racing environment. Blasting from fallen skyscraper to fallen skyscraper in an ATV while the whole city crumbles around you is a visually enthralling experience. Some of the other levels, like the devastated suburb, are a little less engaging, but they have their own problems to worry about, such as civilians running carelessly into the streets. I particularly loved watching a tornado work carve a path along the coastline of the pier stage, a fantastic visual reminder of the ongoing destruction. Split/Second comes to mind, as the game also used urban destruction as a gameplay element. Unfortunately, chances are slim that Motorstorm: Apocalypse will allow players to add to the destruction themselves, but the visuals are impressive and the action has the means to impact the race’s outcome.

Besides the tracks, which are the real accomplishments of the game, developer Evolution Studios has added new vehicle types. Motocross bikes and rally cars are still available, but supercars, superbikes, muscle cars, and plenty of new vehicle types will join the ranks. Some of them, like the cab truck, are very difficult to control. Others like the bikes are much easier to drive but can be demolished easily.

Cars and stages aside, one of the major new mechanics added to Motorstorm is the air-cooling component. All of the vehicles in Motorstorm can boost until they overheat, so driving through water or soaring through air will cool them down faster. It’s a new addition that encourages quality air time.

If my time spent with the game is any indication, Motorstorm will steer itself into an even more arcade-style direction. Rather than replicate real off-road racing, Motorstorm: Apocalypse takes gameplay as far-out as it can get. We’ll find out if it’s a disaster of a game or a game with disaster when the game comes out this April. I’m hoping for the latter.