Arcade or simulation. It's a straightforward dichotomy defining most titles in the ever-expanding racing genre. It's turn and burn against the holding the apex. Only the rare title can find a way to successfully integrate aspects of both in a new and innovative way. The exciting news for PS3 fans is that MotorStorm has that rare combination. It hits the track hard with a bunch of fresh ideas that you'll notice at every turn.
MotorStorm doesn't just limit itself to your standard collection of autos. It features seven different types of vehicles, all with solid advantages and weaknesses. With MX Bikes, ATVs, Buggies, Rally Cars, Racing Trucks, Mudpluggers, and Big Rigs, all the bases are covered. You'll learn how to handle them all as you progress through the single player game, because not all of them are going to be available for each race. Essentially, the game creates vehicle-specific challenges for many of its races. One, for instance, might pit you and your MX bike against a crowded field of Big Rigs or vice versa.
[Motorstorm] hits the track hard with a bunch of fresh ideas that you'll notice at every turn.
The need to race different vehicles in diverse situations helps to keep the paltry number of tracks fresh. You'll notice the same track popping up as you progress through the four difficulty levels because there are only eight tracks in the game. Thankfully, great care was taken to balance the tracks for those seven vehicle types. No one vehicle is dominant on a given track. You have to know the right route for your particular vehicle to come out on top. It rewards learning every nook and cranny of each track. So when tracks pop up a third and fourth time, you're forced to play in a completely new way by taking a vastly different route.
The four difficulty levels are broken down into 21 tickets. Tickets are essentially mini circuits that could feature just one race or present multiple races. A first, second, or third-place finish in each race will net you a certain number of points. You need to accumulate points to unlock new vehicles and new tickets. To snatch victory from your opponents, you're going to have to pull out all the stops. You'll certainly make use of the cool boost feature. Boost here isn't based merely on how much juice you have in the tank. Rather you can boost as long as you want, but you run the risk of overheating. Hold it down too long and your ride will nuclear. The risk/reward can be an intense trade off, especially with one racer between you and that finish line.
Getting up close and personal is a key to both the gameplay and the graphical beauty of MotorStorm. While most racing purists extol the virtues utilizing the in-the-cockpit view, I've always found the greater leeway of playing in a pulled back view more comfortable and just as intense. That's not the case here. If you don't play this title in first person view, then you're missing out on half the game. It's essential. It plays a lot faster, and the mud slings even better. The graphics are fantastic, and playing it close will get your heart beating. As you zip along, you'll notice track changes too. The once hard ground will get cut up and muddied, so a once clean route might not be so good on the second or third lap through.
Lack of rumble is noticeable, especially when you're suddenly get rolled from behind by a Big Rig. It's frustrating because you won't know what's going on until it's too late. When you jostle for position slamming your ride against another racer you want to feel that jolt. And fighting for position is commonplace when you hit the races in the later levels, because the AI becomes hell-bent on smashing your ride against the rocks. But you can't fault the title for controller. Still, hopefully rumble will return to the PS3 soon.
SIXAXIS control is an option, but in an intense title where an inch could mean the difference between victory and wiping out on a tree branch, using SIXAXIS tilt control just wasn't an option for me. I could see that with a good deal of practice it could actually be a legitimate control method, but if you start with standard control you're likely to stay with it. Like they say, change is difficult.
The title's lasting value really takes off when you jump online. Online wasn't available in the Japanese version released a few months back and I certainly feel sorry for them. To a degree the single player game feels like training for net play. With all the time you're going to spend online, it was good to see that it's pretty much lag free, even filled out with 12 players. Playing against other racers who know the vehicles and courses as well as you is a blast. You won't be doing that much chitchatting though, because even though mics are supported there's not a bunch of people on with them. Of course, if you're riding a MX or ATV you can always perform some rude hand gestures when close to opponents.
All in all, there is certainly a ton of fun to be had here and it's finally another solid reason to own a PS3. It brings a lot to the genre by balancing out the skill necessary to win with the simple fun and speed of arcade racing. For MotorStorm is definitely worth a purchase for PS3 owners, even if it only holds your attention for a limited time.