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The Apocalypse is nigh, and in reality, the last thing you would think of doing is grabbing yourself the most powerful vehicle you can get your oil-liquored mitts on and blast through the most devastated metropolis on the planet. However, despite how outrageous this premise may seem, Motorstorm: Apocalypse goes with it anyway, and with it, delivers some of the most intense and chaotic racing to ever grace the Playstation 3.
Motorstorm: Apocalypse is the first in the series to pry away from natural environments of the previous titles. With the first Motorstorm in the large-scaled desert environments, and Pacific Rift on an exotic island, Motorstorm: Apocalypse drops you into an urban location, whilst still maintaining all the breathtaking beauty and visuals of a typical Motorstorm game. However, with this beauty lies utter anarchy and jaw dropping destruction, something that Motorstorm obviously takes a lot of pride in.
A slight addition to the game is the introduction of a more story-driven campaign called “Festival” mode. The campaign follows a group of daredevils and adrenaline junkies, led by “Big Dog” (voiced by Steve Blum, best known for voicing Bulletstorm’s Grayson Hunt), who dock at an abandoned city on the west coast, cleverly called “The City” (ahem...). The City has been ravaged by the devastating earthquakes that led to it being evacuated, as well as rioters who are too stubborn to leave, causing anything and everything to fall apart, literally. It is this hell on earth that the cliché bad-attitude racers and sexy groupies decided that it was the perfect place to set up a Motorstorm festival. All this then leads to the characters being hunted down by a security team, known as “Dusklite”. The events of Motorstorm: Apocalypse is told from the perspective of three different participants, labelled “The Rookie”, “The Pro”, and “The Veteran”, each representing a difficulty level of gameplay. Each of the participants see different parts of the story unfold over the course of the Motorstorm festival, which spans over three days. All of this is presented in a motion comic between each event.
Although the motion comics are visually impressive, don’t get your hopes up for a deep storyline, as it is as shallow as the games enthusiasm for the green cross code. Each interlude between events is no more than a minute long, and leave huge plot-holes in an already meagre storyline, so don’t worry too much if you just want to skip straight to the full-throttle action.
New vehicles are brought into this addition of the series; including supercars, hot hatches, and muscle cars. With all the vehicles that are available in the game, there is a brilliant balance in the certain attributes that are seen in them, and trust me; there are a lot to choose from. For instance, dirt bikes and ATV’s (all terrain vehicles) are great with speed, but are extremely vulnerable to being shunted by other vehicles. Whereas big rigs and monster trucks that are difficult to handle whilst turning tight corners, are almost invulnerable to any kind of attack from fellow competitors. Even with the great variety of different vehicles, you are heavily restricted by what is available in the games “Festival” mode. You can only use the vehicle that the game gives you for each race. So, even if you’re not a fan of racing trucks, for example, there are certain times that you are unfortunately stuck with using them.
As well as the campaign, there is also “Wreakreation” mode, which consists of numerous game modes, including hardcore festival races that are unlocked every time you finish 1st place in a race on the main campaign. And for the more casual racer, there is always the standard “Quick Race” mode, which allows you to replay a circuit, with a vehicle of your choice, making up for the restrictions in the games campaign. With all the other game modes that are available in “Wreakreation” mode, including “Eliminators” and “Chase”, you can also modify how the events play out; modifying the AI difficulty, number of laps etc. All these game modes can also be played on split-screen offline multiplayer.
What makes the game truly stand out are the cleverly designed tracks, packed with multiple routes to pole-position. Within a city that is devastated by earthquakes and tsunamis, you would think that even what you’re driving on would continue to be affected by Mother Nature’s wrath. Well, you’d be right, and Evolution Studios agrees. As your pacing at high-speed with up to sixteen other participants, the tracks change in real-time; bridges buckle and twist, massive skyscrapers collapsing, and the roads shake and break apart, causing rifts and other hazards on the very road your racing on. The devastation emerging right in front of your eyes are constant surprises that deliver new challenges, changing the very way you run through each lap of the same track, testing the reflexes of even the most hardened racer. This new level of challenge makes each race on Motorstorm: Apocalypse an exhilarating experience from start to finish. An early highlight of this is the second event in “The Pro” phase of the campaign, where you’re bouncing from one skyscraper rooftop to the next on a quad-bike, using many of the already collapsed buildings as ramps to grab some nauseating hang-time in the air.
Like the other Motorstorm titles, players have the boost system that can be used to gain some much needed speed, boosting up ramps, crossing dangerous gaps, and simply getting past your opponents. However, ignoring your boost dial and allowing it to overload too much can result in you blowing yourself up... and that would be just silly. You can, however, use the track itself to your advantage, by driving through areas covered in water, as they cool your boost, allowing you to use it for longer periods of time. There is much more to what you can use your boost ability for though; players can deploy ‘Burnout-esque’ strategies of aggression by shunting opponents off the track with the simple tap of ‘Square’ or ‘Circle’ (or the shoulder buttons, depending on your preferred button configuration) whilst boosting, before watching them blow up in a giant ball of fire. Despite this tactic to foul-play your way to first place, boosting opponents off the track does feel weak, compared to the takedown system of Burnout Paradise.
With the amount of detail that has gone into the tracks, alongside the aggressive competitors, there is always something around the corner to test your senses to the limit, which leads to the experience sometimes being quite an irritating one, as it is very easy to demolish your ride. This is not helped by an imbalance of physics within the game, where the smallest bump or turn can cause you to lose complete control, becoming another piece of wreckage that already litters the city. However, don’t allow these problems to put you off, as they are few and far between, leaving the rest of the experience as fun and intense as you wish it to be. And with this said, it is noticeable that the driving is much tighter, with improved handling than the previous Motorstorm games, allowing you greater chances to make split-second decisions on the circuit.
In regards to the multiplayer, it is just as (if not more) thrilling as the rest of the game, with an impressive array of options and game modes. All game modes that are in “Wreakreation” mode can also be played online, with up to sixteen other players. But what makes the multiplayer experience stand out is its augmented perks, which players can use in an online race. Some highlighted power-ups include “Critical”, which allows you to boost longer, and “Swift Return”, which allows you to reset to the track after a crash quicker.
Motorstorm: Apocalypse’s online multiplayer also delivers an incentive to keep you playing, by allowing you to earn experience points that come in the form of chips. Gaining these chips increases your driver level, resulting in unlocking new perks, as well as car parts and avatars to customise yourself and your ride. Although customisable car parts are an exciting idea, they unfortunately do not alter the performance of your vehicle, they are purely for aesthetic purposes. If you can’t find anything that you would like to spend your chips on though, no worries, because you can take a back seat and use some of your chips to place a bet on who will win in an online race, only making the game’s online experience that more exciting.
And, like many Playstation 3 games coming out lately, Motorstorm: Apocalypse can be enjoyed in stereoscopic 3D (that is if you have a compatible television of course). Motorstorm: Apocalypse is a true showcase of what 3D video gaming is capable of, as your speeding full-belt through enormous cityscapes that is falling apart left right and centre. Whether you actually experience it in 3D or not, Motorstorm: Apocalypse is a sterling example of how a sequel becomes even bigger and better than its predecessors. Bigger thrills, even more intense racing, great multiplayer options and expanded content, with all the sensational and intricately designed circuits that makes you come back for more. It’s all these factors that make Motorstorm: Apocalypse a welcoming addition to a critically acclaimed series. It will blow you away.