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MotorStorm Arctic Edge
Score: 85%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: Bigbig Studios
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Racing/ Racing (Arcade)/ Racing (Kart)

Graphics & Sound:
Wow. PlayStation 2. It's been a while since I've played a game on the PS2, proper. When my (late) original PS3 was still with us, I would play PS2 games on it and at least smooth out the graphics a bit. The PS2 is definitely a "last-generation" system, and the graphics in MotorStorm Arctic Edge show it. That having been said, the graphics aren't bad for the PS2; it's just hard to go back to the PS2 after you've played games on the PS3. Mind you, for MotorStorm Arctic Edge, the PS3 isn't an option. You can either play it on the PS2 or the PSP, each having the same graphics, but the PS2 version is going to look blocky if you have a reasonably large television, so keep that in mind.

The models in Arctic Edge are created for the game, not taken from any actual vehicles. This sidesteps the costs and issues involved with licensing and allows the vehicles to visually take damage without making some actual manufacturer cringe over the possible negative impact a less-than-pristine vehicle might have. MotorStorm Acrtic Edge capitalizes on this, with deformable vehicle models that can get banged up, smashed apart or blown up. This destruction can be fun to watch, but the clock keeps ticking, so I usually press (X) to continue rather than marveling at how high my character got thrown or just how uncomfortably he was positioned when he hit the side of the cliff...

Despite the fact that everything has to be saved on a memory card, MotorStorm Arctic Edge offers a surprising amount of vehicle customization, allowing you to save multiple customized looks for each of the different vehicles. One surprising limitation, however, is that when you save a custom configuration for a vehicle, you can choose any name you like... so long as it's five letters or less in length. This length limitation can lead to some strange names, like the "caution-sign" skin I named "COSHN."

The songs selections were fitting and relatively plentiful, with twenty different blood-and-gasoline-pumping songs, such as The Hives' Tick Tick Boom, The Chemical Bros.' Hey Boy, Hey Girl (Soulwax Remix) and The Prodigy's Omen. Furthermore, the Options screen offers the ability to exclude any of these songs that you don't like from the playlist... a nice touch.


Gameplay:
MotorStorm Arctic Edge is an offroad racing game featuring tracks covered in ice, snow and mud. The basic idea is to race against several opponents, in a variety of vehicles, trying to prove your superiority behind the wheel. There are several different types of games, however, and they differ from each other on exactly how you're supposed to show your superiority. Most often, you want to be the first one across the finish line - and with a big lead, if you can manage it. There are, however, other types of races with different goals, such as a race against the clock where you have to go through specific gates to score points or other races where you are trying to be the first driver to achieve a certain number of points. You'll want to pay attention to the rules specified at the beginning of a race, but in general, the idea is to race as well as you can.

Personally, I found that due to lack of a challenge on the earlier events, the game was a little boring at first. Also, I found it a bit hard to get around the whole PS2 thing. However, once I got to Rank 3 or so and started working out some strategies on how to run certain race tracks in certain vehicles, Arctic Edgeactually was entertaining.


Difficulty:
At first, I was afraid that MotorStorm Arctic Edge wouldn't offer any challenge at all. I whizzed through the first two ranks, coming in first in every race. The competition wasn't even close. When I reached Rank Three, however, the A.I. opponents got a bit more competent and I would place in the top three places. It will take several races to get to Rank Three, so if you're finding the game way too easy, just hang in there. There are around a hundred different events, so there should be enough challenging events, if you stick to it long enough to open the ones that are at your skill level.

If you find the game too hard, it would almost have to be due to the handling of the different vehicles in different types of terrain. There is no perfect vehicle in MotorStorm Arctic Edge; some are better for mud, others for snow and ice, still others are best on pavement or very flat terrain. Many of the races in Festival force you to select a single type of vehicle, while almost all of them restrict you to, at most, a few types of vehicles. If you need to practice with certain vehicles on certain tracks, you can get some practice in the Wreckreation mode. This mode lets you choose, well, pretty much everything. You select the track, the type of race, the direction, the number of laps, the types of vehicles you're racing against and the vehicle you're racing in. One neat thing about this mode is that you can select your vehicle from any of the vehicles in the game, regardless of what the opponents are driving or whether you've ever used that vehicle before. This is a good way to learn to handle a certain vehicle or to explore a track that you've been having issues with.


Game Mechanics:
MotorStorm Arctic Edge could have been called "Shortcuts: The Game" with all of the various paths that can be taken in each course. Selecting the most appropriate course for your style of play and the vehicle you currently are using is as important, if not more important, than finding the shortest path. Each of the different types of vehicles have different characteristics, from weight to acceleration to top speed and ease of turning (or handling, in general). Vehicles which have high top speeds but lower acceleration and poor handling generally need to go on routes that have easier turns and more straightaways, so that, once you get to top speed, you can stay there.

Nitrous plays an important part in MotorStorm Arctic Edge. You'll need to use your boost to get to higher speeds, which are both instrumental in getting around the tracks faster, in general, and making jumps that are necessary to reach some of the shorter "alternate routes" available. However, if you hold down the Nitrous button for too long, you will blow your engine up in an explosion that takes out your whole vehicle. Luckily, there's a meter, as well as an audible sound that increases in pitch and volume to let you know how close you are to going critical. The meter starts to flash red and you will know it when you're about to blow. Even if you manage to just get to the maxed out bit on the meter, you can let off the nitro and you'll usually be okay. Your opponents have trouble with this, however, and are likely to explode all over the track, so watch out for opponents whose vehicles are smoking.

What made the original MotorStorm interesting to me had a lot to do with the high-quality graphics. Arctic Edge looks pretty good for the PS2, but it's still unmistakeably a PS2 and not a PS3 game. Still, if your newest console is a PS2 and you're looking for some extreme off-road racing excitement, then MotorStorm Arctic Edge might be just the game for you.


-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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