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MotorStorm: Apocalypse
Score: 86%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: Evolution Studios
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1; 2 - 16 (Online)
Genre: Racing (Arcade)/ Online

Graphics & Sound:
MotorStorm: Apocalypse is a looker, technically and artistically. It all starts with the great-looking and well-animated vehicles, which tear along each track with impressive ferocity. But anyone who's played MotorStorm and MotorStorm: Pacific Rift knows to expect that. The sheer amount of destruction you'll witness on the screen really helps the game live up to its name. Buildings fall and crumble before your very eyes, the fury of Mother Nature is showcased in all its awesome glory, and absolutely no racing surface feels 100% safe. It's all chaos, all the time. The stylized motion comic cutscenes are sharp, even if they aren't terribly entertaining; if nothing else, they collectively serve as a nice counterpoint to similar but weaker efforts in games like Dead Space Ignition. But let's not get ahead of ourselves; your attention is going to be fixed squarely on the balls-to-the-wall racing action, and for good reason.

MotorStorm: Apocalypse sounds as good as it looks. Each vehicle has its own "voice," though they are all aggressive in one way or another. The danger indicator that warns you that you're overboosting isn't playing around, and it sounds urgent enough, given the context. Crashes sound as painful as they look, and I wonder if Evolution simply took a bunch of wrecking balls to an abandoned neighborhood to get their sound effects. The high-tempo techno music works well, too, though it has the power to annoy depending on your mood. Luckily, you can change the track from the pause screen if you really need to.


Gameplay:
MotorStorm: Apocalypse aims to deliver the nuanced thrills the franchise has become well-known for, but its primary goal is to deliver a steady stream of jaw-dropping emergent surprises. Hence the subtitle "Apocalypse." Developer Evolution Studios simply took the already-great racing mechanics of the first two games and dropped it into a no-man's land full of terrifying physical threats. While it's not a bold move per se, it works for MotorStorm, a franchise that never fancied itself a simulation in the first place.

The meat of the experience is in the returning Festival Mode, which shuttles you along a haphazardly thrown together narrative that exists for the sole purpose of giving you a plausible reason to race the most dangerous videogame race tracks this side of F-Zero GX. The story isn't interesting, but it doesn't have to be; the tour of destruction it takes you on is a scream. It also forces you to use a wide variety of different vehicles. While each of these handles differently, you'll never feel like you're at a noticeable disadvantage -- even if you're a big rig going against a squad of ATVs.

MotorStorm: Apocalypse had the misfortune of launching at the beginning of the recent PlayStation Network outage. Ergo, we are currently unable to provide our thoughts on the game's online multiplayer component. Once the issues have been resolved and the Network goes back up, we will revisit this review. We are sorry for the inconvenience.


Difficulty:
I wouldn't call MotorStorm: Apocalypse punishing, but I would call it challenging and unpredictable. There are pros and cons to the difficulty level. On one hand, it's incredibly satisfying to successfully adapt on the fly when faced with seemingly insurmountable odds. When the world starts going to hell in a handbasket, it's doubly thrilling to expertly navigate a vehicle across the treacherous and unstable terrain. On the flip side, the collision detection is iffy at best. Some obstacles look imposing, but only slow you down a bit. Others (such as cracks in the ground) might be almost impossible to notice, yet they cause instant wrecks. Thankfully, you can reset your vehicle to the main track without losing too much time.

Game Mechanics:
MotorStorm: Apocalypse is content to offer the same arcade style racing that has entertained PlayStation 3 and PSP owners since the franchise's inception, but a few twists to the formula are well-worth noting. These changes primarily revolve around the boost system. As in previous MotorStorm games, you are allowed to boost as much as you want, but with one catch: if you boost for too long, your engine will overheat and subsequently explode. MotorStorm: Apocalypse doesn't change this system; rather, it introduces a few boost-related mechanics through its clever track design. Boosting increases your engine's temperature; wouldn't it be nice to find a way to cool the engine off without letting off on the boost? There are a few ways to do this: you can find some water to drive through or let go of the gas and boost when you're catching some air. The first option is quick, but the second is even faster. None of this may make sense in a realistic context, but then again, this is a game about racing vehicles through collapsing buildings and on the rooftops of skyscrapers.

The rest of the racing is above average. The handling isn't as sweet as it is in DiRT 2, and the sense of speed doesn't approach Burnout's. Furthermore, the sideswipe mechanic feels forced and unnatural. However, this game finds its identity underneath all the chaos.

Outside of the Festival Mode, there's still a lot to do in MotorStorm: Apocalypse. You can dabble in a little Wreckreation, which is essentially free play mode plus all the other gameplay-tangible extras unlocked in Festival Mode. You can also customize your vehicles if you're into that kind of thing. It's all cosmetic, though, so don't go in expecting a celebration of the tuner scene.

MotorStorm: Apocalypse is about as out-of-control as a racing game gets. It's a far cry from offroad nirvana, but it's a pliable experience that has something to offer just about everyone. It's also a rollicking good time.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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