Sony and developer Evolution Studios' Motorstorm is undeniably one of the more anticipated of the upcoming crop of PlayStation 3 games. It was one of the first major games shown for the system and looked to demonstrate the kind of incredible visual fidelity the PS3 was to be capable of. In this regard, Motorstorm does not disappoint. It's easily one of the best-looking games on the system (if not the best thus far), and you'll be hard pressed not to ooh and aah as the game's vehicles crash and explode into one another again and again. Trouble is, that's pretty much the bulk of what you're going to get from it. While the racing is legitimately exciting and filled with visual treats, there's only a handful of ways to experience it, and the only way that really holds up over time is online against friends.
It's safe to say that this beats the hell out of Lollapalooza.
Think of Motorstorm as what would happen if someone in a postapocalyptic future decided to crossbreed rallycross racing and Burning Man-style music-festival culture into one ridiculous orgy of vehicular violence and heavy music. Of course, no one would ever do that, but it makes for a compelling-enough game concept. The twist with Motorstorm's brand of racing is that a variety of different vehicle types all coexist on one track, from big rigs all the way down to dudes on motorcycles. While that might sound like a nightmare for those who prefer their vehicles more on the svelte side, don't worry--you're not destined to be bopped endlessly by bigger vehicles. All the tracks in Motorstorm have multiple paths, and different vehicle types are more suited to some than others. If you're on a bike, ATV, or dune buggy, you can take the higher ground, which tends to be loaded with jumps and other obstacles not properly suited to the bulkier racers. On the flip side, the lower ground tends to be muddy and less reliant on crazy turns and narrow ledges--precisely the kind of stuff a bigger vehicle would be perfectly designed for.
This balancing act permeates every aspect of the racing, and it actually works quite nicely. Some of the vehicles can be a bit of a drag to drive on certain tracks, but as there are plenty of vehicles to choose from, you're bound to find something that works for each situation. It's all about finding the type of vehicle you're most comfortable with and then finding the sections of the track that will get you to the finish line fastest. All the while, you'll be fighting off both other racers and the track itself to survive. Make no mistake, the tracks are treacherous. Jumps are often a tricky prospect to pull off, and there are broken-down cars, mud pits, ledges that will send you flying off a cliff and to your doom (until you respawn, of course), and all sorts of other unpleasantness there to get in your way. As things go, you'll have to deal with the incessant bopping and other antagonizing antics of your opponents. The big guys can wreck into whomever they please, but even the little guys aren't left out in the cold. Racers on bikes and ATVs can attack one another as they drive past, knocking opponents off their rides, which can be immensely satisfying.
It's too bad, then, that there's not more to it. As chaotic as some of the cinematics of the game make the racing look, it's not quite as chaotic as you might expect. The racing isn't exceedingly fast, and the whole core of the racing experience is really just about vying for position based on size and which paths you can take. Your vehicle has a nitro boost that can be liberally used to help put you past opponents and take higher jumps, but there's no real combat to the racing beyond bumping and the occasionally thrown elbow. There's nothing really wrong with that, but the racing in Motorstorm can still get a bit tedious in spots. Once you figure out the right way to take a track for your type of vehicle, that's pretty much what you tend to stick to. That there are only eight tracks in the game heightens the repetitive nature of the racing. They're long tracks, and with all the varying paths, it will take you at least a few go-arounds with each to figure out their various intricacies. But once you do, you'll find yourself pining for some additional variety.
It doesn't help that there's so little to do in the game overall. All Motorstorm offers is a kiddie-pool-shallow single-player mode and online racing. The single-player mode offers up a series of event tickets. These tickets open up races to take part in, and how you place in each race determines how many points you earn to spend on more tickets. You keep doing this until you've unlocked all the races, and, well, that's it. If you're waiting for the part where you unlock new race types or new, unique vehicles, keep waiting. Yes, you can unlock new vehicle types, but they're purely aesthetic changes. New vehicles don't display any new or improved statistical info, so if you're racing one vehicle in a weight class, you're racing any of them. As for race types, there's only one: races. You can't even adjust what types of vehicles play in a race--all that stuff is predetermined based on the event, meaning you're stuck with a specific class in the vast majority of the races. The actual progression of the events doesn't offer a lot beyond the ability to unlock new vehicles and to serve as a practice mode for the online game. That's a decent-enough offering, though once you get to the later events, where the CPU drivers turn into sadistic jerks that endlessly frustrate you, you'll probably just give up on the single-player mode altogether and stick to the online play.