Motorstorm: Pacific Rift Review 09/03/2009


Proper big loud simple fun. Brilliant!

This game is basically exactly the same as the original launch title for the PS3 where every little detail has been enhanced and refined. This means to say there is nothing ground breaking here, but it is one giant explosion of crushed metal, broken bones, huge jumps, rugged rides, big fun, mud and chaos. It’s not a game that demands attention, has a plot etc, but when you simply want to pick up a controller, have a race and smash things there are few better alternatives. It’s basically big simple laughs. Whereas the first game was based in the rocky mountains and desert, the racing is now on a volcanic island covered in dense jungle, raging waterfalls and sheer cliff faces.


What’s good?

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The tracks are the most impressive thing here. They are ridiculous. They have stuck very firmly to the ideals of the original by creating big open tracks with many routes for all the different vehicles. Whereas in the first game there were only 6 tracks, there is now 16 in Pacific Rift, albeit only about 6 of them are memorable. You drive round erupting volcanoes, through breath taking waterfalls, smashing through dense jungle and jump cliff faces with drops that would result in absolute certain doom. It’s crazy. The key is still finding the best route for the particular vehicle you are in, and even when you have played all the tracks you still have a lot to learn. Some of the volcano levels are particularly impressive as dodging burning lava becomes part of the race. The tracks are split up into 4 different sections: Earth, Air, Fire and Water. I think you can guess what each one is going to be like, but the brilliant thing is that these are all different environments that will affect your car in different ways. Boosting near lava on a volcano level will of course heat up your vehicle quicker, which results in exploding, and driving through water will of course cool it down. This adds a slight tactical element to the race. I have a love for the ludicrous jumps, which makes the air levels my favourite, and believe me when I say some of the jumps are massive and you fall an extremely long way.



The visuals have been revamped very impressively. The different textures and surfaces from dried up volcanic rock to thick rainforest are incredibly detailed. The water effects are not the greatest (I’ve seen very few games whose graphics can master water effects???) but there is so much detail here you really don’t notice. Even the vehicles are very detailed as you can see each suspension spring and wheel spoke as it is ripped from your vehicle in an accident. When you have a particularly violent head on crash the metal crumples and distorts, just like those slow motion crash test dummy films. It is quite stunning.



The racing is much more aggressive and generally even more total and utter chaos than before. The computer AI is very aggressive and will often try and ram you off a cliff or something similar. There are extra attack buttons now included but they only work for the bikes and quads and are fairly useless. The key is to smash as many things as possible but not at a cost of your momentum, especially in the larger vehicles. In the lighter vehicles, bikes and quads etc, you are better off avoiding contact altogether. Your opponents are just as eager to kill each other as they are you, so don’t worry about the AI ganging up on you. You can never really escape the action as it does not matter how well you race or how little you crash, you will never be that far in front of your opponents. This adds to the adrenaline rush as most races will be won on the final few corners. I think its a very fine line to draw, but its been nailed perfectly in this game, as even if you crash a lot its never worth giving up, and if you race perfectly you can never afford to relax.



You will need to be a more skilful driver this time. In the original game it was basically floor the accelerator, turn right and left. Although entertaining it was a little monotonous. Now “Evolution Studios”demands more of you. You will have to use the brakes a lot more than you may expect and constantly adjust the angle of your vehicle when you fly over jumps or bumps, as messy landings will result in a wreck, or flying off a cliff face, or into some molten lava. Don’t worry though, it’s no “Gran Turismo”and still very arcade like.



The different vehicle classes are back. You can still choose from a bike, quad, buggy, rally car, racing truck, mudplugger, big rig, and now, monster trucks (more on the monster trucks later). Although there are more variations on the different paint jobs or models of vehicle, it makes no difference to their performance. Bikes are agile and fast but explode with a slight gust of wind, whereas the big rigs are practically indestructible, but a bit short on acceleration and handling. Although it’s not a new idea to have different vehicle types you really can notice the difference in all of these rides and none can be approached similarly. It basically adds to the element that racing needs more than anything: Unpredictability. Each vehicle feels very different and it is actually difficult to pick a favourite. I tend to go for the rally cars if I can help it but such a vehicle is useless on some tracks, so you really have to vary your racing skills. Different surfaces effect the different vehicles as well as mud and water will slow down the faster and lighter vehicles but the larger ones can plough through all surfaces. Again, it’s nothing new but what’s there works very well and adds to the unpredictability of the race.



There are more aims and objectives in the general racing this time. Although there is mostly your standard first to the chequered flag race, there is also time trials, wreck limits, eliminators and the incredibly frustrating check point events. These are used alongside normal racing to further unlock points, and therefore vehicles, paint jobs and races. Although nothing new, these elements add new aims and goals to stop you from getting bored as easily. For time trials you have to finish in the top 3 under a certain time, for wreck limits you must finish in the top 3 without crashing a certain amount of times and eliminators mean the guy in last is blown up every ten seconds or so, until only one driver is left. The check point races are very frustrating but it all adds to the lasting appeal and keep the interest up (more on them in a bit).



You can have multi player racing now, something that was surprisingly left out of the original. You can have up to four other players all racing on the same track (like a psychopathic Mario Kart) and is huge laughs for you and your mates. The online stuff is also good, if your into that sort of thing, and has all the usual races you would expect.


What’s bad?

I suppose the worst thing is often you will crash/flip over/get re-set for no reason whatsoever. Crashing is hugely important and entertaining part of the game but, basically you can be bowling along quite nicely, nobody is near you, and your car will suddenly flip over upside down and explode, or hit an invisible wall crumple up and explode, or simply get re-set as if you have crashed, but you didn’t. It doesn’t happen constantly, but often enough to be annoying. I’m guessing that its small rivets, bumps or contact zones in the tracks that have not been ironed out in development. You could argue that that is what off road racing would be like, but I don’t care. You cannot see or predict when said problems will occur so don’t punish me with a big demoralising slap of reality across the face. What part of this game could be deemed realistic anyway? It could have done with a bit more development on this aspect.



The computer AI is aggressive to the point of stupidity at some points. For example, on occasion I have come up behind an opponent and tried to ram him off the track, as you do, only for him to slam his breaks on and basically grind him and me to a halt. On a narrow track it becomes impossible to pass and you are forced to reset your vehicle. Surely you would be better to take evasive manoeuvres and try and get a few hits back? If you lock wheels with an opponent in a buggy, quad or monster truck (as they have exposed wheels) then your opponent will do everything in his power to keep you stranded stuck together unable to accelerate or steer. Again you have to reset your vehicle. You could be hammering over the dirt with no problems, when a computer opponent will hurtle in from the side with the suicidal intention of taking you and him out. They often succeed and are frequently more intent on removing you from the competition rather than winning themselves. I know its AI being told to be aggressive, and you can’t blame a game for doing what it’s told to do, but it’s sometimes just stupid and it doesn’t stop it from being annoying regardless (the online nerds are worse though).



The monster trucks are disappointing. This could be a result of me expecting too much (like Grand theft auto 4) but they simply failed to impress me. As soon as I unlocked them I was expecting to crush all my opponents beneath my mighty wheels and plough through any jungle or obstacle, like the big rigs do. However, the reality is that they are slow, surprisingly fragile, and very unstable and, despite being smaller, big rigs will eat them for breakfast. They have good grip, steering and can go through all surfaces without a loss of speed or traction, but as soon as a big rig touches you, all the wheels fall off and it flips over upside down and explodes. You can easily run over the smaller opponents, but instead of crushing them and moving on you are catapulted into the air, when your wheels make contact (even with bikes) in a huge bounce which ultimately slows you down or often stops you completely. They are very unstable as they like to turn upside down as often as possible, and it’s also far too easy to tangle wheels with your monster truck opponents as well. This results in a total loss of steering or traction and you will mostly only have the option of re-setting your vehicle. Or you flip upside down and explode. They are basically not nearly as good as you might expect and should have been a lot more satisfying than they were.



The check point races are not good. I like the idea of expanding on the basic racing but these check point races are far too overly complicated. They often do not even require you to race round the track normally and you will often have to make 180&#176 hand brake turns and go in the opposite direction to get the checkpoints. You will end up having a million goes before you are successful, and considering the most fun aspects of the race have been removed (actual racing, the opponents and ability to take different routes etc) I can’t see why this was included. A step too far I reckon.



The difficulty level goes too far towards the end. On the single player, as you get further to the end of completing all the races some of the tasks asked of you are too much. You don’t really realise this until you try them, for example, you are expected to complete a race in the top 3 under a certain time. I’m confident that some of them simply cannot be done as I have had a flawless race, boosting constantly, avoiding contact with the opponents, not one crash or loss of speed, come first by some margin and I’m 40 seconds over the time limit. 40 seconds! If it was 5 seconds I would persevere as I could easily shave a few seconds off here and there but 40! I really don’t think it can be done and I have given up completely with that particular time trial. There are several others that have defeated me also and I think they took things a little too far here. I’m not a particularly outstanding or talented gamer but I’m pretty confident even the most skilled drivers will struggle to achieve all that can be achieved here.



I’m pretty sure this is personal preference/”nit picking”but it just doesn’t feel fast enough. Burnout gives the ultimate perception of speed, and makes you feel like you are travelling at a million miles an hour, but this honestly feels sluggish to me. It doesn’t ruin the whole game but you can be boosting along in the fastest rally car (which is the fastest vehicle) and it just doesn’t give you the sensation of speed that you might expect. You can be at top revs flying up to the foot of a jump, boost button pressed through the controller, flames pouring out of the exhausts, you’re expecting to blast out of the game!!!………..and it just doesn’t happen. To be fair if you made the vehicles faster it may make the game unplayable, as there is already much opportunity for crashing and generally making a hash of things, but I would have liked more of a rush (personally).


Conclusion:

In defence of Motorstorm, I am really clutching at straws with the downsides of this game as none of the flaws are important or influential enough to spoil the whole experience. Some are ironically as a result of attempts to improve things. The AI can be annoying, the monster trucks are surprisingly rubbish, it doesn’t give as much of a speed sensation as I would like, however, fortunately Evolution Studios seems to have realised that the difficult second album is not necessarily down to adding new things but simply improving and polishing what was already there. What we have here is the original Motorstorm that’s simply been enhanced and improved in every aspect. The tracks are huge and stunning to behold with many different routes for the many different types of vehicle. Its big action, big crashes, big explosions and, most importantly, big laughs. There’s nothing new or ground breaking here, it won’t win any “game of the year”awards but if you liked the first game or are just after some fun action packed racing in general there are many far worse things you can do with your cash. CA.


Summary:


Is it user-friendly/easy to get into? – 9.0

Menus are simple and getting to a race is easy. Controls are as simple as. The new garage function for your vehicles speeds the selection up a hell of a lot – its all what you would expect.


Is the story any good? – 0.0

There isn’t one, but of course, it doesn’t need it.


How does it look? – 9.0

It’s a very good looking game. All environments, tracks and vehicles look brilliant with no glitches or flaws.


How does it sound? – 9.0

Again, I can’t fault the sound. The music selection is awsome and the SFX are all impressive. Increased wind speed when falling from a great height is particularly impressive.


Is it good to play? – 8.0

Nothing new or unfamiliar but solid and easy to use. Anyone can pick this up and play it. The different vehicles, tracks and chaos add to the unpredictability and therefore the excitement. Does get monotonous though.


When will I get bored? – 7.0

You will start to tire of the action after not too long, I’m afraid. Although it is really good fun its simplicity provokes monotony, and inevitably boredom will set in. Online stuff doesn’t really add anything, as you are always doing the same thing.


OVERALL – 8.0

Review created by C. Armstrong.

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