Sunday, December 12, 2010

MotorStorm Apocalypse Will Make You Want to Save Up For That 3D TV...

Yeah, I'm also saying that about Killzone 3, The Sly Collection and that absolutely lovely Ico/Shadow of The Colossus twofer coming your way (and the more the merrier, right?). However, of all the first-party PS3 games I've seen that use 3D enhancements, Evolution Studio's upcoming racer truly takes the cake and even eats the damn candles in terms of total WOW factor. The game screams along at a solid 30fps with nothing stopping the onscreen chaos, except perhaps that building, opponent or gaping crevasse you'll crash into thanks to the overwhelming visuals. Sitting down, popping on a pair of Sony 3D glasses and watching Game Director Matt Southern play through normal and 3D enhanced modes was a quite a thrilling experience (to say the least).

In terms of the
overall experience, You're pretty much getting the MotorStorm you know and love, but with the breakneck pacing of the action sequences in the insanely frantic, CGI-heavy destruction found in Roland Emmerich's otherwise dopey sci-fi action flick, 2012. When I noted the similarities in the demo (building crashing around the racers, impossible jumps being formed as streets are pushed upwards and other craziness), Southern noted that he had the dev team watch the film (for its effects sequences more than the story, I'd bet) as inspiration. Between the falling buildings that end up as new surfaces to drive over to the shortcuts closed off on new laps thanks to debris or the entire section falling away, there's a great sense of motion in every inch of the courses shown that's both outrageously satisfying and probably going to baffle a few folks more used to simpler racing games.

Another key element that keeps the game from being a simple "hit the gas and never touch the brake" deal is engine temperature. Merely jamming on the gas and trying for first place will cause your engine to overheat and explode after a while, forcing you to use airtime to your advantage. Laying off the throttle in midair cools your engine down and basically gives you unlimited boost if you get enough airtime and time your acceleration correctly. Of course, those new to the game will have a bit of trouble concentrating as the world is falling down about their ears, so expect quite a number of wrecks before you nail the courses as they evolve before your eyes. Southern noted that he wasn't sure how some fans will respond to all the course changes during races, but I don't think he'll have anything to worry about. Hell, offline or on, the game certainly isn't going to get boring, that's for damn sure.

The sense of depth in the graphics even with the 3D effect turned off is remarkable, even extending to the comic-book styled menu screens with their great hand-drawn characters and background art. If you happen to already own a 3D TV (or have one coming in that over-sized Xmas stocking), you'll be blown back in your seat by the game's remarkable visuals and how every single element pops off the screen. Flying furniture, busted cars, smoke and all sorts of assorted debris will have your eyes bugging out, especially if you're playing from the bumper cam view. The game just may have to come with a car sickness warning... or maybe an air sickness warning, given the time you'll spend on some tracks suspended high above normal street level.

Deep customization options for the many cars, trucks and bikes are also on board, but don't expect any "personalities" nor a big overall plot packed with cut scenes before and after every race. Southern noted that the idea in Apocalypse is to give players the basic bones of a story to follow, yet not burden the game down with too much plot as to be distracting from the race events. From what I gathered, players will still be celebrating the MotorStorm lifestyle of no holds barred aracde racing, but this tome out, they'll have to deal with a small private army blasting at them with assorted ordinance while they're blazing about condemned racing zones. It's not quite a Mad Max game (or Outlander, one of my favorite 16-bit driving games ever), but it's not pretending to be.

While multiplayer modes weren't shown, it's pretty clear that Evolution wants as many fans of the series to enjoy Apocalypse for the new things it does as much as the old. Me, I'll plow through all of the single player content before going online just so I can memorize those insanely inspired tracks including every single shortcut and death defying drop in as many vehicles as possible. Some tracks and shortcuts work best for bikes, while others are great for heavier vehicles. No matter what you choice of tricked out wheels are, expect to keep this one in your play stack for quite some time when it ships next April.

A quick note to World Rally Championship fanatics here and across the pond - Southern was also he brains behind the infamous WRC: Rally Evolved and its penchant for dropping destruction in the midst of your standard race against the clock rallying. Things such as falling rocks, forest fires and wild animals too close to the courses in the midst of your rallying efforts made the game quite a bit more challenging, but still one of the best genre games on the PS2. That franchise was, by the way, Evolution's entry into the game industry and to this day the five games they created are still one of the best rally game series created for consoles (provided you live in Japan or the UK - we only got the first installment here).

Being a big fan of that franchise, I just HAD to bring up WRC as soon as I had the opportunity, and Southern seemed pleased that I noted being crazy enough about the games to have imported three of the five that never reached the US. When I asked what Evolution's plans were for the future if they were ever to stop doing MotorStorm games, he didn't exactly say no to my kooky idea... so I'll add it here as a closer.
Memo to SCEA: revive the old Rally Cross franchise and hand it over to the fine folks at Evolution Studios. With DiRT 3 on the way and no doubt set to become a big success for Codemasters, it would be really awesome to have another studio that also knows Rally inside and out (and frankly, did some things better with their WRC games than the mighty Mac Rae and Gran Turismo series have) hit back with a little competition for this super-hot sub-genre. You can thank me later for the idea.

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