The latest entry in the popular PS3-exclusive extreme racing series, MotorStorm: Apocalypse adds an end-of-the-world theme to the formula. It also marks the first time the action takes place in an urban setting.
Set in a massive city called "The City" (original, right?), Apocalypse's single-player campaign pits vehicles of all types and sizes against each other in a place where natural disasters run rampant, and only crazy spectators roam the streets.
Apocalypse's "Festival" career mode centers around the parallel storylines of three different racers (across three difficulty settings) as they compete in a series of events over the course of a two day contest. Each event in the Festival assigns a specific vehicle to the player, but folks can also go back and re-race these events (outside of the campaign) with their choice of vehicle, once they've been unlocked. The feel of each race is akin to chugging a Mountain Dew, snapping into a Slim Jim, and then base-jumping into an active volcano.
It's a ridiculous premise to be sure, but it's one which is well-supported by the moment-to-moment visual insanity created by events that can become vehicular mosh pits as much as they are races. Each disaster-torn track is littered with debris and flanked by crumbling buildings, and the design creates multiple pathways to reach the finish line. Event types come in a handful of flavors: straight-up races, chases where the player has to beat a specific opponent, and Eliminator events where the racer in last place is knocked out in timed intervals until only one remains. These modes are solidly executed, though not overly original.
Many of the game's wide selection of tracks will also crumble around players as they race. These changes aren't purely cosmetic. An exploding bus or collapsing building will often alter (or completely close-off) a path available in previous laps, which means that each lap of a four-lap race may require significantly different approaches.
The on-the track action should be familiar to those who've played a MotorStorm game in the past. Players still have a boost meter that must be cooled down to avoid overheating, and boost can also be used to ram opponents to the left and right of the vehicle as well. While all of the different vehicles have noticeably different handling and weight, most of them feel like they're missing a proper center of gravity and are prone to sliding and skidding around at the slightest provocation. Getting clipped by another racer can often result in an uncontrolled spin that leaves you facing the wrong way. Racing with the pack in certain narrow stretches almost guarantees chaotic chain-reactions. These instances can be either fun or frustrating, depending on their outcome, but one thing is for sure: luck is an important factor when trading paint.
Apocalypse is really the first game in the Motorstorm series to attempt to convey a story, and while the effort is appreciated, the narrative the game attempts is convoluted, full of one-dimensional muscle-headed "dudebro" characters, and largely forgettable. Comic book style cut-scenes precede each event in Festival mode, and while they’re well illustrated, they don't really add much to the experience.
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As in previous MotorStorms, the game includes a large variety of vehicle classes (over a dozen, in this case), ranging from motorcycles and ATVs, to all-new superbikes and muscle cars. Vehicles can also be customized in a ton of different ways, but the vast majority of these customizations don't affect gameplay. The exception to this is a short list of "Perks." Players can assign a group of three perks to any vehicle, and they do things like provide increased grip on the track, issue a shockwave when you wreck, or allow you to stay in critical boost longer before exploding.
Time trials, split-screen and online multiplayer (which can be combined), collectible cards, and quick-race options round out Apocalypse's offerings. Multiplayer races can be customized in a number of ways, though the race types are limited to the three on tap in Festival mode. My time with multiplayer was extremely limited, though, due to the recent PSN outages.
If you're looking for a solid arcade racer, MotorStorm: Apocalypse is a visual tour de force that's reminiscent of other destructive racers and serves up a good variety of stand-out tracks – especially the ones that crumble around you. The on-the-track action is fun, if a bit spongy, and will best serve those who like their racers fast and furious.
This MotorStorm: Apocalypse review is based on the retail version of the game for PlayStation 3, provided by Sony Computer Entertainment, America.