That Rumble You Feel? Thatís Not ThunderÖ
When Sony initially announced the Playstation 3 all those years ago, one of the initial videos they promoted to show off their launch line up was Motorstorm, a unique racing title where players raced almost everything with an engine under the hood to get to the finish line amidst harrowing jumps and scenic desert vistas of Monument Valley. The response by consumers was universally positive when it finally arrived in March 2007, and its sequel a year later balanced out most of the gameís major issues and yielded an even more fun experience than the first, solidifying it as one of the most unique and refreshing racing experiences in years. Finally, after three years, the series has returned, this time ditching the beautiful landscapes of the jungle and desert for something completely different: a decaying urban city that crumbles beneath your wheels as you race through it.
Without the might of the Sony marketing engine and the mighty PSN to back up the game, does Motorstorm Apocalype stand out enough to warrant your cash at a time when Portal 2, Mortal Kombat, and LA Noire are the competition?
The Fallen City
Evolution Studios is no stranger to the racing genre, but with segregated focus on gameplay comes a lack of experience in other portions of the gameplay experience. With Motorstorm Apocalypse, however, Evolution decided to experiment with creating a story to line up with the intense racing action the series is known for. Stories in racing games are pretty much universally terrible and it is understandable that this is a test for the developer, but the attempt to introduce a narrative is one experiment that should have been aborted long before the game was even announced.
Apocalypseís dreadful narrative takes place in the urban sprawl aptly named "The City". The site of the third Motorstorm Festival, the competitors arrive via aircraft carrier to race for three days through a metropolis that has been ravaged by several natural disasters. The story is told from three perspectives: The Rookie, The Pro, and The Veteran, each representing the gameplay difficulty you are playing on. The City has been evacuated of noncombatants for some time, as a private military company vies to try and restore order amongst the remaining population while attempting to end the illegal racing festival. I canít make this up.
In no terms should you interpret the following statement as anything other than the literal sense that it is: Motorstorm Apocalypseís storyline isnít just terrible, it is abysmal. The brief snippets of story to be had are told between races in the form of a motion graphic comic book, a method of delivery that has never given this reviewer anything other than a sinking feeling in his stomach. These sequences are after every single race and, despite offering tips to the player on how to improve their game, they serve nothing more than to try and force feed the player a story that is neither well written, nor scripted. Even the incorporation of comedy to lighten these sequences donít warrant your time and will make you wish so very much that you could disable them entirely. None of the characters in the game are memorable, nor should they be. Even the Need for Speed games from 2003-2008 had better stories than this!
This is a racing game Evolution. I donít want to have a story: I just want to make other people eat my dust. Is this too much to ask?
Three Days, So Many More Races
While the attempt at a story was a waste of time, the gameplay stands apart on the opposite end of the spectrum. What really seems to make the game stand apart from its counterparts in the genre are the races in themselves. The City, beset by every single natural disaster possible, save for an erupting volcano, makes for an unusually ideal location for racing. As you race through the collapsing streets and tunnels of the urban landscape, youíll find that you canít help but agree that almost every single race to be had is nothing short of fun.
Three out of the dozen or so stages really stood out amongst the others. The second race you play, "Good Herb", has you crossing a treacherous Golden Gate Bridge clone which instantly told this reviewer that, if this is just the second track, then this is simply a peek at a far more varied experience. This was held true in "Skyline", where the players race across the rooftops of skyscrapers as they crash to the ground all around you. "Boardwalk" features a hurricane-induced tornado that does everything it can to throw cars, boats, and pretty much anything it can at the player. If you were looking for variety when it comes to your racing tracks, Apocalypse certainly delivers.
Fun varied racing gameplay, great tracks
Disgraceful storyline, unbalanced multiplayer matchmaking