A storm is brewing up
In March 2007, MotorStorm was released exclusively for the PS3. Developed by Evolution Studios and published by Sony, the game was often regarded as one of the best racing games to hit the platform. After SCEA purchased Evolution Studios, plans were made for a sequel. That sequel is now on store shelves, but does it raise the bar for the racing genre on PS3 or does it experience an unexpected crash?
The original MotorStorm was situated in a desert and was known for its excellent terrain deformation technology. Pacific Rift brings players to an island environment and adds several new elements to the mix. Rather than sand, water is now the dominant factor on every racing course. Rampaging through water will lower your speed drastically but has the added benefit that it will cool down your engine. The depth of the water varies from place to place and only larger vehicles will be able to successfully maneuver through the deeper water, thus adding a strategy element to the game. Will you go all-out through it to cool down your engine or avoid it to maintain a constant pace?
Another interesting element incorporated into Pacific Rift is lava. Essentially driving through it will melt your vehicle and even coming into range of it will cause your engine to overheat. Lava-based levels boast little areas of water to drive through and navigating through both lava and water will be a tricky ride indeed.
The tracks are polluted with all sorts of vegetation that conspire against you passing by. Racing trucks can slowly get through thick vegetation but bikes get smashed to pieces when they ram into tree stalks and should avoid a collision at all cost. Driving big rigs can be very entertaining as they will simply plow right through whatever gets in your way. But there’s a catch: by destroying the terrain, smaller vehicles will be able to navigate the course much quicker, giving them an unwanted edge.
Double the courses, double the fun
The amount of variety in the levels is superb and the developers did a fantastic job designing each of the courses, especially considering that the number of courses has roughly doubled compared to the original game. Courses have alternate routes, each bringing you to different environments that -should you have time- would have you gaze at the beauty of the game’s graphics engine. Some routes are rather straight-forward and can be rushed through at great speeds. Others require precision turning that takes a little while to master but can be very rewarding in the end.
Each area boasts laps of two or more minutes and each lap is filled to the brim with hazards. Cliffs are abundant throughout the game and when you drive off of one, you can kiss your vehicle goodbye.
Time to test your speed
Pacific Rift is by no means a masterpiece and some gameplay elements would have benefited from a bit more 'tinker time' before release. One such element are the Speed Events. During these ‘time trial’ races you race from checkpoint to checkpoint, reaching the final one before your time runs out. The conflict lies with the fact that you can only see one checkpoint at a time and the next checkpoint appears only after you have passed the one that is visible. As there is no way to anticipate where to go next, you need to pass the checkpoints very slowly to prevent having to twist and turn your vehicle in the right direction. I think you understand where I am going with this now: ‘going slowly’ and ‘racing game’ do not mix very well.
Like its predecessor, Pacific Rift is a showcase game for the graphical capabilities of the Playstation 3. The engine further impressed me with a steady framerate, even when vehicles and flora collided and my screen was filled with all sorts of chaos. Despite a few minor flaws, the game offers solid gameplay that places it among the better PS3 games.
No Pros and Cons at this time