I’ve been a fan of Motorstorm ever since I got my hands on the original, years ago when a friend of mine had me try it.
Back then, Motorstorm was an early example of what the Playstation 3 hardware could achieve, because no racing game had looked so good, no cliffsides so treacherous, and no explosions so fearsome. The gameplay was an odd take on arcade off-road racing, using a boost system similar to the excite bike on the NES, but there was a catch: If you filled your boost bar… you would explode. And the explosions were oh so glorious, with bits, pieces, bolts and springs flying out all over the place! Back then, even the crashes in Burnout were inferior.
For years, that’s what Motorstorm was to me. High speed, high jumps, mud pits, and explosions. But when I got my hands on my very own copy of Motorstorm Pacific Rift, everything changed. Motorstorm became more than a racing game.
At the time, I hadn’t played any of the Festival in the first game, and the rolling cinematic behind the Pacific Rift menu just made the Festival that much more interesting. (I guess I didn’t spend enough time with the original game to notice that it also had a festival cinematic background.)
The idea that a bunch of tough-ass racing addicts could get together and organize such an awesome event made the game for me. On its own. It became a universe not unlike Halo or Starcraft, with so much potential to develop.
But what I find really impressive, to this day, is the production value for its menu background. It really fleshed out what Motorstorm was about: A bunch of crazy people getting together to have crazy fun. Scenes of a monster truck dragging 3 scrapped cars to make the track, or jumping compact cars into the sea, or jumping off a cliff and then parachuting to safety. I got the feeling that the development team loved what they were doing. And a dev team that loves their project tends to give us exceptional games.
Not only was Pacific Rift incredibly beautiful to look at, it sounded incredibly good too. And I was playing on an old tube TV to boot. Man, that soundtrack was so varied. It had some kickass DnB, some kickass Rock, and other generally kickass music. But the game fell short in a single regard. We saw the racers, we saw the festival, but we had no story or narration. Don’t get me wrong, the festival served as great context on its own, but it was a little lacking. It was strange that there wasn’t enough of it.
I picked up Arctic Edge recently, for the sake of this here article, and you know what? It blew my mind! Why hadn’t I played this game when it was first released? This game was made to show off the PSP’s capabilities. Booming music, crazy speed, mad explosions, it’s all there! Few games look this good on the PSP. And you know what? The festival background video is still here! Motorstorm in the snow just feels good, you know? Maybe it’s because I’m Canadian, but this is my favorite setting for Motorstorm.
So, let’s skip ahead to 2 months ago.
I’ve had a PS3 for a long time now. A souvenir of my days as a game tester, my PS3 was the only good thing to come from that endeavor (my car’s transmission broke down on my way to work there, and ate up the rest of my savings from the job). So when the Playstation TV came around, it really piqued my interest. Turns out I found a PS3/TV bundle at Costco a few weeks ago and struck a deal with a friend. He’d get the PS3 and I’d get the TV, and we’d both get a nice discount. Deal was he got Motorstorm Apocalypse, and I got Killzone 3.
Well, I borrowed Motorstorm Apocalypse yesterday, and you know what? My beloved festival backdrop was gone. My only consolation was an interesting, yet generic motion comic.
I can understand deadlines. I can understand budget restrictions. So, I can understand why it was chopped. But it felt sad. The motion comic isn’t bad, it just isn’t great. That said, it does add something that the other games lacked: a bit of a story. It fleshed out the universe a little, but it could have been done in more interesting ways.
There are also collectible cards in all of the festival races. Each card consists of an image on one side and some text on the other. They’re all about characters, vehicles, locations, and lore. I love these, they allow the player to look back on the franchise as a whole and see that there is more than just one game here. Its a huge improvement on past games, but it still doesn’t feel like enough.
Now Apocalypse’s gameplay, on the other hand, is jawdroppingly stellar. Racing through a crumbling city, or alongside a tornado, or even in metro tunnels full of crazy people throwing molotovs at you, is a real rush. The crazy speed, the brutal chaos, the danger, it’s all there. It may not be original, with Split/Second still being pretty fresh, but damn did Evolution Studios do their job with that! I’m not an advocate of anarchy, but man do I love it in my video games.
The music in Motorstorm Apocalypse sounds good, but it lacks the great variety of the previous games. I know the city is crumbling around me, but I’d love to race through it listening to booming rock or mad electro. The music included in the game just has this grim, heavy feel to it. This isn’t an emotional roller coaster game where you’re trying to save the world. You’re just racing through it trying to have as much fun as you can before there’s nothing left, and this grim music loses its fun about 20 minutes in.
I can’t help but think that the Festival videos from the previous games would have made this experience better, and that the entire story would be a lot more appealing with high end CGI, especially considering that Motorstorm started off as a leader in the graphics department. A greater music variety would’ve solidified the deal, but I have to say, I’m enjoying the races so much that I’m going grab it from Amazon for myself.
I’ve yet to take my racing online.
I haven’t played RC yet, but from what I can see it looks fun. It doesn’t look like Motorstorm, but still fun. If it’s reasonably priced on the Playstation Store, I might give it a spin and let you know how it goes. That said, from what I can see on the Playstation Store, the game mostly seems like a money grab with a ton of micro-DLC.
Motorstorm as a whole is an incredible franchise. An aircraft carrier-load of vehicles on four continents of crazy off-road tracks makes for a hell of a good time. I don’t have the numbers – so I don’t know how successful the franchise was from a financial standpoint – but from a quality point of view, the Motorstorm games stand out from the crowd. As a franchise, it has a lot more potential to be developed.
What does the future hold for Motorstorm? I don’t know. But I’m allowed to have my hopes.
I hope the next Motorstorm aims for a target that few other games have ever set. Motorstorm should go Global. It should include ALL of the tracks from its previous games and ALL the vehicles too. It should build a timeline for the content from Monument Valley, Pacific Ridge, and Arctic Edge, possibly telling the story of Big Dog (a veteran Motorstormer from Apocalypse’s motion comics) in nice CGI cutscenes to give the races an interesting pace. It should include some new content, but the emphasis should still be on revamping the old stuff and giving it a story. It would need a nice set of background videos from Apocalypse’s festival, and an expansive soundtrack. Heck, the content from RC could be tossed in between festivals for tasteful variety.
I’m not talking a run-of-the-mill compilation. I’m talking about a whole new game. Motorstorm isn’t 5 games. It’s a solid franchise with an interesting story, and it could be compiled into a great hub game, literally making all of the pieces fit into a single masterpiece. (similar to what 343 is trying to do with Halo waypoint)
I’m asking for a lot, I know I am. But I do it out of appreciation for what Motorstorm is: A living world, a work of interactive art. It might not be a complex, story-driven adventure, but it accomplishes what it sets out to do. It gives us a hell of a good time racing at breakneck speeds on the most unlikely tracks out there! And I want more.