When we were but a young lad without a home console we still regularly wanted to play the latest and greatest titles, and we could, we just had to do so on our computer. Naturally, our PC wasn’t always up to the task of handling the latest and greatest titles, and it would sputter and cough and complain as we pushed our Raptor or Hornet as hard as we could to destroy the Kilrathi (seriously, we loved that game), but it was worth it.
Of course, the advantage of a home console is that you never have to worry about upgrading your system to one that has the capabilities of playing the latest titles – it being released for the system is not enough to mean you can play without worry. At least, that’s the way it should be. While the newest in the Motorstorm series has a lot to recommend it, Motorstorm: Apocalypse also has a horrible tendency during some races, to play very slowly; to play as though the system is having some trouble processing everything that has been asked of it.
The reasons for that though are pretty good – there is a whole lot of stuff going on during a race. Virtually every iota of the screen has something going on, and with multiple paths, ever-shifting courses (seriously, buildings will fall in your way during a race), and hidden cards to find, there is a lot for the game to keep track of. Additionally, all those things, each and every graphic during a race, is a thing of beauty. If nothing else, Motorstorm: Apocalypse is a gorgeous title.
Then again, it may be that Apocalypse is nothing more than a gorgeous title. While it offers tons of insane racing, it doesn’t really hold true to itself, all too often substituting brashness for excitement.
The majority of the game takes place in Festival mode (multiplayer is available as well), which allows you to run through the current Motorstorm festival as three different characters. You start with a rookie, Mash; then move to a survivor, Tyler; and finally to the veteran, Big Dog. As a rookie you need to be within the top five finishers to advance; then as a survivor, the top three; and finally as a veteran you have to be first. There are 40 different race tracks (each with multiple paths) and 13 different types of vehicles you can ride on. And, yes, it is possible to customize your vehicles. There is a lot to see and do in the game.
It sounds great, but the truth is that it really fails to be all that compelling. Because the screen is so busy and has so much going on, there are far too many occasions where you’re simply not going to be able to figure out where you need to go next in order to not crash. Okay, we get it, crashes are meant to happen, they’re a built in part of the game, but the reasons you’re going to crash here are disappointing. As said, you’ll crash because it’s impossible sometimes to tell where you’re going and that’s annoying. More annoying though is when you crash because the game’s sense of physics isn’t consistent. Scraping along the side of a building could merely slow you down one lap and then result in a massive flip of your vehicle the next. Smaller objects too sometimes cross your path and will cause crashes that seem impossible.
What it all really boils down to here between the slowing down and the car crashes is that the game feels a little unfinished. It can be truly exhilarating to race underneath the city, or through an office building, or from rooftop to rooftop and it is in fact really thrilling right up until it all slows down, or until you flip your car after barely hitting something miniscule, or until you’re incorrectly eliminated.
Yes, that’s a problem too. Some races, rather than playing out as traditional events are chases (stay close to the leader) or eliminators (person in last is eliminated for a set period of time). In our testing we encountered an eliminator level in which we were removed from the race on more than one occasion despite our not being in last place (sometimes not even second to last).
In between races you’re treated to a animated comic which is as silly and over the top as the game’s post-apocalyptic driving festival concept would lead you to believe it should be. The story really isn’t fleshed out in any hugely meaningful way nor is it terribly compelling, but the point of the whole game is to race and not to care all that much about why you’re racing.
Motorstorm: Apocalypse is really an all-out arcade racer, one which requires the elimination of reality from one’s worldview. That is all well and good, over the top arcade racers is a genre we love, but other titles do it better. Even outside of glitches in the game, things are never quite as satisfactory as you would have them be. From the aforementioned problem of your simply not being able to see far enough ahead on a regular basis to forcing people into walls being a wholly unsatisfying experience, Motorstorm: Apocalypse will keep you wanting more, but not always in a good way.
Motorstorm: Apocalypse is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Crude Humor, Drug Reference, Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence.