When the PlayStation 3 launched over a year ago, there were only a couple of titles that were really high in quality, and one of those games was MotorStorm. Offering incredible looking offroad racing action across insanely high cliff-faces, combined with aggressive AI and races that were always close and competitive, the title offered an intensity not often seen in racing games, and has since sold more than 3 million copies globally. So of course, an inevitable sequel is coming in the form of MotorStorm Pacific Rift. Moving away from cliff-faces and into a more jungle-like atmosphere, we got our hands-on with the game at the recent PlayStation Day event in London; and even though the build was only 40% complete, we're already revving our engines in excitement.
MotorStorm Pacific Rift will be instantly familiar to anybody who played the original. Vehicles handle similarly, with each different vehicle type featuring its own set of strengths and weaknesses; motorbikes are more agile and benefit more from stable surfaces, whilst mud-pluggers are good at getting through tough, gritty ground. Everything handles quite smoothly, and the boost meter is back in full force, complete with explosive finish if you push it too far. But while on the surface the game feels very much like the first title, there are lots of subtle differences that should not be ignored.
Pacific Rift is set on 'the island', which is based on Hawaii; on the island there is your jungle-like areas as well as things that are more beachy, and because it's based on Hawaii, there are also other curveballs thrown in such as volcanoes and waterfalls which will become obstacles on certain tracks. This is certainly a step up from the original, where although the tracks were had plenty of different paths and varied in basic style and design, the actual backdrop was very similar throughout, rarely venturing from the series of cliffs and rocky roads.
These new and interesting environments aren't only a visual change from the first title, however. The vegetation that is littered throughout the tracks is interactive, allowing for different strategies based on which vehicle you are using. Larger vehicles will have no trouble plowing right through most of the plants or even some trees, while the smaller and less physical vehicles will be stopped in their tracks or knocked off course. The same can be said for the water in the game, which should also be tackled differently depending on your choice of wheels. Not only will it react realistically, but driving through water will also cool down your engine; so if used correctly, you'll find yourself being able to boost in more regular intervals, giving you an advantage over others who don't use the same strategy.
One of the more important additions to the game is a new vehicle... not that we weren't already spoiled for selection, but now available in Pacific Rift is the monster truck. Although obviously not the most speedy of vehicles, the monster truck has an advantage in that it will basically crush any other drivers that get in the way. Running over bikers or ATVs is expected, and quite frankly, a lot of fun. It will also have no problem driving through deeper water or knocking away any trees that get in the way. In an effort to make the game more unpredictable and more aggressive, the environment can be interactive in other ways also; driving right through the legs of a water tower as the monster truck will topple the entire thing, leaving it to fall on any trailing participants.
You'll also have a new boosting option, in the form of a side-swiping boost. When used, your car will somewhat jarringly speed up and slam to the left or right, which is good for knocking other competitors off course, and is especially dangerous when used as the aforementioned monster truck. In an attempt to rectify complaints from the first MotorStorm, there will be 4 player split-screen multiplayer this time around so that you'll be able to battle your friends offline. It's also been confirmed that there will be up to 20 participants in each race, which makes the playing field larger and more competitive than seen previously; if that's not enough of an improvement, there will be double the amount of tracks than the first MotorStorm right from the get-go, so there should be plenty to keep you busy when the game launches later this year.
The biggest 'issue' that we can see with MotorStorm Pacific Rift at this stage is that despite some new additions and tweaks to the way you race, the core gameplay remains almost identical to that of the original MotorStorm. This is not necessarily a bad thing of course, as the first game featured very refined and addictive offroad racing action; but for somebody looking for more of a change, they won't find it here. It's MotorStorm, except this time it's in the jungle. Still, we loved the first game and feel it was not only one of the highlights of the PS3's launch, but also one of the better racing titles overall in 2007. The sequel is also lots of fun, and with the new additions and new setting, it should be more than enough to satisfy the brutal offroad racer in all of us.