The MotorStorm franchise is one of those Sony titles that was shown to audiences for the first time in dazzling format, with incredible visuals, visceral and intense gameplay, and an unrivaled level of smoothness. Unfortunately for the audience, the announcement was simply CG, but to our surprise, the actual game that was released soon after turned out to be pretty damn nice anyway. Sure, it lacked in a few areas, what with it being a launch title and all, but Evolution Studios seemed well aware of that, and now nearly two years on, they've unleashed their second installment to their chaotic franchise, MotorStorm: Pacific Rift. But does it improve upon the original, or crash and burn in a ball of flame?
Thankfully not the latter, as Pacific Rift has overshadowed its predecessor with flying colours, in more ways than one.
First and foremost, split-screen! Evolution studios obviously listened to the outcry of their fans, and to our delight, they've added not two, but four player split screen to Pacific Rift, and it works exceptionally well at that. There is no slow down nor is there any visual drop with any amount of players, so multiplayer with your friends is an absolute riot, and rarely ever gets old with the variety in vehicles and tracks to play on, which is another big improvement in Pacific Rift.
Featuring 16 tracks, more than double than that of its predecessor, there is a lot to learn and a lot to race in Pacific Rift, especially with the amount of vehicles you can use, including the latest addition, the Monster Truck. Towering over almost all vehicles on the road, the Monster Truck literally crushes most smaller vehicles with its ridiculously big wheels, and can traverse almost any terrain with ease. But with great power comes a lot of instability, where over turning or acting too cocky can result in your Truck tipping over and exploding, so though the Monster Truck exceeds in bullying, it suffers in its control, which helps keep the game always balanced and never unfair.
And this goes out to all other vehicles in the game too, particularly with the now more refined controls of Pacific Rift. The original MotorStorm was known to have somewhat 'slippery' controls for lack of a better word, but thankfully Pacific Rift has refined that slipperiness with every vehicle, making everything feel tighter and much more responsive. There is still that slight feeling of wonkiness at points, but we feel it's more a deliberate game design choice, considering the terrain types you drive on, and to instill a sense of fear in crashing, which Pacific Rift pulls off very well.
And this all adds to Pacific Rift's ultimate desire: chaos. There is never a moment in a race where you will feel safe or comfortable in your first place position. There is always a chance you might slip up and crash, and always a chance someone might just catch up and knock you off a cliff or slam you into a wall. It's the unpredictable nature of the game that makes it so enjoyable, and keeps you on the edge of your seat at all times. Being a bikey stuck between a Monster Truck and Bus at blazing speeds is indeed terrifying, but absolutely fantastic.
There's also a decent amount of depth brought into the chaos as well, particularly with your boost meter. By using the environment to your advantage, you can cool down your booster engines for extended amounts of use, but it can also be your downfall. By driving through shallow puddles of water or small streams of a river trailing across a track, you can cool down, but it can also slow you down significantly in the race, and that extra boost may not be enough to save you. It's a risk and reward kind of system that when used properly, can turn the tide in a race. But the environment can also heat up your boost as well, particularly in the fire levels, where lava courses through the track, and doubles the rate at which your boost heats up. It's factors like these in each race that make the experience that much more intense, and keeps things fresh every time you come back.
The visuals also help in intensifying the experience, with Evolution Studios pumping even more out of the PlayStation 3's system, to make one great looking game. Vehicles are painstakingly well detailed, with individual parts all visible when close up, and very noticeable when they blow out everywhere from a crash. Environments look beautiful too, from gigantic waterfalls streaming over a wet track to volcanic eruptions seeping into the ocean, it all adds up to make a very attractive and vibrant looking game, and at points, very close to that original CG trailer shown many moons ago. The only gripe we could pick out from the visuals was that some textures and shadows are a little choppy and low-res, however this is barely noticeable as you'll be too busy fighting for your life on the road.
The sound is also as good as ever, with very loud sound effects blasting through your speakers, which sound incredibly crisp. Your engines will roar, explosions will shake the room, and you will be immersed in the mayhem of Pacific Rift's sound. The music is appropriately suited for the game too, with licensed bands such as In Flames and Pendulum pumping in the background. And if you're not a fan of the music, you can now have custom soundtracks in your game, to make the experience more your way. Overall a strong effort on the sound front, if not sometimes a little too loud on the sound effects.
Pacific Rift is exactly what the original MotorStorm would have been, had Evolution not rushed it to the market in time for the European launch. It looks good, plays exceptionally well, and has a ton of replay value with the newly added split-screen and large amount of tracks. Though it lacks a little in variety in game modes, Pacific Rift's consistency in just racing is enough to justify a purchase, particularly with the brutal AI if you don't plan on taking it online. With not only variety in vehicles, but tracks now too, there is a huge amount of fun to be had with Pacific Rift, whether it be with friends, rivals online, or against the AI. This is one storm well worth bringing into your household.