Evolution Studios are the development team behind Sony's WRC series. This means they're very comfortable with racing games set in the mud, which is just as well, because with MotorStorm you'll be in the mud a lot. MotorStorm was first revealed at E3 2005 with a target video that left gamers salivating and wanting more. When they got more at E3 2006 it was clear the game wasn't going to live up to the target video in terms of visuals. Ever since then Evolution Studios have been fighting an upward battle to convince gamers that MotorStorm is still an incredible game. With the game now sitting on store shelves and launching alongside Sony's new console it's clear that whilst Motorstorm has a few problems it's still an incredible game and is clearly one of the best launch titles for the PlayStation 3.
MotorStorm can be divided up into two segments; offline and online. We'll start with the offline mode which is where most people will begin. The idea behind MotorStorm is that hundreds of racers congregate in the harsh desert to race with all manner of vehicles including bikes, ATVs, Buggys, Rally cars, racing trucks, big rigs and mud pluggers. The single player mode is divided up into 21 different 'tickets'. If you place first second or third in an event then you'll gain points which may unlock the next ticket or a new vehicle. Essentially that's really all there is to the single player campaign, which is where our main criticism of MotorStorm is directed. The single player mode just isn't all that extensive and all you're ever really doing is moving through each race trying to win and then moving onto the next race.
MotorStorm is different from your normal racing game in the sense that it lets you use boost whenever you deem necessary. There is a catch though, if you use it for too long your engine will blow up and send your car up in flames. In the bottom left hand corner of the hud there is an engine temperature gauge so you'll need to keep your eye on this gauge as you're racing. This means you'll need some strategy during the race, as if you're too boost heavy then towards the last corner you may have no boost and your opponent will speed towards the finish line.
MotorStorm may have a short single player mode but the gameplay ensures you'll enjoy every last minute of it. The artificial intelligence is some of the best we've ever seen. It's a clichÃ© but every race is literally different from the previous one. Vehicle selection also plays a key part in races as there are advantages and disadvantages of choosing each vehicle. For example, the bikes are nimble but it's easy to lose control of them if a truck comes close to you. The big rigs are good at pushing other vehicles out of the way but have trouble navigating the slimmer parts of the track.
If you happen to get pushed out of the way by a big vehicle or just lose control you'll be treated to some spectacular crashes. Your cars literally deform in front of you and bits of your vehicle will fly everywhere, creating a hazard for your competitors. The crashes are a little long winded but you can skip them at any time by pressing X. As the crashes are so satisfying you'll likely enjoy them at the beginning, because it's just so incredibly fulfilling causing another vehicle to crash, especially because the AI is so aggressive.
MotorStorm also includes an online mode. You can see whether your buddies are online and then you can jump into a lobby. PAL versions of the game are only able to select two territories to compete against; Australia / New Zealand or Europe. This means that if you have a best buddy in America you cannot play online against them. If you don't have broadband or would prefer to play offline then unfortunately you're out of luck. Up to twelve players can participate in an online match and the host has a wide variety of options including restricting vehicle types, choosing the track and changing the time of the day. The game also keeps track of your stats, such as how many times you've won, what your favourite vehicle is and how many times you've dropped out. As we mostly played on the Australia / New Zealand lobbies we had no issues at all with lag, even when there are twelve people online and everyone is pushing and shoving we never had any issues at all. One issue we did have is with the stats randomly resetting, for some bizarre reason the stats reset when the host quit a match. Motorstorm has several fame ranks that players get from winning races, so there is nothing more frustrating than losing your stats completely.
For some unknown reason Evolution Studios haven't included any offline multiplayer options at all, which is very disappointing and a surprising omission. Evolution Studios have also stated that more vehicles, tracks and content will be available in the future for download, as long as these extras remain free (or well priced) we cannot see the MotorStorm lobbies dying down for awhile yet.
Even though the game doesn't quite match "that" target video MotorStorm is still a great showcase of the capabilities of the PlayStation 3. There are fifteen vehicles on the track during a race and it's very impressive when you can see vehicles battling it out for position on a separate part of the track 100 metres or so in front of you. The tracks are really quite detailed too, there are a variety of ways you can go and plenty of shortcuts. The game also includes a wide variety of rock tracks - Wolfmother appear on the soundtrack (they're certainly becoming known for appearing on just about every game soundtrack recently) and there are some decent tracks. Although not everyone will love the music you can edit the playlist. The loading in the game is also far longer than we expected. Sometimes you can be waiting thirty seconds for a race to begin, it would have been good if the game allowed you to install some data to the hard-drive to decrease the loading times.
The single player mode can be finished in under ten hours. If you enjoy the game you may come back to play through some of the events again but a quick race option where you could select a vehicle and a track would have been appreciated. The online mode is rather addictive though and the game is extremely popular online.
MotorStorm is a fantastic racing game and a brilliant new IP for Sony. There are however some things which are missing from the game which stop the game from getting an even higher score. The omission of a quick race option and the short single player mode both indicate that the game's development was a little rushed for the launch of the PlayStation 3. Despite this, MotorStorm comes highly recommended, it's an addictive racing game and features some of the most incredible AI ever seen in a console game.