It took a little over two years for Evolution studios to come up with the third episode of their Motorstorm series, MotorStorm Apocalypse. This time, no more natural environments of wild beauty, the crazy drivers of the Motorstorm League have found the perfect spot for their new festival: a megalopolis tormented by the whims of the earth - ruined by earthquakes, swept by tornadoes and scorched from volcanic eruptions. While the population flees the streets of this city to try and survive the Apocalypse knocking at their doors, Motorstorm events take place regardless of the weather conditions. As is usual with Gamersyde, we are always at the forefront of technology, so our impressions on the 3D functionality of the game are part of the trip. A fine program looms on the horizon, so, brace yourself, things are about to shake up!
The end of the world is near!
The game's story (because this time there is a scenario for the single player campaign, called "festival" mode), involves a reporter who decides to make three documentaries on the racers during the competition. A competition which could very well be the last ever. These three documentaries are portraits of the three drivers that you impersonate during the game, each corresponding to a different difficulty setting. It is thus through the lens of the camera that you follow the plot. It is important, however, not to expect a very deep scenario. If you add to this some comic book style cut scenes very reminiscent of what we could see in PaRappa and dialogue worthy of some French sitcom of the 1990s (and yes, they were really bad), it is really tempting to skip the cinematics each time they occur.
Some phases of the game are not actual races, but more linear paths punctuated by a particular event. Since adding cataclysmic conditions to the mix was not enough, you can also count on a notorious band of radicals called the 'Crazies'. These lunatics are determined to put a spoke in your wheel until the Supreme Earthquake: The Big One. If you thought the menu was not spicy enough, a company of mercenaries is ready to do everything to secure the city. One may wonder what may be the interest of protecting a city that is actually crumbling, but in any case, the Dusklike company looks forward to bringing order into the chaotic streets. The two sides are very well armed (otherwise it would not be fun), it is a real civil war that will take place during certain races.
Welcome to the jungle: Survival of the fittest
In such a mess, how can you expect to race in good conditions? The attacks of the 'Crazies' or the mercenaries on your car increase the overheating of your boost. One way or another you're going to crash, whether it is because of someone firing at you or because of Mother Nature. Fortunately, you can still defend yourself by bumping into their sides. This is your only weapon against such ruthless dangers, but do not try your luck against a bigger vehicle than yours, because you might regret it be taken out yourself.
Despite all this adversity, the game is still fun, we take pleasure forging ahead in this town seemingly inspired by San Francisco. The sensation of speed is very good, reflexes are severely tested to dodge the many events that unfold before you. At the end of some races, you'll even find that your eyes have gotten particularly dry, irrefutable evidence of a lack of eye blinking (contact lens wearers, be warned).
Each track is composed of numerous shortcuts, some opened or closed by different cataclysms. In addition, in an attempt to reduce monotony, the developers have had the good idea to trigger some disasters randomly. Therefore, you may occasionally be caught in a building collapse, or get there shortly after everything crumbled, in which case you will be able to proceed more or less peacefully. A nice touch, a red display around the screen lets you know when you are on the verge of engine overheating, thus avoiding to focus on the boost HUD. On the other hand, the AI still needs work. For instance, you can never outrun your opponents and they are also capable of slowing down should you be left behind...
Multiple vehicles for multiple pleasures
Thirteen classes of vehicles are available from the beginning of the adventure, the cracked asphalt of the city enabling you to drive more contemporary classes. Indeed, in addition to the SUVs, buggies, and other monster trucks that have become regular to the series, we can now discover superbikes, superminis, supercars, chopers and even American trucks! There are enough vehicles types to vary the driving sensations from one race to another.
In the menu of the different game modes, you will find elimination races, where the driver in the last position is automatically destroyed after a fatal countdown. In its variant, the chase mode, you score points based on your position at the end of each round. If you want to get 100% of the game completed, along with the bragging rights that go with such achievement, you will need to look for 150 maps spread across the time-trials of the festival mode. These items allow you to get additional information about the characters of the game, the past of the Motorstorm League, and many other elements of the series.
For those looking for challenge, the special event mode is just perfect. It is a race against the clock where timed sectors require you to make a near perfect race. The multiplayer mode is even more complete than the single player mode. A leveling system allows you to unlock countless items to customize your character. In addition to logos and skins for your avatar, other vehicles and parts become available and allow a high degree of customization. It would have been interesting to finally find these functions in the single player game, as they give the player even more incentive to play.
In compliance with earthquake standards
If the online mode scares you, the guys at Evolution have thought of everything: local multiplayer in split screen is also possible, allowing up to 4 players to compete aggressively. Technically, the graphics engine is obviously a bit tampered if there are more than two players (see videos), but it is an acceptable trade-off considering the fun that results from these sessions with friends. As a little bonus, the ability to set the split horizontally or vertically when playing with one friend is well appreciated.
In single player mode, there's a feeling that the graphics engine may not not up to par with its predecessors, probably to focus on all the impressive destructions the physics engine now allows. Some explosions sometimes feel a bit last gen, especially when you crash. We have also witnessed some slight framerate drops here and there but nothing too disturbing. On the contrary, the loading times between each stage might annoy you as they will give you plenty of time to get a drink and even take a leak.
Particular care has been taken on the soundscape of the game, and even with a simple stereo rendering, some ambient sounds give you the impression that all hell is breaking loose in your living room. The music of the game gets more discreet each time a major disaster is about to occur, enough to make you more alert to any unusual rumbling. Musically, they abandoned the rock soundtrack from the previous games to move to something that sounds much more electro. While some tracks are very nice, others tend to be a bit too aggressive for sensitive ears. Fortunately, it is possible to skip a song in the pause menu, or even just cut the music if engines are music to your ears.
With 3D, it's like being there!
As I mentioned in the introduction to the article, we have tested the game with the cutting edge of 3D technology. Once wearing the 3D glasses, we understood the point of the cutscenes of the game: indeed, there is a very good impression of depth. The game itself also gets a lot immersive and epic, with lots of effects to surprise you and a multiplied sensation of speed. A bit confusing at first, the loading screens and the HUD are not subject to any 3D effects, giving your eyes a hard time focusing from time to time. Again, Evolution has found a way to lessen the effect of the HUD, adding a function to add transparency. The game is obviously great without 3D, but it becomes something else with the glasses on. Something even greater! It is a pity we cannot show you a video of the result, one day maybe ...
Evolution studios do not really disappoint with this sequel of Motorstorm. The game is still fun and the sense of speed is just phenomenal. We could have feared that the game might get a bit repetitive, but the many shortcuts and random disasters that fall upon the tracks prevents it from happening. Add to that the 13 categories of vehicles and a multiplayer mode with a good leveling system and there's really enough content to spend a good number of hours fighting hard. Of course, not everything is perfect: the AI could have been improved, like the rendering of the explosions or the loading times. But as regard to the rest of the game, why be nitpicky for so minor details? To top it all, if you can also afford a 3D TV to enjoy the nifty 3D look of the game, I strongly advise you don't hesitate to hop on for the roller coaster ride Motorstorm Apocalypse has to offer.
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