Sony’s Motorstorm series has always traded in fine-tuned moments of jaw-dropping spectacle, but never quite to this degree. Motorstorm Apocalypse may not be a massive departure for the franchise – with the series’ most fundamental gameplay mechanics remaining very much in place – but a new emphasis on action movie bombast and an even more breakneck pace seem to suggest that developers Evolution Studios have taken quite a few stylistic cues from last year’s somewhat underrated Split Second: Velocity. Although consequently the game has a louder and much more belligerent aura than its predecessors did, it’s definitely no less enjoyable for it.
In addition to the new (nameless) urban setting and the prominence of environmental destruction, Motorstorm Apocalypse also has a new career mode that features a lightweight but reasonably diverting storyline that’s conveyed via some rather nifty cutscenes; all rendered in a very similar style to the motion-comics that played during Sucker Punch’s terrific Infamous. The plot is never anything less than totally straightforward and overall it’s nothing to get too excited about, but several bits of it are genuinely funny, and comedy was clearly placed very highly on the agenda from the outset. All cutscenes are brief, but you’re unlikely to skip them lest you miss a surprisingly inventive and/or crude gag.
The plot filters through into the gameplay in other ways too, and the pyrotechnics that ensue on the track are a result either of looters wreaking endless havoc, or the private military outfit who are attempting to stop them at every turn. Whenever an instance of environmental destruction occurs (as was the case with Split Second) you can hit a button that instantly drags the world into a brief spell of slow motion, so that you are able to not only bask in the spectacular wonderment of it all, but also gain a heads-up on how the track is destined to shift in the aftermath of it. Although this dynamic doesn’t involve strategy as such, rolling with the punches and adapting to each course as it changes shape does initially require some very brisk reaction times.
And the result is an exorbitantly exciting racing game. Even though the campaign mode features an admirable amount of content that will ensure that it has a very healthy shelf-life – with its multiple modes, a trio of very different difficulty tiers (each with their own story) and five new vehicle classes to master – where Evolution Studios have really scored highly is with the parade of new refinements that they’ve made to the online multiplayer side of things. If the single-player aspect makes a few direct nods towards Split Second, then the multiplayer does exactly the same to post-Modern Warfare Call of Duty. There are vehicle-specific upgrades and loadouts, a perk system and some ever-moreish medals that you earn by performing all manner of different techniques during campaign races.
Other refinements are small but welcome. The previously solitary method for cooling your engines (driving over water) is now joined by another enjoyable tack that involves releasing the accelerate button whenever you’re in mid-air. Four player split-screen multiplayer is present and correct, as is the Halo series’ pioneering innovation that allows two people to go online at the same time; something that more and more games are implementing as time goes on, but nowhere near enough. The gambling aspect of Black Ops’ very entertaining Wager match mode has been implemented into the online component here too; allowing you to earn as much XP as your skills will allow, although there is no cap this time; if you’ve got the cajones, you can continuously double-down on one single pot of winnings until you either throw in the towel, or lose.
So fans need not worry; Motorstorm Apocalypse definitely delivers that patented brand of chaotic Motorstorm goodness, only in a sharper and marginally more entertaining fashion. It looks beyond glorious in 3D and if you’re lucky enough to own a 3D set, this is near-essential if you’re the kind of person who can’t resist showing visiting friends what all the fuss is about. The perpetually banging (original) dub-step soundtrack is a bit of a classic too. Less most definitely isn’t more this time around, and this eye-popping, apocalyptic destruction derby might just be the pinnacle of what is an exceptionally high-quality series.
Watch the Motorstorm Apocalypse trailer here: