Motorstorm: Apocalypse may seem like it would be a bigger and more intense game, but it’s just unfocused and at times frustrating. The change in setting from a natural locale to an urban one creates a racing experience that is at times one-note and filled with loud noise that deafens any sort of fun that is to be had. With graphics that aren’t as awe inspiring as what was found in Motorstorm: Pacific Rift and racing that is sometimes too chaotic for its own good, Motorstorm: Apocalypse doesn’t have any of the trademarks that the series is known for, the primary of which being over-the-top fun racing.
+ A few of the tracks are fun to play and strike a good balance between having an arcade feel to it and being slightly realistic.
+ The soundtrack which features an orchestral theme and techno remixes lives up to the excellent beats found in previous Motorstorm games.
+ Racing online in multiplayer events is fun for a change and having locale split-screen multiplayer is a nice addition too.
- Most of the tracks just have too much going on, whether it’s scripted events or debris on the race track.
- The concept of the Festival Mode is good but the story told to it and how the difficulty is executed leaves a considerable amount to be desired.
- Load times are often really long, 20-30 seconds.
- Visually the game is too drab for its own good and fails to have elements that are consistently appealing.
- The Festival Mode cutscenes may be the worst thing to appear in a video game this year.
It’s always disappointing to experience something and the end result is anything less than stellar. Sometimes people, especially gamers, set themselves up for disappointment after getting hyped up and accepting every single piece of info or media as an absolute guarantee that the end product will be good. With certain games it’s understandable for people to be excited since it’s just a part of human nature to see something cool and immediately be drawn to it, especially if it features stuff that easily tickles our fancy like fast cars and explosions. With sequels it’s tough to know what to expect since often we either know the core formula will be retained (almost to a boring degree) or things will be tinkered with a bit to either keep things fresh and bring in a new audience.
My excitement for Motorstorm: Apocalypse was tremendously high since I loved the first two installments in the series and consider them to be underrated gems in the PS3 software catalog. But for some reason the changes made in Motorstorm: Apocalypse aren’t as cool as I hoped they would be and in some cases are absolutely dreadful. As much as it pains me to say it, Motorstorm: Apocalypse is a huge disappointment as the good elements are outweighed by a series of negative design choices that prohibit the game from having the same immediate fun factor that was ever present in the last two games.
My ultimate feelings about Motorstorm: Apocalypse are a bit interesting considering that I was blown away by the game when I played it at Sony’s booth at E3 last year. One of the first 3D games I played, I was blown away by the 3D effects of the game and just how crazy the racing was. With the action now taking place on the streets of a destroyed city still being affected by earthquakes and general disasters (buildings falling down) I was baffled by how fun the game was. I did have a few reservations about the game such as the inclusion of people running on the track and the somewhat easy route certain environmental disasters were handled (smoke conveniently filled an area to hide the switch between models), but overall I was happy with the game. Now cut to a year later and having played the final retail version of Motorstorm: Apocalypse I’m finding it hard to enjoy the game at all. Seriously, after playing the Festival Mode and doing some simple Wreckreation Events (standard or special races) I haven’t found myself to be invested any way in Motorstorm: Apocalypse like I was in the previous two games. My lack of excitement isn’t due to the game being too similar to the previous two Motorstorm games as it’s just because the new direction developer Evolution Studios opted to take with Motorstorm: Apocalypse simply don’t work on any level.
The Motorstorm series has never been about offering a sim like racing experience or even one that’s accessible yet still skill based much like the Dirt series from Codemasters is. Instead, Motorstorm is one of the rare racing games out there that is entirely arcade based in the racing action that it offers. I’ll be the first to admit that certain events in the past two Motorstorm games were incredibly difficult but the games overall provided an adrenaline filled racing experience that was fast and completely furious. Even more, the Motorstorm series cemented a reputation for itself by having the action take place in beautifully rendered environments such as the vast deserts and canyons of the United States or some far off Pacific Island with tracks taking place through waterfalls or on top of dormant volcanoes. Motorstorm: Apocalypse completely ditches everything that’s recognizable about the Motorstorm franchise and is instead filled with nothing but loud noise that is completely grating.
Motorstorm: Apocalypse is filled with scripted action.
With the action of Motorstorm: Apocalypse taking place in different areas of a city roughly modeled after San Francisco the amount of opportunities for unique moments were nearly limitless. There are certainly some nice moments in Motorstorm: Apocalypse but they’re all scripted and really lack an immediate impact. Sure, there are times when a bridge may collapse and fall thus blocking off a part of the race track it’s cool to see but it’s a scripted event and it just doesn’t provide that holy crap factor to it. In fact, most of the destruction in Motorstorm: Apocalypse is just there peripherally for show and doesn’t have a huge impact on the racing aside from a path being closed off or opened, which is still no biggie at all. At times it can be interesting to see a building fall down in the distance, but ultimately seeing similar things happen throughout the game led me to feel as if I’m playing a Michael Bay racing game, which is odd considering that I thought Disney’s Split/Second was essentially the epitome of a Michael Bay experience. At least in Split/Second there was a level of unpredictability in the races since you or your opponents could control what would go boom and often use such carnage as a strategic tool to win races. But in Motorstorm: Apocalypse it’s all just senseless destruction that at times isn’t as impressive looking as it could be since things have seemingly have been toned down visually and the destruction itself has an obvious smoke and mirrors look to it.
When I played Motorstorm: Apocalypse last year the city level I played was short but had some nice sections that retained a good level of speed and thrills and in all I somewhat understood Evolution Studios’ desire to do something different with the franchise. Motorstorm: Apocalypse starts things off slow with a few basic tracks before ramping things up in the crazy department but over time I simply began to miss the muddy deserts and lush forest tracks of the previous Motorstorm games. There are a few standout tracks in Motorstorm: Apocalypse such as a city race that takes place during the night and I did appreciate Evolution’s ability to blend a realistic take on a course and meld it with purely arcade elements like a bridge twisting in a perfect arcade race track pattern. But overall like I said earlier, the game is just filled with loud noise and there’s just no immediate appeal to any of the tracks. The rendering tech that’s used in Motorstorm: Apocalypse is indeed nice as everything is modeled nicely and there’s no environmental pop-up, no matter how big the track is. The big problem is that there’s just no character at all in many of the tracks as most are just feature lots of rubble, a few gray box buildings and other hazards strewn about. There’s no Motorstorm flair at all or nothing to make you say wow whilst racing. I remember playing Motorstorm: Pacific Rift for the first time and losing my mind as I raced under a small waterfall as the water effects were superb. Is something like that in Motorstorm: Apocalypse? Nope, not by a long shot.
Evolution Studios has always shown that they know how to tap into the power of the PS3 hardware to produce stunning visuals but that really isn’t the case with Motorstorm: Apocalypse. As I said earlier, there’s no character in any of the tracks and that’s because the visuals aren’t that stunning. There are a few moments in which certain effects do look impressive like seeing a missile be fired off and it leave a nice trail of smoke but in the areas where it counts (vehicle destruction, environmental detail) Motorstorm: Apocalypse just doesn’t deliver the goods. I wouldn’t say that the game is necessarily ugly or graphically lacking in a way where it looks like it’s a generation behind, but there’s just nothing to stare in awe at while playing Motorstorm: Apocalypse. One thing that was extremely disappointing was how the once infuriating yet entertaining aspect of crashing no longer yields a mass exodus of steel, springs and other pieces of shrapnel like it once did in the last two Motorstorm games. Instead of receiving a brief slow-motion shot of glorious car carnage, most of the time only a few pieces would come off or in some extreme cases a somewhat poorly rendered fire effect would occur. I know that Motorstorm has never been about pure destruction like the Burnout series has been, but it’s just another aspect of the old Motorstorm games that has been lost in this new iteration of the series.
I take part in a nightime race event.
The issues with Motorstorm: Apocalypse go far beyond the change to a city locale but rest in the basic fundamentals of the game. Once again we have a Motorstorm game that is plagued with some questionable A.I. that is either too dumb thus making the races boring or are so damn good that if you screw up once or don’t have the boost skills of a god then you better settle for 3rd or fourth place if you’re lucky. The previous two Motorstorm games have had bad cases of rubber band A.I. (the opponents all race in clumps together instead of maintaining or losing their positions) and Motorstorm: Apocalypse also falls victim to that. I was never one to bag on the rubber band A.I. that much in Motorstorm: Pacific Rift but things are noticeably different in Motorstorm: Apocalypse, specifically I was able to consistently make a comeback while in the Rookie difficulty but felt like I was racing against hardened veterans when I switched over to Pro difficulty. At first I welcomed the higher difficulty mode exhibited by the A.I. opponents, but then over time it became nothing more than a burden since it’s hard not to have one or two crashes on some of the more complex, or junk heavy tracks that are in the game.
Playing through the Festival Mode it did feel as if Evolution Studios was trying to create an experience that would cater to those not familiar with the Motorstorm series. But at the same time the Festival Mode ultimately becomes a double edged sword in a way since the beginning is too easy, the middle is barely manageable and the finale is beyond absurd in what you need to achieve. There’s also a small amount of forced difficulty in the Festival Mode as each race puts the player in a pre-determined vehicle that can’t be changed. So if you find yourself racing in a motorcycle against a series of monster trucks then best of luck to you as you’ll have to made do with what you have, even if it sucks a bit.
The Festival Mode as a whole is a nice concept as it tries to introduce some characters and a story to the Motorstorm experience instead of you just driving through countless races with no real meat to the action at all. Initially I was really excited to see what the Festival Mode had to offer but after playing the game I think it’s one of the biggest mistakes Evolution Studios has done with the game. The cutscenes offered in the Festival Mode are low quality static animated cutscenes that look like two or three people at the max worked and the cartoony art style (which looks like it was done by a teenager) doesn’t gel with the core design and feeling of Motorstorm: Apocalypse. There is a story in the Festival Mode as you play three different racers one of whom looks like a mix between Simon Phoenix from Demolition Man and Chris Tucker. But to be honest all of the characters are woefully executed as they just play on different stereotypes and the story itself, or the barely there collection of words and thoughts that were put together to form the script, really add nothing to the game aside from serving as comedic banter to talk about with your friends.
One of the many cutscenes included in Motorstorm: Apocalypse.
There’s also almost an alarming lack of speed and overall urgency in Motorstorm: Apocalypse. All of the familiar Motorstorm vehicles make a return in the game such as different types of motorcycles (MX bikes & crotch rockets), dune buggies, monster trucks and even new additions like muscle cars. But for some inexplicable reason there’s just a lack of speed with the vehicles, something that may be attributed to the design of some of the tracks and the tinkering that was done with the Boost Meter . The Boost Meter has gone untouched since it was first scene in Motorstorm 1 so there’s no additional mechanics involving how you use it, but it just seems to overheat a bit faster and not immediately be as impactful as it once was. The vehicle handling in some ways is similar to how it was in the last two Motorstorm games, but there’s a certain looseness in some of the vehicles (like the motorcycles) and the new level of precision that’s required in some of the tracks just doesn’t work too well with a few vehicles which obviously leads to a nasty and perhaps matching ruining wreck.
One area of Motorstorm: Apocalypse that I don’t have too many issues with is the online mode. The online mode sadly doesn’t suddenly make the game good by producing a series of old-school Motorstorm tracks, but it does have a few new elements that make the experience slightly more fun. So you have all your basic online events/features but there’s also the added bonus of player perks. Yeah, having a racing game include perks may sound silly, but I did grow to like the feature since it allowed me to tailor my experience through equipping things that made my track reset time shorter or would send a small shockwave out after I crashed. The perks may be a minimal feature but it just adds a little something extra for people who really want to invest a lot of time into the multiplayer aspect of the game. Another feature that does have more of an impact on how you would race online is how bonus points are given for doing certain actions (catching air, drifting) which help with your overall online rank progression. Ranking up isn’t too hard as a healthy amount of bonus points are given, some of which can be accumulated through making bets on the race you’re participating in.
More importantly, the online races just seem to be more enjoyable than some of the single-player events since there’s not too much immediate chaos with cars pushing you off course right at the start of the event. It helps immensely that the online races are devoid of any major lag (at least in the matches I had) which creates an experience that’s pure arcade fun with the added dose of racing human competitors. Yeah, racing on some of the tracks in the game can still be a pain in the ass when racing online, but I at least found things to be slightly more tolerable if only because I knew nothing major was on the line other than my honor as a gamer.
As much as I wanted it to be good, Motorstorm: Apocalypse just doesn’t live up to what we expect from a Motorstorm game. The huge shift in gameplay with the addition of scripted events and levels that are almost entirely devoid of any natural elements results in a game that comes across as having the Motorstorm name slapped on or loosely inspired by it. There are still shades of the old Motorstorm games in certain aspects of Motorstorm: Apocalypse, but for the most part the newest entry in the series is simply a loud and almost unfocused game that lost all sort of sense of what made the last two iterations so popular. I don’t know if Motorstorm: Apocalypse will be the end for the series and I certainly hope it isn’t, but it will be hard to recoup since so much of the content in the game is off the mark in almost every way. It may seem odd to criticize Motorstorm: Apocalypse for trying something different, but at the end of the day I think Evolution Studios should’ve went with the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mantra instead of taking away the core elements that made the Motorstorm series so much fun.