Most people would scurry away from crumbling city, but in MotorStorm: Apocalypse you're told to race right in. The unlikely new setting isn't the only surprising turn the off-road racing series makes - 3D support, complicated new interactive raceways, and an inventive game mode creation tool intend to shake up this third instalment.
Away from the dusty badlands of the American southwest and the muddy jungles of the Pacific isles, MotorStorm: Apocalypse ventures into the city. Of course, this isn't a normal metropolis; a cataclysmic earthquake is bringing the town to its knees. Buildings are collapsing, streets caving in, and people fleeing for their lives. It's in this hectic environment that you zip in any of dozen different types of vehicles. Trucks, supercars, motorbikes, choppers, and assorted other vehicles returning from the previous two instalments are promised.
In the untitled level being shown by Sony, I was limited to buckling up behind the wheel of a supercar. Although capable of high speeds, manoeuvrability is not one of its strengths. In line with the earlier games, MotorStorm: Apocalypse puts a premium on speed; however, the amount of debris that fills the environments makes handling a critical part of play.
While skilled handling obviously made the difference before, it's absolutely essential here. Falling in line with the previous two games, finishing in the top 3 is tough due to aggressive computer-controller racers. Hopefully this gets toned down to avoid the frustration so frequently experienced in the earlier titles. The excessive refuse that litters the crumbling streets demands fast reactions to avoiding crashes and maintain speed. It's overwhelming. Combined with the dust kicked up by falling buildings and the like, its often difficult to discern just where you're supposed to go. To be fair, giant arrows frequently point the way; yet, there were several crashes I experienced as a direct result of not knowing the safe route forward.
Add in the intensity of 3D visuals and MotorStorm: Apocalypse becomes overly stimulating. Impressive as the technology is - watching junk fly toward you and even the bodies of panicking bystanders hit by your vehicle as it barrels down a dilapidated highway is stunning - it's a lot to take in. With several other venues promised, I'd be curious to see how 3D fares on these levels and whether its as overwhelming as in this limited demo..
One feature which wasnt being shown is the game's game mode creation kit that allows you to draft custom races for play with others online. Up to 16 players will once again be supported online, along with split-screen for 4; additionally, you can take split-screen online to compete with 12 other players.
MotorStorm: Apocalypse is still quite a ways from final release - Sony and developer Evolution Studios have schedule it for the first half of 2011 - so its certain to see a lot of changes between now and then. That's probably a good thing because the admittedly snapshot-like demo doesn't put the game's best foot forward, coming across as a bombastic overloaded racer rather than a skill-based off-road racing sensation.