Driving fast seems to lend itself very well to 3D graphics and so do big explosions and flying debris. It seems to be this idea that has inspired Evolution Studios, home of the MotorStorm series, to bring its bruising arcade racing games series to the the PS3 in 3D.
Pacific Rift has already seen a 3D makeover but it's the third game in the series, MotorStorm: Apocalypse that is being built from the ground up with 3D in mind. To that ends, Evolution has switched environments from the extremes of remote rural locations to the chaos of a derelict and decaying city.
MotorStorm: Apocalypse drops the series' trademark abrasive style of racing to its most dynamic and dangerous environment yet. The new urban locale is crammed with buildings that could fall down in an instant, unsteady freeways and a multitude of looting parties that are just dying to get in your way. This all combines to make Apocalypse in 3D a very mouthwatering prospect for adrenaline junkies and racing fans alike.
The other main addition that we'll see is a sturdy selection of sports cars and superbikes alongside the rough and ready off road vehicles from the previous two games. The 'kinder' tarmac roads of Apocalypse allow the integration of these sleeker racing vehicles but don't think for a minute that this will imbue the racing with any more finesse.
We managed to get our hands on a single race from the game, so, from behind the wheel of one of the new sports cars which looked encouragingly like a Dodge Viper we buckled up and prepared to trade paint and bodywork in our own bid to finish first.
If you thought that the previous MotorStorm games were a bit crazy and slightly confusing then you haven't seen anything yet. The race tracks in Apocalypse are some of the most dynamic tracks in the game rivalling Split/Second for that kind of Bruckheimer-esque big budget action. The track that we raced on dropped a building on us, threw a variety of non-racing vehicles - like full petrol tankers - at us and even collapsed the road under and around us as we jostled for position.
The same intuitive control system remains and you can almost get away with flooring it all the way around alongside strategic use of the boost ability to gain an edge at the right time. The cars handle really well giving a nice balance of speed and weight when pitted against larger and smaller vehicles in the race.
As we barreled through the race, the first lap threw a few looters in our way to keep our attention on the track. Unlike Gran Turismo 5 where the 3D allows you to look further down the track to improve your reaction times, MotorStorm: Apocalypse has much more going on which means that the effect can hamper you as much as it helps. This is not a bad thing though as the debris flying towards you will make you at least feel the urge to duck and you can almost smell the dust from the collapsing concrete and the heat of the explosions as you boost through them.
This is very much an experience for the thrill seekers. At one point, during a subsequent lap the road gives way beneath us due to a skyscraper collapsing in front of us and we are plunged into a road tunnel punctuated with sporadic fires and piles of debris. Later on in the next lap we drop into the same tunnel only to have part of the roof collapse in a fireball completely blocking our view of the track ahead.
All these experiences on their own would be pretty impressive but collectively potentially may not give the game and edge over the likes of Disney's Split/Second. Where MotorStorm: Apocalypse really makes an impact is in the 3D department. As mentioned earlier there is a lot going on and the 3D effect really puts you deep within the racing action.
We only got the chance to play one race and the game's build was pre-alpha meaning that there were a couple of problems. The 3D effect, while impressive, wasn't quite calibrated correctly yet and it looked decidedly fuzzy around the edges. This we felt could lead to a headache or a touch of nausea but, given that this is an early build Evolution should have the visuals fully tuned-up by the time MotorStorm: Apocalypse is due to hit the shops.
This is yet another good showing for Sony in the 3D department and it does hint that they might just manage to put 3D TV on the map, for gaming at least.
MotorStorm: Apocalypse is due out on the PlayStation 3 some time in 2011.