Motorstorm Apocalypse at Eurogamer 2010

Showcasing both 2D and 3D versions, both still in pre-alpha, Motorstorm Apocalypse takes arcade racing and tears it a new exhaust pipe. Stripped down to its core elements it’s a racing game, but with so much happening on screen you hardly notice there’s a race to be won.

The last two Motorstorm outings were wild rides in their own right, with plenty of on track barging and ramming to keep ardent arcade racer fans happy, but if all they’d done is update that and give it a new coat of paint I’d be calling it nice but not nice enough. Ah, but there’s some very cool stuff happening in Apocalypse – stuff that looks like a definite reason to pick this up when it lands sometime in 2011.

See if you can picture this: You sit down in front of the screen, slap the 3D specs on (and I had to plonk them on top of my already bespectacled up nose, which wasn’t as bad as you’d think), pick up the joy bat and hit a button and immediately you’re thrust into a chaotic scene. Tearing down a rubble strewn city thoroughfare, the AI competition are trying to ram you off the road. Then – holy Jesus! – an oil tanker flips out in front of you. You skid round it, find the boost button and nail it down with your thumb. Boom! Your car’s just blown up because you forgot to let go of boost and once it gets to critical mass your car goes up in a ball of flames. A second later you’re back in the saddle, mindful of the boost meter, using short sharp bursts like it’s an M16.

I hadn’t really noticed I was racing, I was too busy checking out the 3D stuff and wowing at all the explosions going on around me. Then the massive, 40 storey office tower up front starts to come down and the prompt to press the square button pops up, delivering a zoom in on the building’s downfall. This has all happened in the first fifteen seconds of the race. In 3D. Seriously, it’s incredibly busy on screen. And it goes on, streets collapse under your car, dropping you into underground tracks, people get run over, flipping over your car, bullets zip by, cars come crashing out of windows above you that have nothing to do with the race at all and everything to do with the massive earthquake that’s destroying the city all Motorstorm Apocalypse races are set in. It is bonkers. This is the kind of competition that Need For Speed is going to have to deal with if it wants to get ahead in this market, and I for one welcome this kind of race thrill. I couldn’t give a toss for Forza 3 and GT5, racing sims seem like games for sufferers of OCD – gotta get the perfect racing line, gotta keep doing it until I’m clean.

But this, though, this is the business. Like Split/Second and, to a certain extent Blur, Motorstorm Apocalypse shuns all that proper realism in favour of good old fashion fun. It reminds me of the hours of fun us old farts used to have playing Road Rash on the Megadrive. It had bugger all to do with real racing mechanics and everything to do with taking a chain and breaking the face of the rider beside you.

Anyway, let’s get back to the demo. The one race available on both the 2D and 3D machines lasts for all of four minutes. It’s fast, furious, full of places to wipe out and the kind of game that brings myself and many others here back for more. Honestly, I must have played it three times before I remembered it was a racing game and I should maybe try to win a race. I even waited while the bigger boy in front of me finished a race and started another – Mr Nonchalant hiding behind his 3D shades, one day the rest of us will rise up and do a Ceaser all over your back.

What got me about this game was that when Need For Speed is showing off its multiplayer, Motorstorm Apocalypse is demoing solo races, and they’re still way more thrilling. Even without the 3D extras, Motorstorm comes out on top. In fact, I’d go so far as to say the 2D version is the better game. While the 3D can be captivating, especially when the buildings are toppling down on you, the 2D version allowed you to concentrate on the actual racing, which in 2D feels more immediate; you’re looking to win rather than looking for a series of thrilling visuals.

Either way, knowing how much fun Blur was online, and I mean fun as in everyone racing is laughing and chatting and only occasionally do you hear anyone raise their voice in anger, I can only imagine that Motorstorm Apocalypse will be hilarious in multiplayer. All that chat from so many other race game makers about playing with friends online being the most important thing these days now seems like they’ve basically given Motorstorm Apocalypse a free ride to pole position.

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Written by Neil

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