Sunday, March 27, 2011

Motorstorm Apocalypse Review

If there's two things I like, it's nachos and Ben Stiller. But that's irrelevant for now. If there's two other things I like, it's arcade racing and post-apocalyptic scenarios. So naturally the new Motorstorm had my name all over it. Take the last 2 Motorstorm games, throw in tornadoes, earthquakes, crazed vagrants and helicopters shooting missiles at you. That's Apocalypse in a nutshell.

The game takes place after the world ends, and people decide to race around the destroyed cities in monster trucks and muscle cars. What could possibly go wrong? Anyway the premise works, and the tracks are quite the spectacle. You're driving down the side of a collapsing skyscraper when a helicopter appears and starts shooting missiles at you. Then it blows a hole in the ground exposing a tunnel, so you escape into it, only the tunnel is full of crazy hobos hurling molotovs at you. You punch the throttle and they're flying up on your windshield screaming. It truly is a wonderful sight.

The game plays something like Split Second meets Burnout, with the huge variety of vehicles and route choices that Motorstorm is known for. What really sets it apart from it's predecessors though is it's inclusion of a story mode. Is that a good thing? It could have been. The game starts you off with a tutorial level (It's a racing game, do we really need that?) which does a good job of introducing you to the setting. After that, things start to go down hill.

You start off as a rookie driver, then play as a pro, and later a legend. In between each race there's an "animated" cutscene, and I use that term with trepidation because it's just the kind of awful looking cardboard cutout style you see in motion comics. The main problem with these cutscenes is just that they are fucking terrible. I tried to watch a whole one once, but failed. It's like brain poison. The writing and voice acting are just so offensively stupid. I honestly wish they hadn't even bothered. Luckily they are easy to skip through. So, yay for that I guess.

So overall how do I feel about it? I think there are two F-words to describe this game. Fun and frustration. When everything clicks, this game is a hoot. It's beautiful and exhilarating. Unfortunately that doesn't happen as often as it should. For one thing, the environments are very cluttered. There are pointy bits of debris and fallen buildings everywhere. It makes things visually confusing but worst of all it's far too easy to get snagged on a tiny bit of geometry and crash. This is compounded by the second biggest flaw. The AI is pretty bullshit. So any mistakes you make are usually punished harshly.

As you may recall, the handling in the Motorstorm series has always been shitty. This has been slightly improved in Apocalypse, but it still feels like you need to slow down way too much to navigate corners. The AI doesn't have this problem and will scoot by you with ease. Because of that, I only find myself able to play the game in small bursts. Far too often I lose races because of some bullshit like a monster truck speeding by my motorbike at the last second without even using any boost.

I think this game could have been something really special, like Ben Stiller eating a big old plate of nachos. But instead it's a just very good game that pauses to kick you in the junk every so often just so you don't start having too much fun. In the end, I guess I'm ok with that.

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