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April 30, 2007
Motorstorm - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
23/3/2007SonySonyEvolution Studios12-12
Media HDD Space Resolution Sound Format Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Note the track deformation.
With every console launch there needs to be a big 'key' launch title - and for the Playstation 3 Motorstorm is it. It's a showcase title with flashy visuals and entertaining gameplay. What more could we ask for? Well how about a decent game? How about a solid online experience? How about variety? Does this game deliver? For the most part yes. Read on for all the details...

As you are probably already aware Motorstorm is a off-road racing game set around the gorgeous Monument Valley in America. The eight tracks included in the game take place both around and on top of the massive rock structures found in the valley. Each tracks is littered with multiple paths and shortcuts - many which suit one vehicle over another. Speaking of vehicles Evolution Studios have included 7 distinct vehicle classes in the game (ATV, Bike, Buggy, Racing Truck, Rally Car, Mud Plugger & Big Rig) with each class having 5 different styles to select from with a number of unique skins. Each of the vehicles has two camera angles. All the driven vehicles (Buggies, Big Rigs etc) include a third person and a first person camera while the ridden vehicles (ATV & Bike) have two different third person camera - one distant and the other almost over the shoulder.

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Lighting, smoke, particles; it's all here.
The game is essentially split into two games - offline and online. Looking at the offline game mode the first thing that is apparent is that this is single player only - no split screen, no 2-player championship which is disappointing. The offline mode sees you playing through a series of tournaments which are split up into various races with different vehicle classes and against 15 other CPU controlled opponents. The races can be pretty tough, but as you progress you unlock new content such as vehicles and skins. The car mechanics are pretty solid with the L2 and R2 analogue buttons used for brake and accelerate respectively while the X button acts as a turbo boost. This boost has a limited amount of time, use it too much and you're car will explode into thousands of pieces.

Online gameplay is the other major aspect to this title, and it's an aspect which we can expect to see vast improvements upon in future (more on the updates in the next paragraph). Online gameplay allows up to 12 humans to compete on all the tracks in the game. It's fast and frantic and pretty much lag free which given the amount of data being thrown around is great to see. The game keep track of all your stats such as wins and losses, your fame level, buddies to race against and so on while the host of the race can pick the tracks, number of laps, types of vehicles, boost being available or not and so on. Indeed while the single player game is entertaining this is the real highlight of the package.

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Yet more absolutely stunning graphics.
One of the reasons this is such a hard game to review is that Sony have, and will continue, to release downloadable updates for the game. Update 1.1 was released with the game at launch on March 23rd and is a mandatory download when you connect online the first time (it fixes a tonne of stuff and really is recommended) while Version 1.2 is due out around mid-May and promises to improve buddy lists, disables a boost cheat and fixes some sound and game save bugs. Later in the year we can expect a Time Attack Mode to be added as well as new tracks. Depending on cost (1.1 and 1.2 are free, but new tracks will likely cost a few dollars) this could add plenty more value to the title - but the question remains; should these updates have been built into the original game prior to release? We think so, but it's nice to see support continuing.

Motorstorm also has some bonus content on the disc as well including a couple of behind the scenes videos showing the promotional Monument Valley footage, the games various development stages and plenty more. This is pretty good quality in terms of video, but there are no voiceovers or subtitles to give you much indication as to what's going on.

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Vehicles all look gorgeous.
Ultimately though as the game only includes 8 tracks it feels very lightweight and with 50GB of space on the Blu-Ray discs I really would have loved to see many more tracks available to race on. Early in development and prior to release track deformation was touted as one of the biggest aspects of this game, however I didn't feel that it added too much to the overall experience. Yes, the vehicles would be affected slightly by grooves in the mud however many tracks have so little mud that it won't even make a difference. Perhaps if the developers had used different locations such as jungles or river beds it would have provided more opportunity to push this aspect. The developers at Evolution Studios have also included support for the tilt mechanism, but this is turned off by default and to be honest it's probably best left that way. This is yet another game where the tilt mechanism only detracts from the gameplay and accurate driving.

Another annoyance is that there isn't an option to install a part of the game onto the PS3's Hard Drive. I found that selecting cars became rather annoying with a wait as each vehicle, and paintjob loaded from the disc into memory. At the very least the developers could, and should, have sped this process up. It's only a matter of seconds, but it's long enough that it becomes frustrating.

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Car destruction is insane.
One area where there is absolutely no doubt about this game is the graphics. Even at 720p (and not 1080p as earlier reported and then denied by Sony) they are astounding and quite possibly the best showcase of 'next-generation' which we have seen on the PS3 to date. The textures on the tracks are as realistic as we've ever seen in a video game and even put the Gran Turismo HD demo to shame. Even more impressive though are the particle and smoke effects. Crash your vehicle, or use too much boost, and it will explode into thousands of smaller parts with sparks and smoke everywhere. There are some clipping issues, and the occasional glitch here or there, but given the amount being thrown around the screen it's acceptable.

The game also has a few stunning cinematics which set the scene and for the most part they are simply astonishing. There's a few downloadable movies which show exactly what extent the development team went to to capture some HD movies around Monument Valley before overlaying with CG racing cars and tracks. Another really neat feature of the game is the ability to pause the race and then use the analogue sticks to rotate around the current scene to take in the wonderful visuals and effects.

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Motorstorm runs bloody fast!
Audio in Motorstorm is a bit hit and miss. We hope you like rock music as that is the primary genre on offer in the game with tracks from artists such as Slipknot, Primal Scream, Wolfmother and Nirvana to name but a few. Many of the tracks are good, but some of them just didn't seem to suit the racing. Sony's Wipeout titles, especially the first PSOne titles, had near-perfect music for the type of racing, Motorstorm does not. That's not saying it's bad as the game is certainly better then many, but you'll certainly find a couple of tracks which you'll take out of the track list while playing the game.

The engine noises are impressive with excellent use of the Dolby Digital 5.1 sound throughout the game. You'll hear cars roaring up behind you, or zooming past with plenty of collisions and explosions around you as opponents slam into each other, or obstacles on the course. We did notice a glitch with the audio when your car is destroyed and you change to the death camera (since writing this review we have been informed this will be fixed in the coming days with the 1.2 update).

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Tattered flags look wonderful in the breeze.
Ultimately Motorstorm is technically the best game on the PS3, but in terms of content it still feels lacking. The lack of a split-screen multi-player mode is criminal - we'd even accept a hit in the graphics department to have it included, but the online gameplay (which is of course free on the PS3) is superb. If you don't play games online then there is no better time to start, as along with Sony's FPS Resistance: Fall of Man they are among the best online experiences you could ever hope for. If you only play offline, then you can knock a few marks off this games overall score. Motorstorm is a brilliant showcase title, but not the perfect game we hoped it to be.

Review By: Dave Warner

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GRAPHICSCertainly the best graphics we've seen on the PS3 to date. Stunning.
SOUNDMainly rock based music, plenty of engines, effects and explosions.
GAMEPLAYAn entertaining game for sure, but not the best ever. Each class of vehicle offers a different experience. Needed more track variety.
VALUEYou can see the 8 tracks in a couple of hours, but solid online gameplay and at only $AU99.95 this is good value.
OVERALLMotorstorm is a very entertaining racing game that showcases just why you spent so much on the PS3. Having said that the game does still feel somewhat incomplete in some areas. Fortunately connecting online will provide new content, game modes and fixes. This is still certainly worth a purchase.

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