MotorStorm: Arctic Edge (Review)

They’ve done the desert and the tropics so now the MotorStorm tour has decided to cool off and head to the Arctic. There are 100 events to rip through in such frostbitten locations like ice caves, mud bowls, gargantuan bobsleigh tracks (or should that be tubes?) and mountain passes.

The biggest problem facing the PS3 MotorStorm games is they don’t exactly ease you in gently. And if the general lack of interest for last years rock hard sequel has shown anything, it’s that the series needed to relax a little.

Apparently new developers Bigbig Studios may have agreed, as it’s obvious from the off that this time around you’ll be winning races early on and not constantly begging for a top half of the field finish.

Snow effects at speed look good

It’s surprising to be able to report that many of the finer features from the PS3 games have made it into this superb PSP title. The healthy variety of vehicles from bikes, ATVs, rally cars, buggies and trucks are here, all equipped with boosting nitrous. While the game doesn’t feel as fast as the PS3 games, it’s not a problem as if it ran any faster you’d struggle to see the hazards ahead.

Perhaps at the cost of better looks, the tracks are just as expansive as we’re used to with multiple routes on offer. It’s a good choice of decent tracks over overworking the PSP for graphical polish.

The different routes are often more suited to different vehicle sizes. Larger, heavy vehicles for the lower routes and high jumps and ramps for the smaller, lighter ones. But if you’re a mean spirited truck driver, you can think sod it and follow those pesky bikes over the huge jump and squash them into the petrol soaked snow.

That’s the best thing about all the routes; they no longer feel exclusive to certain vehicles. This really helps to keep a three lap race fresh as you can try out different routes each time round. Naturally some are more dangerous or quicker than others and that’s half the fun. There’s so many of them you can often fall off a track and land on another one below before you’ve finished saying that nasty word at the screen.

Ice doesn’t really feel slippy, but we can settle for that as since when has driving on ice been fun? Never. Surprisingly there are dirt tracks and gravel sections aplenty in the game which breaks up any potential monotony of pure white tracks.

There are multiple depths of snow on offer, replacing the mud of previous games, with vehicles coping differently depending on their wheels or tracks.

All pics taken using in-game Photo option

Yep, tracks. New additions to the MotorStorm stable are the Snowmobile and the Snow Plough. One is great the other is a nightmare. And it’s probably the other way round than you’re thinking. The Snowmobile is a frantic, sliding mess that take’s a lot of taming just to keep the back end under control. The snow plough is a giant steel cube, carving its way through the thickest snow with ease, and along with the big rigs and other huge trucks, proves to be surprisingly reliable. While their size can have disastrous consequences in small gaps with other trucks and an all-big-rig race is the slowest start to a race ever, their extra weight stops them bobbling around at the slightest knock and they can crush anything in their way like a metal avalanche.

Which brings me to the environmental hazards on offer. You can trigger avalanches at certain (poorly indicated) areas by beeping your horn. Or you can crush the fragile ice bridges by going over them with a heavy vehicle. Just remember it’s gone when you come back around on the next lap though!

Racing starts off very easy, but around Rank 4 there is the odd event with a nasty difficulty spike. However, because the game eased you in gently you should be able to kick its ass soon enough. Sometimes a change of vehicle can make a huge difference, so don’t be afraid to experiment.

The events take place over 12 tracks and can have up to ten competitors. Speed events usually last two differently routed laps on your own as you pass though flare-smoke gates to add extra seconds to your countdown clock, with the event finishing when you have gone though a set number, with duplicate ones appearing later if you miss any. It’s notably harder than the racing at first, but is a lot of fun.

Time Ticker mode has a bunch of racers competing at once. During the race, points are constantly awarded depending on your position. The first driver to 999 is the winner. These can be very close events with the slightest crash potentially ruining everything.

The brutal AI has made it in and they seem to all be bonkers, crashing into each other flying over you upside down, exploding from over-boosting. It’s certainly not a dull racer.

Eventually that MotorStorm brand of difficulty does raise its head, but the game manages to balance the line between playable and challenging better than its PS3 big brothers. One annoying element though is the ‘reset to track’ option regularly screwing you over, either by taking forever to appear or putting you back hundreds of feet with the other racers a speck on the horizon. So um, just crash less ok?

In the later stages if you’re ahead at the end of the second lap it means that there’s at least one lap left and the game has been teasing you, maybe even let you build up a lead, it’ll get you though leaving you grateful for third.

Photo mode is a handy item accessible at any time in the pause menu (all the images here were taken with it). There are also badges to collect awarded for crashing, winning races and so on (PS3 Trophy type awards), extra vehicles and liveries to keep you playing and then local and online multiplayer to have a go at once you feel tough enough.

Far from a quick rush job, MotorStorm: Arctic Edge proves to be a more accessible game than its predecessors and a constantly thrilling encounter that hopefully will set a new direction for the series.

8/10

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