Cold, miserable, and filled with polar bears. These are just three things you could say to describe the Arctic Circle. However, developer BigBig Studios has decided to liven up the Arctic Circle with its own brand of arcade racing in the form of Motorstorm Arctic Edge. It brings with it snowmobiles, huge snow ploughs, and a fantastic soundtrack, so we dusted off our PSP and fired up a finished build of the game to see if the arctic setting is more than just a layer of snow over the game's normal warmer climes.
Arctic Edge features 12 tracks complete with vast jumps, multiple paths, and sheer drops--basically all the hallmarks of the Motorstorm series. They range from completely ice-covered tracks, such as Anguta Glacier, to Goldrush, which eschews snow in favour of rough dirt roads. Each of the tracks is also available to play in reverse, which effectively gives you 24 courses for racing.
The game features 24 vehicles, though only three of these are available at the start of the game. The initial options are the Jester BB-XS buggy, the Atlas Journeyman dump truck, and the ever-dependable Wasabi Katana dirt bike. New to the game are some snow-specific vehicles, including snowmobiles and a snow plough, which are great for navigating some of the ice and snow-covered tracks. Though any vehicle can be selected for a track in Freeplay mode, the game's Festival career mode limits the selection to ensure a more level playing field. For instance, one track we played consisted entirely of dump trucks, while another pitted us against a host of quad bikes.
We drove our way through several tracks in Festival mode, which consists of eight different ranks to complete. Each rank contains several races, and completing one rank will open up the next set of races. The initial races were relatively easy and allowed us to get to grips with the arcade-style handling of the vehicles. Some races in the game can only be opened up by collecting stars that are given out for completing a specific challenge in a race, such as staying in first place for more than 10 seconds.
The handling in the game is similar to its PlayStation 3 cousins, meaning it's extremely manic. Though there are only eight vehicles onscreen at a time--compared to the PS3 version's 16--the racing still feels hectic as rival racers do as much as possible to nudge you off the track into a wall or off a cliff. The tracks themselves are beautifully designed and offer multiple paths and shortcuts to get one up on your opponents. The Goldrush track in particular has several paths to choose from, with some great narrow railroad tracks that favour smaller vehicles. The boost system makes a return and is the key to success because it allows you to ram rival drivers into walls and pull quickly out of corners and power slides. In the colder levels, driving through snow drifts cools down the boost quicker, and these are strategically placed throughout a course.
The game looks great on the PSP, and the snow, ice, and dirt really show off what the PSP hardware can do. We particularly liked the consistent frame rate, which lends a real sense of speed to the races, even without the fancy blur effects of the PS3 version. Also worthy of mention is the soundtrack, which includes such bands as Radiohead, Queens of the Stone Age, and Pendulum. The game is due out on September 18, so check back here for a full review soon.