While MotorStorm may have been a brand new franchise for Sony, it became one of the PlayStation 3's first big sellers and effectively set itself up as the PS3's premier arcade racing series. The inevitable sequel is now nearly with us, and it's shaping up well since we first saw it a few months ago. As the Pacific Rift subtitle indicates, this is a fundamental shift from the dusty canyons of the original to the more foliage-covered landscape of a tropical island. We recently managed to get an extensive play of the build shown at E3, which allowed us to sample the new two-player mode, as well as race the game's monster trucks for the first time.
The E3 demo came with two tracks, one that could be played in single-player and one in split-screen two-player. The single-player track was called Cascade Falls, which took place through a lush green forest and featured three vehicles--a bike, a jeep and the all-new monster truck. Like its predecessor, Pacific Rift features winding, multiroute tracks, with different terrain that suits certain vehicles over others. Players of the first game will know that larger vehicles tend to fare better in mud than bikes and buggies, so while the monster truck handles quite sluggishly, it can more than cope as long as you take the right course through the track.
So how is the new monster truck to race? Well, it's annoyingly sluggish to begin with, offering poor acceleration and a low top speed. But as with the previous MotorStorm, all of the vehicles are balanced, and the monster truck excels at being able to destroy pretty much anything that gets in its way. Bikes, buggies, and jeeps become playthings next to the pure muscle of the monster truck; thus, a simple flick will send anything else flying off into whatever obstacle lies at the side of the track. As for the bike--it may still be as painfully vulnerable as before, but it's fast and easy to maneuver. The buggy is perhaps the perfect mix of skills for the beginner because it's tough enough to survive small impacts but small and light enough to reach a high speed.
MotorStorm's still a very tough game, and we failed to finish in a podium position the majority of times we played. Developer Evolution Studios has always been proud of its AI, so the computer-controlled opponents are just as cunning and ruthless as they were before. Occasionally, the game creates the sort of mayhem that's shown in the game's many trailers, with bikes, buggies, and trucks fighting it out all around as you attempt to navigate safe passage. Unfortunately, though, it's incredibly easy to crash your vehicle into a number of different roadside obstacles, such as rocks, cliffs and trees, as well as such new ones as vines that slow you down.
Pacific Rift will feature four-player split-screen in the finished game, and the demo allowed us to try the two-player split-screen mode. Technically, the game doesn't struggle to run two players at full speed while retaining the detail, and we certainly didn't encounter any slowdown or drops in the 30 frames per second frame rate. The two-player track was less vegetated than the single-player track and feels more man-made than Cascade Falls. This is thanks to a number of ramps and jumps that join the mountains and cliff tops. It's a challenging little track, with plenty of opportunities to drop off a cliff and fall into oblivion. In fact, some of the jumps are so big that you'll stay in midair for three seconds at a time.
Like its predecessor, Pacific Rift is all about speed and destructibility. The game might not have fundamentally changed, but the environments and new vehicles do a lot to add to the great racing engine underneath. MotorStorm has also progressed incredibly well in the few months since we saw it at the London PlayStation Day, with a much smoother frame rate, as well as more detail on both the vehicles and the environment. The game is tantalisingly close to its October 7 release date, and we hold out hope that we'll see more of it before release. We'll bring you more news and impressions as we get them. In the meantime, be sure to check out the video footage taken from our E3 demo.