MotorStorm: Apocalypse Hands-On Preview

What sort of racing tracks can you expect from the end of the world? We've got your answer, plus some bonus multiplayer details.


MotorStorm: Apocalypse

As you've probably gathered from the title, MotorStorm: Apocalypse takes place at that very moment when Earth has decided it would very much like to just call it a day. It's not exactly what you would call an uplifting setting. Buildings are falling apart, the sky is choking on smoke, and the streets are filled with rubble and crazed lunatics running around with no shirts on. No, it's not a happy place…at least if you're not a racecar driver.

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But as luck would have it, the apocalypse is a pretty all-right place if you're into racing overpowered super cars for sport. That's what developer Evolution Studios is out to prove with this latest entry in this PlayStation-exclusive off-road racing franchise. The game was first introduced back at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, giving us a quick taste of what sort of mayhem is in store for the game. But tonight Sony has been kind enough to give us a look at a truckload of new tracks as well as the chance to go hands-on with the online multiplayer component.

The big theme with the tracks is that they're all inspired by locations on the West Coast of the United States, particularly the San Francisco Bay Area. In other words, right near the San Andreas fault line that will one day pull GameSpot's San Francisco offices right into the ocean. So that's a cheery thought. At any rate, here are the five tracks we played tonight:

Mainline: This track shows off the subterranean racing potential in Apocalypse, giving you the chance to tear through drainage canals, subway tunnels, and underground metro stations. It's a track on which you can go from tight tunnels right into an expansive outdoor plaza where a building is about to topple down right on top of you. In other words, nice and varied.

Upper Bohemia: This track recalls San Francisco's scenic residential neighborhoods with its abundance of Victorian houses and green parks. The only problem is that the streets are filled with fiery wreckage, and crazed loons are darting in front of your cars at random.

Docklands: This is the gritty industrial track of the bunch, taking place in a flooded shipping yard filled with oil spills and overturned freighters. Clearly the burning oil hasn't done the sky any favors, because it's a brown and gloomy ceiling above you.

Boardwalk: You'd think this would be the lone cheery track in the game, since it's set in a seaside resort town complete with a titular boardwalk and various amusement park rides. But when you add in the torrential downpour, flooding, and demolished docks, suddenly it's not such a pleasant vacation destination. At least it makes for fun racing, though.

Downtown: This is perhaps the most straightforward track of the lot. It's a relatively short circuit with fewer branching paths than the others we played, meaning pileups and collisions are a much more frequent occurrence. It's set in the skyscraper-filled financial district section of the game's San Francisco-inspired city.

As you can tell, the move to an urban environment has hardly produced a collection of tracks that feel like "City Streets A," "City Streets B," and so on. It's a nice, varied collection of circuits that manage to feel pretty distinct from one another.

Now, on to the multiplayer. The game offers four-player split-screen local play, as well as 16-player online. One of the more interesting parts of online racing is the inclusion of perks custom loadouts. No, you haven't suddenly found yourself reading a Call of Duty article--we're still talking about MotorStorm here. Before an online race, you can equip up to three perks that affect your performance in various ways. There's one that cuts your reset time in half after a crash, one that increases your tire grip levels, one that lets your boost cool down much faster, and one that lets you ram players with a smaller boost penalty--just to name a few.

Don't worry, that bridge was just for decoration anyway.
Don't worry, that bridge was just for decoration anyway.

In our experience, we found the perk that cuts your reset time in half especially useful the first few times we raced a track, but as we got to know its ins and outs, we found it less necessary and began to favor perks that had a more aggressive approach. No matter your perks of choice, though, it's definitely a neat feature.

MotorStorm: Apocalypse is looking like a worthy successor to what has thus far been a critically acclaimed series of off-road racers. Even though the franchise is now moving onto roads--and rooftops, and docks, and more--it looks like that pedigree is still holding up. You can expect to see the game released on April 12.

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