MotorStorm Demo Hands-On

We test-drive an updated version of the Tokyo Game Show MotorStorm demo at a PS3 event in San Francisco.

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Earlier today, while attending Sony's Gamers' Day event in San Francisco, we had an opportunity to spend some time with a playable demo of MotorStorm. The demo of Evolution Studios' off-road racer featured the same Rain God Mesa track that we raced on at the Tokyo Game Show earlier this year, but it appears to have benefited from some visual polishing over the last month.

The vehicles available for us to take the controls of included dirt bikes, buggies, and Baja trucks. There was only one copy of MotorStorm at the event, and there were plenty of people there who wanted to play it, but we still managed to squeeze in two three-lap races, one in a buggy and one on a bike. Unsurprisingly, the two races played out quite differently, and we're pleased to report that although the two vehicles presented us with very different challenges, they appeared to be very well balanced in terms of race difficulty.

For our first race, we took the wheel of a dune buggy, which was big enough to hold its own when the 12 vehicles on the track started getting in each others' way, but it certainly wasn't tough enough to push the Baja trucks around. The buggy's open-wheel design and big tires made it easy for us to negotiate even some of the track's roughest terrain, but we still rolled it a few times when cornering too quickly or failing to land large jumps. When we did land after hitting a big jump, the buggy was big enough that its landing kicked up some great-looking clouds of dust--a lot of which ended up stuck on the screen for a short time. The effect of the dust on the screen was subtle but impressive and became more noticeable when the sun's glare came into play.

Sitting on the starting grid alongside buggies and trucks on a dirt bike was a very different experience, and we felt like we were in trouble before the race even got underway. The other racers weren't overly aggressive, but one of the biggest challenges during the race was definitely just trying to stay out of their way. With that said, an interesting gameplay mechanic available to riders on bikes and ATVs is the ability to taunt other drivers so that they swerve toward you and, hopefully, into something hard when you move out of the way. What the dirt bike lacked in top speed, it made up for with superior acceleration and handling, though we also discovered (quite painfully) that the bikes in MotorStorm don't handle especially rough terrain very well. Portions of the track that we were able to cruise over in the buggy became quite treacherous on the bike, and on more than one occasion we were treated to a slow-motion replay of our driver being thrown through the air while his ride ended up in pieces strewn all over the racing line.

One of the few features that all of the vehicles in MotorStorm have in common is the boost meter that they employ. You can boost at any time in the game, but as the boost gauge changes from white to yellow and then gets close to red, you run the risk of blowing your engine. The trick, then, is certainly to put the boost to good use but to make sure that it has time to cool down before you get to areas of the track where it's most useful.

We were hoping to see a little more of MotorStorm today than was shown, but we still came away feeling suitably impressed with Evolution Studios' offering. We look forward to bringing you more information on the game as soon as it becomes available.

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