MotorStorm: Pacific Rift Hands-On

We go split-screen in a monster truck, as Sony shows off a playable version of its MotorStorm sequel for the first time.

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MotorStorm may have been a brand-new franchise for Sony's PlayStation 3, but developer Evolution managed to make a flat-out success of its simple formula for destruction. In another bold move, the developer has decided to ditch the dusty environment that made the first game so iconic, in favour of a brand-new tropical island setting. This time, Evolution has taken inspiration from the islands of Hawaii, where volcanoes, waterfalls, and crumbling cliffs will act as all-new hazards for the vehicles, which now include monster trucks. We grabbed the development team at the London PlayStation Day to talk more about the game and to take our first hands-on with it in solo and multiplayer modes.

Still early in development, the version of MotorStorm: Pacific Rift that we played was purportedly around 40 percent complete. That means it was a little rough around the edges. But the basic elements of the game were in place, and the proposed third-quarter 2008 release date allows plenty of time for polish. The two tracks we got to play were Beachcomber, which is a single-player level, and Ringod Spires, which is a multiplayer level loosely based on a track from the first game. Both circuits showed off the new environmental additions to the game, such as vines and branches that can take out players on bikes and buggies. Another new addition is water, which can both slow you down and help you cool down your engine. Just like in the first MotorStorm, you can use a boost button to speed up, but if overuse it, your engine will explode. If you take a little dip in the water, though, you can cool your engine down quickly.

Although the first game offered online play, many owners complained about the lack of a split-screen mode. This has been addressed in Pacific Rift, and the developers have been almost overzealous by allowing up to four players to share a screen. Of course, there will still be online multiplayer for those who are connected to the Internet, and all of the 16 tracks in the finished product will be playable in multiplayer. Since new tracks were released for the first MotorStorm, there's a good chance the sequel will also be expanded upon, but with 16 in total, that's double the number that shipped with the debut MotorStorm.

Also new to the game is the action button, which has been mapped to the square button on the Sixaxis and the DualShock 3. By pressing square and pushing left or right on the analogue stick, you can jerk suddenly to one side and knock an opponent into whatever object lies at the side of the track. This is beneficial if you're in a big vehicle, such as the monster truck we were playing in, and you're attacking a smaller opponent on a bike. However, this move uses up boost, and its sudden jerky movement can cause you to overcompensate when righting yourself on the track. The bikes, ATVs, rear-wheel-drive buggies, rally cars, racing trucks, and mudpluggers will all make a return, and those who want to go on a bike will have a whole new selection of insults to choose from on the triangle button.

Developer Evolution has stuck to the proven sound from the original MotorStorm and has included a Pendulum track in the sequel, this time in the form of a track called "Tarantula." However, you can also now create custom soundtracks and import them into the game, allowing for the first time the possibility of smashing opponents off the road while accompanied by a soothing jazz mix. Evolution also promises to emphasise hero and villain characteristics in some of your opponents. Some will be more aggressive and forgo such necessities as helmets and padding. The developers have also incorporated new animations into racing, so you'll see opponents abandoning their vehicles and scrambling across the track or getting visibly frustrated if you knock them off their bikes.

It looks as though Evolution has really listened to the fans of the first game when building MotorStorm: Pacific Rift, and it has done well to incorporate split-screen, custom soundtracks, and double the number of tracks for the sequel. We're sure to see more of the game in the run up to the Q3 2008 release, so keep an eye on GameSpot to find out more news as we get it.

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