MotorStorm is mechanical mayhem, and not much else.

User Rating: 6.5 | MotorStorm PS3
MotorStorm is an off-road racing game that pits just about every imaginable vehicle on some truly punishing courses. The career is broken up into 21 tickets, and each ticket consists of two to four races. In order to qualify in a race, you must finish third or better, and you're awarded points depending on your place to unlock new vehicles and tickets.

Most races will assign you a specific vehicle to race in. Vehicles range from motorcycles, to ATVs, to dune buggies and rally cars, and even giant big rigs. Every ride behaves differently according to the road surfaces. For instance, big rigs excel in the mud, while rally cars prefer perfectly flat surfaces.

Just about every track has several different paths and shortcuts that are suited to certain vehicles. A windy, gravely path may not be suited for a truck, but a more straight and muddy path wouldn't be ideal for a bike. There's no on-screen map, so you'll have to spend a few races doing trial and error to discover which paths work the best.

Boosting is essential to win in MotorStorm. At the beginning of each race, a countdown ensues. Once it's reached zero, you're able to use your boost. While boosting, you have a temperature gauge that will fill up and if it exceeds its capacity, your engine will overheat and explode. Learning the tracks and knowing where the straightaways and shortcuts are is imperative to using boost effectively.

The biggest flaw affecting the game's fun factor is the largely inconsistent difficulty. The game forces you into scenarios that are entirely unfair. There are a few tracks that aren't suited for a couple of vehicles, while you're stuck racing against competitors who are. Many of the tracks are also littered with bottlenecks, and they can prove to be mind-numbingly frustrating to get past.

The rubber band AI contributes a great deal to the difficulty. For starters, it almost always keeps the competition tightly bunched up. This is a nightmare for when a bottleneck occurs. Usually when you're about to be passed, several cars will do it at the same time, either riding your tires or slamming into you and forcing you off the track or into a wall. They can take turns sharper and faster than you, and they even seem to have more boost than you at times. You might even be passed up while boosting at full speed down a straight away on a surface you handle better than the other.

It works both ways, though. The AI makes its own fair share of mistakes. They'll take jumps too hard and flip themselves over. They'll go overboard with boosting and blow themselves up, and they tend to go slower when you're trailing from far behind. If you crash a few times, you're not guaranteed to be out of the race, but if you crash once or twice while in first, you'll be in great danger of losing.

Another area of the game that works against itself are the track designs. There are many hazardous turns and bumps, and some shortcuts are so tricky to access and stay in that it's not even worth it most times. There are some minor dips in the road that will bottom out some cars, bringing them to an almost complete stop, and some ramps occasionally flip over the lighter vehicles even when they're on a straight approach. Also, there aren't that many tracks to begin with, and the game opens them all up after completing only handful of tickets.

There isn't really much to MotorStorm presentation wise. There is no announcer or color commentator. The tracks have no introductions. You can't purchase or upgrade any parts. The riders don't have any names or profiles, and the only customization is three different paint styles for each vehicle. The game also only has two play modes: single player, or multiplayer. There isn't even a time attack mode to mess around with.

The graphics are pretty decent for a first generation PlayStation 3 title. The environments are rendered with a good amount of detail. The roads can look pretty dusty, and tracks can be imprinted and changed in the mud. An attention to detail that can really be appreciated is on the vehicles themselves. They've been modeled realistically, all the way down to the treads in their tires. It's also pretty cool watching them get dirty, and getting damaged until there's nothing left but a frame. The only major annoyance with the graphics, though, is when so much mud gets kicked up onto your screen that you can't see.

The audio unfortunately isn't as good as the visuals. It's not horrible; there just isn't anything impressive. The engine revving sounds average, and every vehicle sounds exactly the same when boosting. Sound effects such as tires ripping up gravel and trucks slamming into each other are average as well. The soundtrack may seem fitting for a while, with noisy music that suits the chaos of the races, but you'll grow tired of it fairly quickly. The lack of any voiceovers from riders also detracts from the game's presentation, making it a little more lifeless.

MotorStorm's core gameplay is actually pretty fun, when things are going right. It's a terrific blast when you're playing online with friends, which levels the playing field. As a single player game, you'll be frustrated a great deal because of the AI. Yes, every race will be a tight race, but they won't always be a fair race. The lack of any presentation also really detracts from the game's value, and even during its release, 60 dollars would have been far too much to pay. If you have 15-20 bucks, and are looking for a decent off-road game for your PS3, it may fit the bill, but if you want to pay full price for one, there are far better options.