All-in-all Motorstorm is a fantastic looking game with great design, sadly at times this can get overshadowed.
+ Stunning visuals
+ Nice array of vehicles
+ Great online play
+ Large expansive tracks with multiple routes
+ A solid soundtrack
- Shallow gameplay
- Forced to play certain vehicle c|asses
- Frustrating and unforgiving AI
- Linear single player
- No offline multiplayer
Motorstorm was one of the very first games to be showcased on the PlayStation 3 and early previews already had gamers foaming at the mouths. When game footage was released jaws drooped at its absolutely stunning visuals. Even now, after months, it's still one of the best looking games around. From the impressive lighting effects and inspiring back drops, right down to the way the mud splatters up onto the screen and deforms the ground right in front of your eyes. Sure there are some horrid-looking textures thrown in and a few graphical glitches in spots but overall what Sony and Evolution Studios have done is provided us with a true feast for the eyes. However it is worth noting that those who still own a standard TV won't feel the full force of the games graphical prowess unless they splash the cash on a shiny new HDTV.
Unfortunately for all its visual might the game falls short in many areas. For instance, you won't find any trace of a storyline here and if you were looking for a selection of race modes you've come to the wrong place. Instead they focus on pure adrenalin-filled racing, flying through desert landscapes whilst smashing into anybody that stands in your way. While this is pretty fun for a period it soon becomes apparent just how shallow an experience it really is, with very few ways to play through the game.
The single player mode is made up of various events or 'tickets' as the game refers to them, and as you complete these races you rack up points which then unlocks new vehicles and even harder races. Sadly there are only 21 of these tickets to play through and if you give the game your full attention you should be able to breeze through them in three or four hours.
The game offers you a choice of seven different vehicle c|asses, each handling radically different than the next. The bikes are light and agile, superb at jumps and turning yet small and fragile. The big rigs however are huge and bulky, turning like a ship out of water yet glide through the thick mud as quick as anything. The key is usually picking the right vehicle for the right situation, although sadly the game does like to force you to play as certain vehicles for certain races, this again takes away some of the games variety. The selection of vehicles within each c|ass is also pretty limited and the changes from one to the next are, for the most part, aesthetic.
The tracks featured are all stunning and expansive to boot, offering multiple ways to tackle each one. Within every track you're bound to have high ledges and plenty of jumps for the bikes, ATVs and buggies to attempt, hard flat surfaces for the rally cars and large annoying obstacles that only the heavier vehicles in the pack have any chance of clearing. Unfortunately there are only eight courses to play through and after only a short time with the game you'll already feel the repetitiveness creeping in.
Apart from attempting to survive the treachery of the courses you'll also need to be on full alert for your rival racers. These aren't just along for the ride, pushing them or annoying them in any way will probably end up with you face-first into a wall or head-first over the nearest cliff. They also have a habit of ramming you from behind which spins you and knocks you off course onto terrain that your vehicle isn't suited for. While this sounds like a welcome challenge it isn't. It can make the game unbearably frustrating at times, not to mention extremely unforgiving. They don't even make that many mistakes either, especially on the later levels and that's when things go from difficult to almost impossible. Only by mastering the courses for each vehicle and using your nitro boost effectively to the point of perfection can you win, even then it's not guaranteed. It doesn't matter how good you play most of the time as the majority of races are purely down to luck, then there are the restrictions placed on you as a result of the rubber-band racing that has so clearly been incorporated, you can never get more than a few feet away from your rivals before they're slamming you in the back and taking your position away.
In addition to the games graphics the audio also does a pretty solid job. Every engine roars with passion and ferocity, every crash is met by a resounding boom and crunch as your vehicles are ripped apart. The only problem with this is you seem to hear your vehicle exploding even after the most minor of pings or scrapes. The soundtrack is filled with a mixture of rock and bass, with bands such as Nirvana, Wolfmother and Slipknot booming out over the frantic action. Sadly there isn't a whole lot of variation here and some of the songs start to get a little repetitive after only a few plays through.
The online portion is a pretty fun experience, with up to twelve players able to race at any one time. There isn't that much lag either, not when you consider just how many things are happening on the screen at any given time. Unfortunately, there isn't any sign of an offline multiplayer mode, this is extremely disappointing considering the single player portion is pretty short and one can only think they had issues with slowdown.
All-in-all Motorstorm is a fantastic looking game with great design and a whole lot of potential, sadly at times this can get overshadowed by agonizingly long loading times (sometimes taking up to 20 seconds just to load one vehicle), frustrating AI and extreme repetitiveness. There's definitely a base here though which can be improved upon, and with a little care and padding around the edges this could be one to look out for in the future.
UPDATE: The game now offers downloadable vehicle packs and a full time trial mode for it's users via the PlayStation Network. These however aren't free like they should be, not only did they give us a sub-par single player experience to begin with but now they want to charge us to enhance what should have been included in the first place.