If there's one concept that never seems to get old, it's racing with an attitude. Although we've never actually gotten a faithful tie-in of Need for Speed and Twisted Metal, both gameplay ideas are fantastic fun. Now, all we need to do is somehow combine the two...and perhaps Evolution Studios and SCE has the answer in MotorStorm.
A lot more information has come to light on this upcoming racing/car combat title, especially after Sony's Gamer's Day event in San Francisco where show-goers got the opportunity to go hands-on. The demo featured the same Rain God Mesa track on display at the Tokyo Game Show in September, but the developers must've made good use of the time to produce some visual polishing.
The vehicles available in the playable demo included a variety of dirt bikes, buggies, and Baja tracks, each of which are designed to pose the player with an entirely new set of challenges. Although the game is certainly arcade-oriented with its high-action theme, the vehicles in the game are coming equipped with some fairly impressive phsyics. In other words, don't expect the dirt bike to feel anything like the Baja truck, which certainly makes perfect sense.
The races will sport 12 vehicles on the track at one time, and you'll obviously want to experiment with the three types. The Baja truck won't get pushed around that easily, but then again, it also lacks the diversity of a dirt bike...which means the player could get awfully creative with how they approach each race. The dune buggy, for example, is probably best-suited for rough terrain but is prone to rolling on tight turns. Further, by utilizing the hardware of the PS3, the developers were able to take dust and sunlight into account, which should factor nicely into the experience.
One large part of the game might revolve around you simply staying on the track and avoiding your somewhat aggressive opponents. You might be able to bull your way through in the Baja, but if you're on the bike, we expect you'd be forced to use some ingenuity to conquer the competition. When you're flying through off-road terrain against vehicles that can toss you around so easily, you'll obviously have to utilize a different approach. Heck, maybe take a shortcut or two.
The game does feature an intriguing gameplay mechanic that centers on the aforementioned attitude and fast-action. The riders of bikes and ATVs will be able to taunt other drivers, causing them to target you for destruction. Clearly, you want to be clever about this and lure them into a carefully planned trap; for example, you taunt, they fly towards you in their provoked rage, and you skedaddle out of the way just in time...and they fly directly into a cliff wall. You know, something like that.
But the majority of the game's appeal might revolve around the diverse vehicle arrangement in the races. If you're cruising around effortlessly in your buggy, you may take all that rough and uneven terrain for granted, thereby not giving it a second thought when you swing your legs over a dirt bike for a go 'round. Because there's a fine line between victory and total destruction, the difference between first place and pieces of your vehicle strewn acroos the track may come down to a simple boulder.
However, there is one neat little feature that all vehicles will have at their disposal: the boost meter. You can boost whenever you want, but the more you do it, the more that meter climbs higher and higher, changing colors the whole way. Once it hits red, your engine blows and you're toast. Without any doubt, the trick is to utilize that boost wisely and effectively, saving your engine for the most challenging parts of the track. And as one final note regarding competition, the AI should - emphasis on "should" - be suitable for the game's purposes.
Supposedly, according to IGN, the game looks and runs a lot better when using the first-person view. This camera angle brings all the little details up close and personal, and apparently, everything just moves at a smoother and "more consistent" framerate. And of course, we must re-emphasize the extra dose of realism Evolution is bringing to the game, because with the increased physics, AI, and crazy collisions, everything should appear finely polished.
They expect to have MotorStorm ready before Christmas is upon us, but we have no set-in-stone date. But they should have the dust-flyin' vehicle-slammin' high-adrenaline fun before the year is out.
10/27/2006 Ben Dutka