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MotorStorm: Arctic Edge
Graphics: 8.5
Gameplay: 8.5
Sound: 9.5
Control: 8.5
Replay Value: 9
Rating: 8.9
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: BigBig Studios
Number Of Players: 1-2

There's something about playing a game like MotorStorm and listening to pre-Black Metallica. I don't know, I guess something really kick ass and metal about off-road games that really gets me in the mood to listen to stuff like Metallica. First off, MotorStorm is yet another game to add to the list of terrific franchise debuts for the PSP. Hot on the heels of Gran Turismo, MotorStorm: Arctic Edge is precisely the portable MotorStorm game many of us envisioned. In fact, the game is so fully-featured, Sony even chose to bring it to the PlayStation 2.

Titled Arctic Edge, the name of this all new PSP entry tells the tale; this time around you're hitting the ice and will make your way through a number of Alaskan slippery slopes. There are a number of surprises with the game. First being that it's not developed by MotorStorm's PS3 developer Evolution Studios. Instead, Arctic Edge is developed by BigBig Studios, who have been responsible for both the Pursuit Force games on the PSP. My first time with MotorStorm: Arctic Edge was at a Sony gathering in New York City months ago, and I walked away impressed. Now, with my own copy here, I'm still impressed to see the game running so effortlessly on the PSP, not to mention faithfully. The gameplay feels very much like the MotorStorm games on the PS3 do, right down to the physics engine (that being the second surprise), which has been a very integral aspect of the games since the first one. So it's very nice to see the PSP game performing at a level of quality that is higher than what I had expected.

Each and every one of the 24 unique vehicles, across the eight classes, offer individual characteristics as far as feel and handling goes. Now, despite the arctic theme, not every track in the game bombards you with icy and snowy roads, as there's still more than a fair share of dirt, gravel, and mud to be found, giving you a mixture of new and old terrain types. Because there are four surface patches to race across, the game comes well equipped with the proper vehicles, many of which are obviously all new and specific to this entry. The vehicles that make up the 24 include: bikes, snowmobiles, ATVs, buggies, rally cars, snowpluggers, big rigs, and snowplows. If you've ever wanted to know what a big rig would feel like in the snow, Arctic Edge shows you just how much fun it is.

With these 24 vehicles, you are given a hearty 12 tracks to explore. These tracks are fully interactive, and even though you may have heard this spiel before, you've probably never really experienced it executed very well. But in Arctic Edge, excessively honking your horn and explosions can actually trigger an avalanche to occur. When it happened to me, I found out it wasn't done randomly, and it's because the A.I. nearby was honking at me, and I had exploded a few times from overboosting - disrupting the collected snow around the mountains. It was very, very cool. There are also collapsible ice bridges that can give-way if a large enough vehicle crosses over them - it's all fantastic stuff.

Gameplay comes complete with a Festival mode, which serves as your main career mode. Here is where you do most of your racing in order to progress throughout the game. If you feel like a quick burst, you've got Free Play to race against eight other opponents, or Time Trial, which is self explanatory. But, and this is a huge but, it's the online gameplay that is absolutely astonishing here. Boasting room for up to eight gamers to compete simultaneously, MotorStorm: Arctic Edge defines what it means to be a full-blown portable franchise getting carried over from a console. Everything about the online setup is done right, which goes to show other games have little excuse to mess theirs up.

Now, some of you may know that the game is also coming to the PlayStation 2. So if you're wondering what's the point of the PSP game, allow me to tell you. First, the PSP game gets custom soundtracks - and that's one massive reason. Second, the PSP game gets a photo mode. Third, and perhaps the most critical, the PSP game also gets that awesome eight-player online gameplay I just mentioned, meanwhile the PS2 game only gets four-player split-screen. But of course, the PS2 version has the advantage of better visuals, since it is on a more powerful home console, but that means no on-the-go fun. And because the PSP now boasts Video-Out support, you can always play Arctic Edge on a TV - again, albeit with lower visual fidelity.

On that note, it should be said that viewing the game on the PSP's screen provides for a much more clear and crisp image, as opposed to routing the picture to a TV. Still, despite the smaller screen size, the game still manages to show off some fantastic track designs that come complete with the signature jumps, routes, and gorgeous scenery. Arctic Edge is certainly a well done game with a graphics and physics engine that really does some impressive things. The vehicles also exhibit good looking design and texture work, and the lighting is well done too. As it always has been, it's the tracks and their scenery that'll win you over, proving once more that this portable MotorStorm is the real deal.

Audio scores big with me since it boasts custom soundtracks. That means that I don't need to have my Metallica playing in the background on my PC, I can just load it up to my 4GB memory stick and play it right through the PSP as I play the game. Custom soundtracks always score huge bonus points with me, and this is no different. There is a soundtrack that comes with the game, as well, boasting 20 songs from bands like Radiohead, The Prodigy, MotorHead, among various others. Also, sound effects are pretty lively, especially if you're running your PSP through a TV or even if you've got a pair of headphones on - the crashes, explosions, and the sounds of the vehicles sound really nice and loud.

MotorStorm: Arctic Edge for the PSP is great. There's no two ways about it. It does everything that the console games have been doing for years now, with the one and only difference being the visual sacrifice. But even still, it's a damn good looking PSP game. With the Festival mode featuring 100 races, amazing eight-player online capability, superb sound complete with custom soundtracks, great physics, and signature gameplay design, any PSP owner would be a fool to pass up MotorStorm: Arctic Edge.

10/14/2009   Arnold Katayev