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Surprisingly few racing games are big on offline multiplayer these days, except for ones that end in the word 'Kart'. So imagine our surprise when Evolution Studios announced that MotorStorm Apocalypse would not only allow online play, but four-player split-screen too. So the UK GamesRadar team huddled around the TV to put this split-screen action to the test - and you can watch the results here.
Connecting up controllers is simple enough, although everybody has to be signed is as a separate user in the XMB. This is presumably to keep track of everyone's stats and award trophies, but it also means everyone can go online with their PSN accounts in split-screen too. Yep, the game boasts split-screen online play so you can "mix and match" your competitors between those sat next to you and those halfway around the world.
But you want to know how well that split-screen runs, right? Here's a video of some races we had in the office:
The game runs surprisingly well from a technical point of view. Not only are all the environmental hazards and pedestrians present that are found in the single-player game, the split-screen is borderless in 4-player (though it does have borders in 2-player mode, bizarrely.) The frame-rate takes a hit in busy scenes, but for the most part, it's impressively detailed and smooth, with only slight draw-in.
There are three modes too, with chase and elimination supplementing the usual 'race' option. The complex nature of the track design did make us lose our way a couple of times, but having spent hours and hours in the single player game this week, I was able to play identically to the way I would with a full screen at my disposal.
I was able to have many online races with the team at Evolution Studios and I have to say, the game really comes alive when you're in a packed online game. There are the usual straight races as you'd expect, but I spent most of my time in the 'perks and betting' mode.
The game gives you a choice of two tracks before you play, and the players in the lobby vote for the one they want to race on. It keeps things moving along and each stage of the pre-match process is on a short timer so indecisive players can't hold up the game.
Above: Before races, you get to choose your own perks, which will help give you an advantage during play
The perks are saved in selectable trios, called 'Loadouts'. You can tinker with these before you go online, to make sure you have your favourite combinations ready to go. Perks range from simply giving you more grip to letting you super-cool your boost mid-air while still accelerating. New perks can be gained as you move up through the ranks. And to that, you'll need to earn chips.
Chips are your online currency, and are earned by fulfilling set criteria. Obviously, beating as many opponents as possible is the simplest, but you also earn chips for wrecking other cars and betting againt other players. In fact, the betting system works particularly well - you can nominate one rival in each race. Beat them and you get a bounty in chips. You can then either bank them, or bet them again in the next race.
Above: I bet on the top player, natch. Seeing a rival's PSN ID poking from a smoking wreck is awesome
Consecutive wins will earn you a pretty penny but, similarly, you'll have a lot more to lose if you bet on someone and lose to them. Everyone has their own 'chip rank', with the rewards for beating them tiered accordingly. It works really well and gives online races an even more personal touch, no matter whether you actually know the people playing or not.
Above: We were only playing against Evolution staff and fellow journos, but expect massive 16-player races
Racing in a tightly-fought match against a large grid of real people is the best way to play MotorStorm Apocalypse - full stop. You get all of the single-player game's destruction and visual effects, but you also get rivalry that means something - especially when you have a couple of thousand chips riding on the outcome. Even in four-player mode, the split-screen graphics are surprisingly close to the single-player experience and while the four detailed screens do slow down in places, it's way better than we expected.
Four-player splits are rare for a reason - but after playing this, we now expect it from every racer in the future. No excuses.
Above: Mix and match local and online. Every racing game should have the option
4 Mar, 2011