Your motorbike can outrun the entire field, but it’ll get chewed up and spat out by a couple of monster trucks, which as expected, start throwing their weight around at the beginning of the race. You hang back and watch in awe as a big rig ploughs through an ATV, sending parts and wheels skittering across the track. As the course leads into thick jungle and splits two-ways, you separate from the pack by taking the left-hand fork, ducking just in time to avoid being decapitated by a low branch.
The crunching sound behind you suggests the driver of a buggy hasn’t been so alert, but the narrow trail means it’s too risky to look back. The jungle ends and you boost off a ramp, flying over 100 feet and landing near the top of a stunning waterfall. There’s no time to admire the scenery though, as a fellow biker tries to overtake, so you swat him off his ride with a backhand to the throat.
At the bottom of the waterfall you choose your path carefully to avoid hazardous rocks and deep water, which don’t give the bigger vehicles any problems. The shallow water does at least cool your engine, which is dangerously close to exploding due to excessive boosting. You’re in first place as the finish line comes into view, and just to rub it in, you taunt the trailing pack with a rude hand gesture. Unfortunately that’s the cue for one of the monster trucks to steamroller you just yards from the line, and by the time you’re reset, you only manage to limp home in last place. Welcome to the thrilling, crazy world of Pacific Rift.
If Pacific Rift were a film, we’d be using cheap buzz phrases such as ‘an adrenaline-fuelled rollercoaster ride’ to describe it and bag ourselves a spot on the poster. But that’s exactly what it is. The team at Evolution has ditched the dry deserts of the first game and come up with a stunning selection of new and varied tracks while sensibly keeping everything else pretty much the same. The island is split into four so-called Elemental Zones: Earth, Air, Fire and Water, which roughly translated means dense jungle, cliffs and precipices, volcanoes and lava, and beaches and waterfalls.
Each zone houses 24 ranked events (either a standard race, a solo checkpoint Speed event or a last car standing Eliminator race), which take place on one of four tracks (making a total of 16). Points for coming in the top three in each event go towards unlocking the next rank in the same set-up as before. What really separate this from the original are the tracks and the hazards.
Prefer heavier vehicles like the big rig or monster truck? Then in the Fire zone you’ll need to make sure you have enough boost to make a series of jumps across rivers of lava, while in the Water zone you should be looking out for shortcuts through the deeper bits that’d sink the smaller vehicles. Basically, every vehicle on every track in each of the four Zones presents advantages and disadvantages that you’ll need to learn and master.
The tracks are the stars of the show, whether it’s the thrill of jumping from one precipice to the next, taking in the beauty of a rainbow as you skim through the base of a waterfall, or cursing the developer for making that bit of rock you just smashed into jut out slightly further than the rest of them. Thanks to the rubber-band AI, which makes your opposition less competitive when you fall behind, you’ll never be too far away from getting back in the race.
Only the new monster truck disappoints – hit anything bigger than a bike and this rig seems to lose all power, often resulting in you flipping over instead. Ultimately, it’s just a bit too slow and slightly cumbersome. Still, we’re sure it’ll be many people’s favourite vehicle. The excellent Split-screen mode for up to four players is a real blast, although you’ll need a big bright TV to play it on. The Time Attack mode is great too and you can load ghost car data to see where you’re going wrong as well as post top race times on an online leaderboard.
A few more tracks, vehicle types and Race modes would have been good (we’re sure they’ll appear in future DLC), plus the ability to fully customise your vehicle instead of relying on a few skins. Still, what’s there out of the box is exhilarating, exciting and brilliant fun.
Oct 28, 2008