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E3 2010: Hands-on with MotorStorm: Apocalypse

So, OK, “Apocalypse” is kind of a misleading subtitle for the next MotorStorm, if what we’ve been told is to be believed. Contrary to our early speculation, it doesn’t take place in a Mad Max-inspired, zombie-infested wasteland wherein the survivors waste their remaining resources on pointlessly destructive races. It does, however, feature a big-city backdrop inspired by several major California cities, which has been completely devastated by a massive earthquake. It also features a first for the MotorStorm series: a story.

Above: "We should probablly swap insurance details."

First, there’s the story of the city itself. Struck by a quake and filled with collapsed streets and unstable skyscrapers, the city is currently being fought over by the government and groups of violent squatters who want to claim it for themselves. Enter the MotorStorm festival (welcomed by neither group), which sees the chaos as a great opportunity to tear up asphalt with off-road vehicles in a series of races.

Then there are the stories of three different MotorStorm drivers, ranging from a stowaway kid who’s given his first chance behind the wheel, to an old veteran of the MotorStorm festival. Each one represents a different level of difficulty, with the kid being given low-risk challenges, for example, and the veteran and intermediate drivers tackling progressively harder challenges. The stories of all three are told by a fourth character, a gonzo journalist named Cutter, who’s embedded himself with the festival and relays the action through shakycam footage.

Above: The Lost and the Damned HD Remix

We didn’t see any of this stuff actually playing the game, of course. When we played, it was all just a high-speed rush through shattered, brownish streets that looked a little like San Francisco’s Embarcadero. Crashes happened a lot – partly because it’s MotorStorm, and partly because playing the game in 3D was kind of distracting – but recovery was quick, and by hammering our truck’s turbo boost – which, like in previous MotorStorms, makes you explode if you lean on it too much – we were quickly able to catch up to our rivals, eventually finishing in not-last-place.

What sets this game apart from previous MotorStorms, however, is the urban environment itself, which has a tendency to change in interesting and dangerous ways – i.e. skyscrapers collapsing against each other, creating a hazardously narrow tunnel where a street had previously been. When these happen, a button prompt flashes onscreen; press it, and the camera will immediately focus on the nearest disaster.

We also ran over a whole lot of crazy squatter-types along the way, who have a tendency to suddenly pop out of nowhere, as well as a baffling belief that a high-speed street race is an excellent time during which to dash aimlessly across the street.

Above: "We gotta get this crowd barrier to the Nickleback show, stat!"

In addition to its single-player, story-driven campaign (which we’re told will take around seven or eight hours to finish), Apocalypse will also feature a Challenge mode; as you unlock tracks in the campaign, those tracks will also pop up in Challenge mode, filled with missions you can tackle in any order. There’ll also be a more open Recreation mode, in which you’ll be able to freely select cars and performance-boosting perks. Finally, the game will not only feature online multiplayer for up to 16, but also four-player split-screen play and the ability to take all four of those players into online play when it ships sometime next year. This already looks to be the most interesting MotorStorm yet; expect to see a lot more of it in the months ahead.

Jun 17, 2010

After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in journalism, I worked for five years as a copy editor, page designer and videogame-review columnist at a couple of mid-sized newspapers you've never heard of. My column eventually got me a freelancing gig with GMR magazine, which folded a few months later. I was hired on full-time by GamesRadar in late 2005, and have since been paid actual money to write silly articles about lovable blobs.