The Road Warrior dons tropical garb and goes on an island vacation.
A four-year-old child who can do Fourier analysis impresses me. It’s impressive in the way that only a kid who barely knows how to use a toilet and yet can still perform advanced mathematics could be. You know, “impressive” like a dog who eats dried turds and then minutes later confidently prepares a world-class coq au vin. However, if the child prodigy weren’t a child and the culinary canine weren’t a dog, there’d be nothing all that impressive about someone who could perform either feat, or more disturbingly, both. He’d just be a shit-eating mathematician with a taste for coq. [You’re fired. ~Ed]
[image1]Not long after the PS3’s launch, the first Motorstorm was an impressive showcase of the console’s abilities, but always with the caveat that it was only impressive “for a first-generation title”. Like the turd-eating pooch and the fresh-out-of-diapers tot, Motorstorm had plenty of issues associated with being among the earliest PS3 titles out of the gate. Some issues were eventually fixed, but many were too deeply embedded in the game’s design to be repaired by patches.
Motorstorm: Pacific Rift gives Evolution Studios a second shot at getting the series right. And in pretty much every regard, this release has none of the old issues—long load times, a lack of local co-op, pared-down course content—that irked players of the first title. At the same time, however, very little new is brought into the mix. This is the game that the first Motorstorm was aiming to be, but it all falls a little flat now that we’re almost two years down the road from the first title’s release.
Like the first game, Pacific Rift takes us yet again through a series of Mad Max-themed tracks that are part of a traveling off-road racing festival. The courses are patchworks of natural landscape and scrap-metal signposts, and vehicles are a mix of junkyard buggies, tricked-out semis, and high-flying bikes.
The heart of Pacific Rift’s racing strategy is identical to its predecessor. It’s all about planning a route that follows a low, middle, or high path. Bikes take the high road, buggies and trucks take the middle road, and the big boys plow their way through the mud and muck of the lower depths. For this reason, the courses feel a little too familiar to those who have played the first game. Evolution Studios has slapped a coat of tropical paint over the original desert landscapes, but the fundamental formula has undergone no major change.
[image2]The races are divided into four categories based on the four elements. Courses in the earth category have lots of rocks and trees. Those in air have altitude. Fire has lava. And water has—surprise!—plenty of water. It’s a nice touch, but it does nothing other than organize the tracks for you. You need to earn points to unlock further tracks, and some courses include bonus goals that unlock yet more races.
Still present from the first Motorstorm are the incredibly floaty controls. This isn’t unusual within the off-road arcade racing genre, but it’s so exaggerated here that I spent much more time fighting the controls than perfecting my driving skills.
If you’ve ever had a dream where no matter how hard you tried to run away from something—bill collectors, parents, reality, a four-horned yellow sock monster—and you felt like you were moving through molasses, then you know what this game feels like. At top speeds, when you hit even the slightest bump in the road, you float very slowly high into the air, helpless to change direction or speed. The only sensible thing to do is set the controller down, go for a cigarette break, wait patiently for your vehicle to return to terra firma, and do it all over again seconds later.
In the later races, the difficulty ramps up quite a bit. But it’s not because the A.I.-controlled vehicles are faster or better drivers; it’s because of that old stand-by: rubber-band A.I.. It seems somewhat toned down compared to the first Motorstorm, but it’s still there and it kicks up in the later stages.
[image3]Despite some shortcomings in the single-player mode, Pacific Rift is strongest in its multiplayer features. Unlike its predecessor, we’re finally able to play local multiplayer, but since there’s still no split-screen online play, online multiplayer cannot be played with someone sitting right next to you. It might also be nice to see something more than the twelve-racer limit—especially since Pacific Rift isn’t pushing the graphical envelope—but as it is, online play runs smoothly and flawlessly.
In the time between the first title’s release and this follow-up, some heavy hitters in the off-road racing field have entered the field. DIRT showed surprising versatility, depth, and realism. Pure introduced fresh gameplay, visual artistry, and flawless 16-player online play. Motorstorm: Pacific Rift might be the game its progenitor wanted to be, but it isn’t quite the game it could be when compared to its peers. Pacific Rift is a competent, robust, and fun racer, but not a particularly deep or innovative one.