Product Type: Sony PS3 games
Newest Review: ... in "Earth" you'll find dense jungle canopies and difficult visibility. Points are awarded for top three finishes as well as, on ... more
Pain And Pleasure, In Equal Measure
Motorstorm: Pacific Rift (PS3)
Member Name: tom1clare
Motorstorm: Pacific Rift (PS3)
Date: 30/10/11, updated on 11/11/11 (57 review reads)
Advantages: Dynamic visuals; strong course-design; two-player; brilliant vehicles
Disadvantages: Punishing difficulty; online options could have been better
MotorStorm: Pacific Rift is a real gamer's game in the old-fashioned sense. It's for those who believe you should have to learn every corner of a track in order to shave tenths off the lap-times, for those who enjoy the painful toil of hard-fought progression, completing each hurdle with a sense of accomplishment. It's for those who remember how games used to be before completions and achievements were spoon-fed.
And just as with games of the old-skool, it's a no-nonsense premise. Pacific Rift sees you racing a variety of vehicles on a mix of terrains, with the kind of hazardous scenery that would make V-Rally look like a Sunday drive. It doesn't hide behind endorsements or sponsorship tie-ins; there are no real-world tracks, and no licensed vehicles or drivers; just a heap of hyper-aggressive off-road vehicles that look like they've been subjected to a dangerous dose of motoring caffeine. Your task is perfectly simple; beat your competitors to the finish line using whatever tactics and route you can get away with. And as is so often the case, the simplest of targets makes for the hardest of challenges.
The Festival mode, which consists of a considerable number of single races intermixed with the occasional time-attack challenge, is split into four track groupings. Each gives a hint as to the nature of the circuits you'll encounter within. "Fire" tends to be set around a volcano and is replete with hazardous lava lakes, "Air" incorporates massive jumps, "Water" features raging rivers and debris-filled beaches, and in "Earth" you'll find dense jungle canopies and difficult visibility. Points are awarded for top three finishes as well as, on occasions, finishing a race within a set time, with the accumulation of points eventually leading to a raise in rank and the unlocking of more races.
The uncompromising physics and super-tough competitors, for better and for worse, make MotorStorm what it is. You'll marvel at the devilish track design and feel great satisfaction in taking corners at speed without crashing, just as you'll bemoan being barrel-rolled by a seemingly-innocuous divot in the surface, or wonder how you could have avoided making a mistake for three seemingly-perfect laps only to be rewarded with a fourth place finish. There's enough of a learning curve to get up and running, but to be successful long-term the game tasks you with driving right on the limit; encouraging the player to maximise use of speed-boosting Nitrous without exploding the vehicle, cornering aggressively and utilising the tricky short-cuts, it's all about risk and reward, and you'll need to be a risk-taker to succeed here.
As is to be expected of a first-party PlayStation3 title, MotorStorm: Pacific Rift features a very robust game engine and some very snazzy graphics. The dark, scarred volcano settings are menaced by bubbling lava and charred smoke effects, whilst the jungles are on the other end of the colour spectrum with their dazzling, lush greens and pretty lighting effects. The speed blur gives the game a real sense of zip; there are no problems with the frame-rate even with a relatively high number of opponents and it's all very crisp and smooth. The vehicles look great and feature some bone-crunching crash physics, showcased in fine style by the superb photo function, which allows you to capture the moment you pass by a waterfall, mid-jump, whilst several hundred feet in the air.
There's no getting around the formidable difficulty, and it inevitably means the game won't be to all tastes. Pacific Rift may be an easy concept to grasp, but it requires a significant amount of patience and skill to progress beyond the early stages. The brakes aren't especially receptive and often you'll see your own crash coming seconds before it happens as you slide inexorably towards another frustrating meeting with the scenery. The challenge is also a strength however, as the extensive array of vehicles offer not only a varied set of attributes, but also influence the tactics of your race. The Bike for example is quick and nimble, but doesn't sit well on rough terrain and is always going to get battered around by bigger opponents. On the opposite end of the scale, the Monster Trucks require rather more force to bully them, but their ungainly size means they can't exploit the same routes and short-cuts. In between these you have Rally Cars, Trucks, Buggies and Quad Bikes, all with their own nuances. So whilst the game doesn't offer the kind of glossy precision of a Gran Turismo or the instinctive excitement and speed of Burnout Paradise, the balancing and diversity of its vehicles is an underrated facet that encourages experimentation.
Little elements elevate it above its predecessor. Circuit design is more varied and generally tighter, with less chance of going off-route, whilst the racer is also able to cool down their nitrous bar by driving through puddles and waterfalls, giving things an extra dimension as you are made to think of which sections of water to go for in order to sacrifice the least speed. Via the shoulder buttons, you can barge opponents, ideal for nudging them off cliffs though perilous should you misjudge the manoeuvre and slide out wide on a corner.
Multiplayer-wise it features a sound enough online experience, though the game modes lack variety and it isn't as addictive an infrastructure setup as its PSP counterpart MotorStorm: Arctic Edge. Seemingly something of a dying art in recent years, Pacific Rift distinguishes itself with laudable two-player and four-player split-screen options. Two-player is particularly great, maintaining much of the speed and graphical detail of the one-player, as well as plenty of A.I. opponents, resulting in a good deal of fun.
How long you play may ultimately depend on dedication, patience and ability. Certainly, there are enough challenges and tracks to keep the committed amongst you playing for weeks, perhaps even months, and it offers durable value as a package. It's quite possible however, that no matter how much you're accustomed to racing games, you might never reach or conquer the game's final class. But it's the journey that's the reward here, not the destination. Beneath its impressive exterior, Pacific Rift is a true non-nonsense racer. It may not sport the flashy gimmicks of others like it, but represents an awesome challenge and is, at times, a genuinely exciting racer. It'll beat you up, but you'll like the way it hurts.
Summary: A well-crafted, challenging racer that showcases the PS3's grunt
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