This, Evolution would have you believe, is the end of the world. The venue: London’s Fabric nightclub; the occasion: the worldwide reveal of one of Sony’s big hitters for E3 and the natural progression for a series now intrinsically linked with the PlayStation brand: Motorstorm. The game: Motorstorm Apocalypse, and whilst it might not quite be the end of the world per se, it looks pretty damned near.
For a gaming series principally concerned with moving bits of mud around, seeing buildings, subways, bridges and roads collapse, tumble and explode around us like an amped up, gritty Split/Second was something of a shock, even if the setting itself might not have been. Casually brushing aside recent leaks, the Evolution boys, quietly confident that this is the one, proceeded to demonstrate just what the apocalypse will look like from behind the wheel of a sports car.
So, yes, whilst bikes, buggies and bigger still exist, our time with the fourth Motorstorm was confined to strict limits: one track, one lap, one car. It didn’t really matter though, this was a glimpse at the tech, the environment and the spectacle and Apocalypse has all three in spades. Noisy, brash and bold are adjectives already locked into the Motorstorm canon but Apocalypse dials the whole thing up to 11.
And as the chopper overhead pulls away with the start lights, it’s pedal to the metal for the level’s initial straight section, one already brimming with activity and danger, but a mere taster of what lay ahead. It’s hard to articulate just how powerful the newly tweaked graphics engine is here: buildings crack and disintegrate ahead of you, transforming the track in real time and forcing quick reactions from player and AI alike.
Only on repeated plays do the setups become staged, and whilst at this stage in the game’s development some scripting is to be expected, we’re hoping for a little more randomness before the game hits the shelves. As it stands, it’s possible to learn the level’s tricks through conditioning and memory, which removes some of the drama but makes you look like every 80s action hero for any unfamiliar onlookers. Time will tell.
Also mentioned but not seen was the multiplayer, which Evolution told us will feature both 4 player split screen and 16 player online, with multiple gamers on each PS3 able to connect over the web in the game’s massively expanded competitive modes. Likewise, gamers will be able to make use of a sentence-based scripting language to create their own races and missions, which can be sharedm ranked and played with friends. Sound familiar?
Call of Duty fans will take delight in Apocalypse’s perks system, drivers being able to combine stat tweaks in the form of speed boosts, handling and combat improvements, and Evolution promise vast amounts of customisation from body shells and vinyls to parts and paints. Identikit motorbikes, then, are a thing of the past, even though most of them will just get covered in dust by the end of each race anyway.
So, throwing aside the traditional Motorstorm ticket system, the fourth game offers up three playable characters which will each carve their way through a story based career mode with persistent environmental damage sure to play a key part in the overall affect. Each character offers up a prologue, a path through the game’s levels and an ultimate epilogue (with one more ultimate than the others) and also act as difficulty settings to boot.
Sounds good, right? Looks good, too. The not-really generic American west coast setting brings a distinct LA to life, and it’s one constantly ravaged by earthquakes, PMCs and hardcore looters determined to spoil each and every race. Expect to be dodging bullets and wrecking balls just as much as concrete and brick as each faction plays its part in making Motorstorm’s courses as much fun as possible. I wasn’t expecting to be running down humans, mind.
But, like many things we saw and played at the event, things can change. Apocalypse is pre-alpha, loads like a dog and needs some TLC even in the level Evolution were so keen to show off. But show off they did, because the game’s setting and the sheer amount of things going on show that there’s very much life left in the old dog yet. It looks like the carnival is just getting started, and if this is the end of the world we want front row tickets.