First Level: MotorStorm: Arctic Edge

I love MotorStorm: Arctic Edge. Not because it’s an amazing racing game, because it’s not, but because it marks the start of the new dawn of PSP games and from here on in the shiny PlayStation Portable will play host to some spectacular titles, and with Gran Turismo just around the corner (in a little over two weeks) now’s the time to dip your toes into the previously slightly murky waters of on-the-move PlayStation gaming.

As most of you will know, Arctic Edge isn’t from Evolution, it’s by developers Bigbig (of Pursuit Force) but obviously there’s been some considerable cross-over contact between the two studios, because for all intents and purposes this is pretty much the full on MotorStorm experience we’ve been looking for since getting our hands on the first game in the series on the PS3’s launch day, and just shows what’s possible on a handheld if you dedicate the time.

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Because the game will also launch ad verbatim on the PS2, Arctic Edge is a ‘complete’ game – this isn’t some watered down, filtered version of Motorstorm, but the full thing, with the full, familiar festival feeling and a comprehensive set of diversions including free race, time trial and both adhoc and online play, although the servers were down this evening when we tried to connect via the PlayStation Network and presumably they won’t be switched on until launch day, this Friday.

Visually it’s something of a mixed bag: some of the 12 tracks are slightly bland and it’s difficult to judge corners (an issue I had with Pacific Rift) but others are much better, and whilst the vehicle models and textures aren’t really up to scratch with what we’ve seen other PSP games manage, this is the first time we’ve seen 10 racers on track all shifting along at 30 fps so overall it’s actually quite an impressive display of the portable machine’s grunt – in motion if not on screenshots.

Also of note is the game’s photo mode – carried over from its big brother and just as flexible even if you won’t quite be producing the same graphically stunning snaps unless you manage to get lucky with an Avalanche, one of the game’s cool new features and one particularly handy for wiping out the lighter vehicle classes if you’re packing a noisy horn.  Likewise, the Arctic setting means plenty of slippery surfaces and some killer drifts on the ice when the game’s not showing off its realtime track deformation.

Load times are fast (although our review version required an install) the menus as grungy as you’d expect and Bigben, having wisely put aside high polygon models and high resolution textures, appear to have made the right decision for the greater good of the game.  Massive tracks, plenty of content and the same great gameplay that fans of the series will be relying on.  So far, so good then, wish me luck as I press on through the snow for the review.

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