Motorstorm Apocalypse Review

By Jason D'Aprile - Posted Apr 28, 2011

Motorstorm reaches the end of days. . .for a major West Coast city anyway. The results are a fast and ultimately insane trek through rapidly deteriorating scenery full of danger and excitement.

The Pros
  • Amazing presentation
  • Insane speeds
  • Fantastic track design
  • Great, arcade-style handling
The Cons
  • No vehicle choices in the single-player game
  • Pedestrians are out of place
  • Terrible story line

MotorStorm: Apocalypse Review: 

Race fans in search of the perfect foil for serious racers like Gran Turismo and Shift 2 will find plenty to love in Sony’s latest Motorstorm. Mixing in elements of Burnout and Split/Second, Motorstorm Apocalypse is the craziest and most outrageously fun racing games since Burnout Paradise. The game takes the stunning visuals and off-road racing of the previous games into the now-shifting urban wasteland of San Francisco after a series of natural disasters decimate the city.

Bad Timing, But A Fun Setting

Ignoring the unfortunate timing of a game where earthquakes are a major theme, Apocalypse has a lot going for it. Admittedly, you have to already love arcade-style racers to really appreciate the game. Like a grand, interactive B-movie, this racer carries players forward with a minimal of story, logic, or realism. Instead, the focus is all on the effects.

The main single-player games does have a story, which is divided up into three tiers—rookie, pro, and veteran. Each tier focuses on a specific character and the difficulty level ramps up nicely. The story is told through colorful graphic-novel style panels, but it’s all just nonsense. The sequences frequently have no point at all, key facets to the story—such as who is this evil corporation trying to kill you—are barely touched, and all the characters are threadbare stereotypes.

Thankfully (and as EA has discovered), gamers don’t play racing games for the story. The single-player campaign does a good job of getting players acquainted with the impressive variety of vehicle types, tracks, and violent scenery. Motorstorm also features challenging AI racers, and a variety of single-race events to unlock. There are special cards hidden throughout the tracks as well, which are challenging to collect and lead to further rewards for completionists.

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Riding the Natural Disaster

Variety is a major part of Motorstorm Apocalypse. Vehicles range from the familiar ATVs, dirt bikes, pick-ups, and buggies of previous installments to big rigs, muscle cars, speed bikes, tuners, and supercars. You can’t actually pick your car in the story mode, however, but it’s open season in the other play styles. As expected, each vehicle handles differently, with specific strengths and weaknesses. Smaller vehicles are agile and quick, but easy to mow down for instance. Speed bikes, in particular, are amazingly fast, but absurdly touchy and hard to maneuver at breakneck speeds.

There are 33 tracks spread across nine different locations, and the overall track design is phenomenal. Aside from being filled with insane jumps, turns, and shortcuts, the tracks are changing nearly constantly. Earthquakes, plane crashes, tornadoes, hails of gun and missile fire, and more await eager racers. Skyscrapers will plummet down before your eyes, changing the course of the entire track.

Even without all the natural disasters, the track design never disappoints. Rooftop battles task players with leaping from building to building, and at times crashing through offices as fires burn and structures fall around you. Angry bystanders populate most of the tracks as well, but this element feels thrown in. These guys will throw Molotov cocktails occasionally, but mostly they’re just in the way. There’s no penalty for hitting them, but adding pedestrians to the otherwise gleefully nonsensical racing seems like overkill even for this game.

Multiplayer supports 16 players online, and up to four via split-screen. Motorstorm works well online and the destructive nature of the tracks makes multiplayer tons of fun. Apocalypse is definitely a visual stunner, especially when played on a 3DTV. The 3D effects are amazingly well done, adding an impressive sense of scope and depth to the frantic action. The soundtrack is great as well, with pounding 7.1 audio effects.

Bringing Down the House

Though the game is unlikely to draw in players who didn’t care for the earlier entries in the Motorstorm series, Apocalypse is one of the most entertaining racing games we’ve seen in a while. Its blatant disregard for reality mixed with incredible tracks and truly insane disaster elements make this a superb arcade-style racer. The storyline is throwaway, and the single-player game lacks some options we’d prefer to see, but overall, this is a complete package for fans of excessive, crazy speed.