What We Already Know:
Very little. Evolution Studios’ third game in the series was announced just as E3 kicked off. The action is switching to an urban locale, which resembles San Francisco, from what the team has shown. It makes its debut at E3, though it’s quite early.
What We’re Seeing Now:
The best 3D experience at the Sony booth, in my opinion. While Killzone 3 looks impressive in many regards, I’m not totally sold on all of its elements. Evolution has two members of its team who’ve got two 3D games under their belts: Wipeout HD and the last MotorStorm game, Pacific Rift. And it shows. I haven’t seen a smoother HD 3D experience yet. Apocalypse feels as responsive and immersive as it feels intense.
With my praise of its 3D tech aside, this is the first MotorStorm with a plot besides "Burning Man with ATVs" and racing around lava pools. A series of earthquakes have devastated a West Coast city and left it in rubble. The MotorStormers hit it amidst fighting between a private military corporation and anarchists. You’ll step into the shoes of three characters throughout the 48 hours that it takes for emergency responders to show up.
Again, Apocalypse is very early, so there’s plenty of work to still be done. My demo time was set in a city that eerily resembled San Francisco, though I was told that the game will be set in a "West Coast" city that’s a mishmash of SF and LA so that the team can maximize the California look and aesthetic in-game across 40 tracks while not pigeonholing themselves.
But I noticed gameplay tweaks as I rushed my way through two runs on the demo race. Evolution has tweaked the bump system, so when you smack into another car, it’s far more tactical than before. Apocalypse also features a new control system that shifts the bump motions to the face buttons. I noticed that slamming opposing vehicles will take on new dynamics as I raced around the innards of a subway station and shunted my rivals into burning stalled trains. It’s got the same white-knuckle racing as past games, but the urban chaos (factored in with 3D, if you’ve got the setup) adds a new layer of intensity.
Evolution’s got big plans for online as well. Apocalypse will feature 16 player online, as well as split-screen online competitive play, so that you and three other friends can take on other players over PSN. The team seems to have ripped a page out of everyones’ XP book, as you’ll gain performance-based experience that you can invest in new parts and upgrade for your vehicle. You can unlock perks for your boost, car handling, as well as combat customization.
They also seem to have mildly cribbed an idea from another famous Sony slogan of recent memory: Play, Create, Share. Apocalypse has a game editor mode that lets you create modes for games to play online. The team is opening up its user tools for you to make your own event types, and the best of them will be promoted online.
MotorStorm: Apocalypse still needs some time in the shop before it’s road ready, but I’m feeling confident that the team will be able to deliver another smasher when it comes out next year.