Motorstorm: Arctic Edge Review

By Paul Semel - Posted Sep 22, 2009

This, the third and newest entry in the MotorStorm series, which is a lot like it's bigger brothers, will give speed freaks a lot to do on their next vacation, playing on the handheld PSP.

The Pros
  • Solid controls.
  • Snowy setting changes things.
  • Added challenges unlock events.
The Cons
  • Sound is kind of thin.
  • Graphics are (understandably) unimpressive.
  • Soundtrack sans Sabbath's "Snowblind"? Shameful.

Since Sony released the PSP four years ago, it and other companies have often brought their biggest franchises to the portable system, but with mixed results, thanks to the system's single thumbstick. But one genre that's carried over quite nicely is racing, which only needs a single stick.

That fact bodes well for this, the third and newest entry in the MotorStorm series, which is a lot like it's bigger brothers, except that it has a totally new environment as well as some new environmentally appropriate vehicles and tracks. And while it won't have you tossing away the other versions in disgust, it will give speed freaks a lot to do on their next vacation.

MotorStorm: Arctic Edge Review

Winter Wonderland

Like the PS3 editions,MotorStorm: Arctic Edge is an over-the-top, arcade-style, off-road racer with a twist. Unlike similar racing games, which make you earn speed boosts or give you a limited supply, MotorStorm gives you all you handle. Which is good because if you don't boost, you don't win. But if you boost too much all at once, your engine will overheat and explode in a fireball that would make Michael Bay proud. Especially if you time it so your flaming wreckage crosses the finish line to win the race. Which, yes, does count.

Where Arctic Edgedifferentiates itself from earlier models is, well, in that Arctic part. Making a 180¢ª turn from last year's tropically themed MotorStorm: Pacific Rift, Arctic Edge moves the action to the frozen tundra of Alaska (insert your own Sarah Palin joke here; I'm tired of making them). As a result, you not only get the usual compliment of bumpy roads, muddy tracks, and crazy jumps, but snow drifts and ice bridges as well.

The game features a variety of lengthy tracks, twelve in all, that each have multiple pathways and are a mix of the natural terrain and man-made ramps and extensions clearly designed by I.M. Psychotic. But because of the snowy conditions, which also include bouts of inclement weather, your vehicles have a tendency to slip and slide a bit more this time out. Which doesn't make this play like a simulation racing game -- the controls don't feel oversensitive like it's an off-road version of Gran Turismo or anything, but you can expect a bit of slippage.

Befitting the move to a colder climate, the game also adds some vehicles with better traction: Snow Cats, which are snow plows with tank treads, and snowmobiles. But you can always go with the classics, such as buggies, dirt bikes, ATVs, and big rigs (though not all are available for all events).

The game features the usual bunch of quick races and time attack challenges in its “Wreckreation” mode, but the centerpiece is “Festival,” which will have you working your way through dozens upon dozens of events. While most are straight races, the game occasionally mixes things up with such variations on the theme as “Time Ticker” races, in which your position during the drive gives you points, and the victor is the first to crack a thousand wins, and “Speed” events, which have you racing against the clock from checkpoint to checkpoint, and your final placement depends on how much time remains as you pass each one.

Unlike many racing games, though, you don't just unlock the next event by beating the one before it. Instead, you win points for winning - 100 for First, 75 for Second, and 50 for Third - which, like experience points in an RPG, level you up, in turn unlocking new events. Further, if you meet certain conditions in specific events, such as beating a set time or staying in first for a while, you get a gold star that will unlock other events.

As if all that wasn't enough to keep you occupied, you can race up to eight other Arctic Edge owners via the PSP's ad hoc wi-fi. Though considering how your computer opponents are pretty good drivers, and will even seek revenge if you bump them off the road, I was fine playing solo.

This is an advertisement - This story continues below

MotorStorm: Arctic Edge Review

They Call It Stormy Monday….

As you'd expect from this series, and other good racing games on the PSP, Arctic has solid and responsive controls, even when you hit an ice patch and skid around a corner -- hardly surprising when you consider this game was made by the same crew as the Pursuit Force series; say what you will about that series' cheesy plots, the driving controls were solid.

The developers have also added some environmental hazards, most notably avalanches and falling ice bridges. Except these don't happen randomly. Instead, you can trigger them by blowing your horn or exceeding the recommended weight limit, respectfully. Which won't hurt you, but if someone's right behind you…

Yet the transition to the PSP hasn't been an entirely smooth one. The game has a few, albeit superficial, problems. Sound-wise, the engines sound a bit thin, more like go-karts than dirt bikes and trucks.

Similarly, the game's graphics aren't as impressive as those in the original MotorStorm or Pacific Rift. Which makes sense, since those games were on a PS3 and PSP games are more similar to PS2, but even for this system, Arctic won't win any beauty contests. Though on the plus side, it means the game's signature crashes aren't nearly as cringe-inducing here as they are in high-def.

Arctic also features the usual compliment of hard rock, alt rock, and electronic tunes, though given the pristine and serene environments, I found the game to be far more immersive with the music off. Even so, the absence of Metallica's “Trapped Under Ice” and Black Sabbath's “Snowblind” (which, admittedly, is about another type of snow) is still unforgivable. Or at least odd.

Storm To Be Wild

Ultimately, MotorStorm: Arctic Edge is a solid racing game, and a worthy addition to the series lineage. It plays just like its big brothers, but the new setting adds some welcome new wrinkles. Sure, it's not perfect -- it's not so pretty, and some of the audio sounds tinny -- and it did make us want to go play Pacific Rift again, if only to warm ourselves up, but next time I'm on a real tropical beach, I know how I'll be cooling down.