MotorStorm: Apocalypse

[GDC 2011] The Apocalypse is Nigh

We have driven through the impending doom of MotorStorm Apocalypse and survived.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: March 12, 2011
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It's perhaps fitting that a few years ago here at the Game Developers Conference, we got our first glimpse of what Evolution Studios (then still an independent dev house) was up to when it came to development on the PlayStation 3. A simple little tech demo showed a dirt bike and rider doing donuts in the mud, the spray from which would throw up a muddy texture on a nearby truck, and the grooves of which became static elements in the environment. Tires and shocks would bob and compress, and smaller vehicles would have a rougher time traversing more bogged-down areas.

That of course became the basis for MotorStorm, a brutally intense off-road racer that for a while was the highlight of the PlayStation 3's graphical prowess. For the sequel, though, Evolution took a little island vacation; MotorStorm: Pacific Rift sent the festival atmosphere to an island in the Pacific, trading a bit of the mud and slop for more varied terrain and introducing new vehicles that played up the different routes that are most ideal for that vehicle type.

Given the direction things have been headed (and it's even more pronounced if you consider the PSP outing, though that was done by Evolution's sister company bigBIG Studios), it's pretty obvious the old, muddy off-road roots were just that: roots. For the third HD MotorStorm outing, Evolution has decided to end it -- literally, the world as we know it is hitting 2012-level devastation everywhere, and while we're not quite ready to reveal why the apocalypse is happening (or why there are people friggin' racing around in it), we can say the festival atmosphere hasn't been completely forgotten.

At its core MotorStorm Apocalypse is still very much about managing a handful of things at all times: the weight and responsiveness of your vehicle (which naturally leads you along certain paths, though it's more about handling than reaction to types of terrain now), how the track has changed since your last lap (more on that in a second) and just how much juice you can squeeze out of your boost tanks at any given time. Certain routes with certain vehicles that don't have a certain amount of boost simply won't make it -- though that's a strategy that really only comes to the fore in some of the later levels.

As we played through a final version of the game at GDC, we started out in the same way most players will: through trial and error, we began to suss out just where we were supposed to go in our superbike (joined by supercars, hatchbacks, choppers and muscle cars as new classes). In a sort of take-off of the dynamically changing environments from Pacific Rift, nearly every lap around a track will offer some form of variable terrain; buildings might collapse or a giant tanker might be thrown onto one of the main paths. This means a constant re-adjustment of the optimal (or at least seemingly optimal) route, and when you head online, these various elements are actually randomized, so the same disasters won't pile up in the same order every time -- or at all if you opt to turn them off and just go for pure racing.
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