[GDC 2011] The Apocalypse is Nigh
We have driven through the impending doom of MotorStorm Apocalypse and survived.
Published: March 12, 2011
No matter how you start out, your perspective is actually presented by way of a story this time. Don't worry, from what we can tell, there won't be a heavy focus on it, but it did allow the devs to work in three different characters: The Rookie, The Pro and The Veteran, each with their own races and increasing difficulty. The trio of perspectives is more than just a character path; they actually present the insanity from three different angles, allowing different parts of the disaster to unfold from multiple sides.
New to the series is the option of "air cooling" your boost. Any time a vehicle goes airborne, letting off both the gas and the boost will cause the meter to drop precipitously -- far faster than even running through water, which is still a very viable means of extending your boost time at the risk of a little extra drag, of course. There's even a Trophy for going from redlined boost down to fully cool in a single jump, so obviously Evolution wanted the move to be used strategically. Letting off all forms of acceleration, however, means the car isn't pushing forward, so bigger jumps need to juggle the risk of not making the landing vs. having a full boost gauge when slamming down.
Not surprisingly for a third-gen racing game on the PS3, MotorStorm Apocalypse looks absolutely stunning. The shift to more urban environments hasn't hurt the series' ability to deliver jaw-dropping moments one iota from what we've played so far (though the final verdict will of course be saved for the review), and in fact allows for some truly amazing scenes of complete destruction -- some of which you can trigger by hitting the Triangle button (and yes, there's a Trophy associated with that too).
The hardware-pushing impact of the visuals is helped by some genuinely impressive facts: 1080p at 60 frames a second in 2D and 720p at 30 in 3D. Thanks to help from the now-defunct Studio Liverpool, the same dynamic resolution switching found in WipEout HD is humming along here. Though utterly transparent to the end user, the engine can now drop or increase resolution on the fly to keep the framerate as close to that silky magic number as possible, and just as in WipEout, it's never something you'd notice without someone pointing it out to you.
While we were flabbergasted by the scale of destruction in the single-player campaign (particularly in 3D, where the game looks good enough to sell a 3DTV right on the spot, trust us), what stood out was how much the multiplayer was being beefed up for the sequel. While there was certainly plenty to enjoy online in the previous games, they were effectively a way to play against other people and little else. With Apocalypse, things have been stepped up considerably, most notably with the inclusion of perks and loadouts that can be saved and used with any vehicle.
That might send Call of Duty-fueled shivers down your spine, but understand that this is a racing game, where the idea of being able to turn on more boost or gaining better handling actually makes a lot of sense in the online space. The perks are unlocked as you level up throughout the Wreckreation Mode (we'll dig deeper into that in a second), and are broken down into Combat, Boost and Handling disciplines. These range from offering more grip to respawning on the track faster to using less boost when slamming into other cars to extending the amount of time you can stay at the red line with boost without exploding, and can either extend a car's particular performance or offset the downsides to, say, using a big, lumbering monster truck.