When Hell freezes over, we will have racing festivals on it.
The ominous beauty that is the Arctic wilderness, a land literally frozen from time. Mountains dwarfing the lush forests like Titans majestically standing over mere mortals, twinkling untouched snow shimmering from the sunlight, glaciers and ice as clear as a cathedral's window. One of the last remaining locations on Earth untouched, untainted, and uninhabited by man...so let's fire up our gas-guzzling buggies, ATVs and semis and kick off the next leg in the Motorstorm racing festival named "Motorstorm Arctic Edge". After tearing the soil apart in the Pacific islands, the celebration of the multi-vehicular madness travels north to the Alaskan wild, as well as travel off of their original system the Playstation 3 to the Playstation Portable. Even though it is a slight departure for the series, fans of the console predecessors will still enjoy a lot of the insane racing that made the series what it has been today.
As soon as you start the game you aren't given a whole lot of options in terms of vehicles, but it is generous enough to offer each vehicle from the nine categories you can choose. Of course the classic staples to Motorstorm return such as the agile ATVs, the dependable rally cars and the always murderous big rigs as well as other vehicles return but there are three new rides waiting to frolick in the winter wonderland. The snow machine (or snowmobile if you call it that) arrives for agile speed best suited for snowy trails, the aggressive snow plugger is matched up like a big rig perfect to clinging on the ice, and finally the treaded apocalypse that is named the snow cat. Trust me, this vehicle may be slow but still can be daunting to face in particular races. Just like in the prior Motorstorms, each vehicle has its pros and cons on different terrains. For example snowmachines are great on snow but terrible on rocky surfaces, whereas rally cars are awesome on dirt trails yet controls terribly on ice. So while you can be reliant on one type to win many of your races, the game makes it adamant that you try out everything for better results. You can unlock new models of these vehicles in the single-player mode, but you only end up recieving two or even three different types which isn't open to variety. The only consolation prize to that is you can win kits to change the look of your vehicles but they only tinker with some of the cosmetic appearance. The manual does state that there might be potential updates in the future so the idea of more bikes and snow pluggers might not be out of the picture just yet.
The controls in Motorstorm: Arctic Edge are not as bad as once thought, and can be adjusted minimally to what is best for you. There is the Motorstorm controls where all the work is done with the shoulder buttons; right trigger for gas, left trigger for brake. In a way it is more recommended for this option as it gives the face buttons a bit of rest, and it almost becomes natural to rest your finger on the right trigger. The analog nub and directional pad work in the most part for either steering and looking around. You normally start off with the nub for steering, which isn't as bad as originally thought. For the most part there really isn't a major need to look around your car aside from what's behind you, and if you take your eyes off the road for more than a moment you could find yourself in a slow-motion explosion. Speaking of explosions there is the always fun to use boost button. Self-explanatory of course, press and hold to get a boost of speed, but it comes with a catch. Hold it for too long and you will boost explode, sometimes launching you a good distance from where you stood. The trick with this is to use the boost for as long as you can and if you hear a beeping and searing flames around you, that's the cue to stop and wait. The best viable option is to find streams of water or deep snow to drive through while you wait so the boost meter can cool down faster. While it may seem like an option of cheating at first, some races later on will find you using the boost from the time you get it to the finish.
There are a few choices on what you can do in Motorstorm: Arctic Edge, and they are seperated in three different categories: Festival, Wreckreation, and Garage. First and foremost, Festival mode is the single-player career mode which takes you through 70 different events on twelve reversible tracks making for twenty-four locations in total. Throughout it you can win points which unlocks (as stated in the previous paragraph) vehicles, altering kits, racers, and "Making Of" footage. Though these are nice, you also need those points to unlock higher ranks which in turn unlocks new races. Occasionally you will be given a race with a chance to win a star, and these stars may ask to accomplish a certain task, like rank 3rd or higher while beating a set time or stay in first place for ten seconds. Achieving these objectives will get you a star which enables you to race in a special event such as a slalom-like event and a four person race based around a point objective. While these are nice distractions from typical races, it doesn't make them any less of an easy thing. On that note, it is as relevant as anything to note that the difficulty of the Festival mode is just as difficult as the prior Motorstorm games. While they do lure you in with easy wins on the first dozen or so races, the game intensifies it by double for each rank and justifies that winning goes beyond spamming the boost. In order to win in the later races it becomes more about choosing the right vehicle and knowing the right paths. It would have been nice to offer a tutorial mode for beginner Motorstormers to learn the ins and outs of racing this game, but it seems you either have to be a lunatic, or not buy the game. Wreckreation mode offers up the chance to just freely race with your own options . You can choose any of the track options, if you want to have it set for mixed vehicles or a specific type, number of laps, difficulty, type of track and you can go for it. You can also do a timed lap and try to beat the developer's times, as well as upload your own times online for the world to see and try. Speaking of online, the Multiplayer is done properly with the options of Ad-Hoc and online for up to six players. Garage is holds all your information, including what you have unlocked. This is also where you can see your badges, the in-game achievements that you can get by accomplishing certain tasks, like getting a gold in a race, doing four exploding boost wins or just uploading a ghost online.
For what BigBig Studios has done with this endeavour of bringing Motorstorm to the handheld, they really took what made the series big on the PS3 and shrunk it down without removing a lot of the original concepts. Each track has their own personal and unique designs with clever setpieces to go with the festival, noticable features like treadmarks on the snow and parts falling off of dilapidated rides show that they wanted this to be true to what the series is known for and even in spite of being on last-generation technology. It is hard to bring up technical limitations especially on a handheld, but BigBig is aware of what the PSP can handle as illustrated in their Pursuit Force series. There is a constant framerate with very little errors aside from terrain glitches, but it is something unnoticable aside from it happening during some slow-motion collisions.
Motorstorm: Arctic Edge is a solid pick-up-and-play racer that should compliment both PSP and PSPGo owners looking for a Road Warrior-like challenge on the frozen path. The races get frantic, the difficulty does ramp up, and the destruction of you and your opponents are sure to be had. If you can take abuse, and dish it to others in a vendetta style, this is your game. Four stars.