Giant Bomb Review

46 Comments

MotorStorm: Apocalypse Review

3
  • PS3

Like an extreme sports video directed by Roland Emmerich, MotorStorm: Apocalypse is simultaneously at its best and worst when it ramps up its particular brand of delirious carnage.

Imagine Harold Camping's earthquake-laden Rapture, but with only extreme sports fanatics, PMCs, and homeless crazies left to sort out the rubble.

MotorStorm: Apocalypse is, on several levels, a game about making the best of misfortune. In this apocalyptic world, massive earthquakes devastate the planet, laying waste to urban landscapes. Rather than run around screaming about it, people of this terrible future take the tack of, "When life gives you lemons, build a deadly race track out of lemons," and turn all this destruction into an opportunity for some remarkably dangerous auto racing. Even outside the game itself, Sony was forced to deal with misfortune outside of its immediate control, with both its release hype being hampered by the horrific earthquakes in Japan, and the costly PSN outage that robbed players of the game's best feature--its online multiplayer--for weeks following release. Yet, for all these misfortunes, both purposeful and not, only one really matters, and it's the one that MotorStorm: Apocalypse ultimately can't quite overcome: it is a driving game in which driving often isn't all that fun.

It's not because of the admittedly divisive driving-style this series has always employed, mind you. You're either bought in on MotorStorm's central conceit--multiple vehicle classes, from motorcycles to semis, all racing on the same track--or you aren't. Nor is it strictly a matter of the series' sometimes sluggish, often floaty-feeling physics. While those looking for an upgraded feel to the game's driving style will be disappointed--it seriously feels a lot like the first MotorStorm game across the board--those floaty mechanics aren't always to the game's detriment.

What is to the game's detriment is, sadly, also the game's most compelling feature. Namely, that of the wanton obliteration that covers every inch of the game's tracks. First, the good: this stuff looks incredible. When you're racing on a track in the game's fictional city (which is more than loosely-based on San Francisco), everything is in an ever-morphing state of disrepair. Earthquakes have already completely ravaged the city, leaving highways, buildings, and miscellaneous debris scattered every which way.

It's impressive destruction made even more so by the real-time nature of it. As you drive through courses, more tremors will often strike, leading to new deformation of the environment and adjusted paths and jumps for you to take. Sometimes you'll even find yourself dodging (or ramming) random survivors with firearms and rocket launchers, who clearly have taken none too kind to a bunch of no-goodniks rampaging through their obliterated burg. The game's visuals are top-flight, creating impressive amounts of debris and chaos around you at all times. It's exactly as insane-looking as a game like this should be.

The scope of the game's destruction is often breathtaking.

So, why isn't it more fun? For the same reason it looks so great, Apocalypse is frequently a frustrating mess. The on-screen chaos is, at times, indecipherable. Is that piece of freeway that's jutted outward part of the track? Or an untraversable obstacle? Whoops, before I could figure it out, I exploded. Any number of variations on that theme rear their head throughout the game's various tracks. There are jumps that aren't quite jumps; derelict cars that look like other racers, but aren't; showers of sparks and fire and whatever else that morph into an aesthetically pleasing, if borderline dysfunctional track environment.

Fun fact: crashing over and over again isn't that much fun, unless you're Burnout, where that's the point. It's not the point here. Success or failure hangs on the thin string of your personal reaction time, in which case, the game's sometimes sludgy controls can actually be a detriment on occasion. If you're the controller-destroying type, somewhere around your umpteenth surprise explosion, you may find yourself attempting to recall some images of a calm blue ocean to avoid another expensive, rage-induced tantrum. Perhaps you can use the game's exceedingly lengthy between-track load times to rub your temples and do a little deep breathing.

It's a shame, because once you break past that wall of irritating, accidental death--which you'll likely do by just memorizing all the courses and their destruction patterns, since they don't change from race-to-race--there is certainly some fun to be had here in a multiplayer environment. Going online and playing against up to 15 other racers can be a blast under optimal circumstances, especially if you get into playing around with the unlockable perks--which aid elements like your boost ability, traction, and reset times--and the online betting system, where you can choose an online rival and make special effort to beat them for fun and profit. Online races are certainly competitive, but they also just happen to be kind of a crapshoot unless you've memorized all the courses.

I haven't mentioned the game's single-player element, because honestly, I'm trying to forget it. The game's "story" mode is an atrocious, dim-witted, utterly unpleasant experience from top-to-bottom. It tries to give copious amounts of context where none is really needed. Do we care about the personalities behind this absurd racing league? I'm guessing not. And yet the mode is replete with talky cutscenes filled with miserably animated "comic-book" art that looks roughly equivalent to Rob Liefeld attempting to draw a Mountain Dew commercial. Every scene draws so heavily from that weird place of hyper-cheesy "extremeness" that so permeated sports culture of the early 2000s that it feels like the game should have just been introduced by a shot of Jonny Moseley positing the question, "What if it earthquaked in San Francisco?" followed by a record scratch, the opening refrain of a Zebrahead song, and a shot of two girls in bikinis eating apocalypse-flavored Doritos.

Because crappy motion comics are totally what MotorStorm was missing, right?

Were it limited to a single, crappy storyline, maybe it wouldn't be so bad. But the story mode forces you to trudge through three different stories featuring three increasingly insufferable assholes. Difficulty increases as well, which doubles the drain on your patience as you attempt to slog through this ill-conceived endeavor. On the plus side, the cutscenes are skippable. Again, the load times are not.

When the elements align and the clouds of frustration break, MotorStorm: Apocalypse is kind of awesome. In the right situation, blasting through the cluttered remains of a major city in a souped-up ATV or comically-huge monster truck is nothing short of sublime. But those moments are fleeting, and eventually, you'll find yourself snapped back into Apocalypse's tragic reality of calamitously awkward racing that's too often hamstrung by its own grand ambitions of scope and destruction. It's a cleverly ruinous game frequently ruined by its own cleverness.

Alex Navarro on Google+
46 Comments
Edited by Nonentity

Huh, that ended up with more stars than I thought it would.

Online
Edited by Erik

^^ 
Edit: 21st of October is gonna be awesome, 'cause after it comes the 22nd

Posted by Undeadpool

How is it that Twisted Metal 2 got motion comics right over a decade ago, but almost every time they're included in games these days it looks like crap?

Posted by evilrazer

Are the stars cool?

Posted by ThePhantomnaut

3/5 BOMBS

Posted by TehFlan

3/5 black CDs

Posted by rpratts

I still would like to play this game..

Posted by Skrams

Just doubled my monies for imcallingit. Thank you live stream. Also makes me sad how the series became ickier.

Posted by BeautifulSpaceCowboy

More stars than expected.

Posted by Jayross

10th.

Posted by JohngPR

I'm disappointed that this game might not be as good as I had hoped. :( 
 
Then gain, I still need to play some more Pacific Rim.

Posted by Portis

I've played 43 hours of the online multiplayer. So, needless to say I'm enjoying it. I'd advise people to try the game -- 3 stars or not. (though, 3 stars isn't necessarily a bad score.)

Posted by Duecenage

I've played and loved every Motorstorm demo that came out. I still haven't bought one yet. The demo of this made it seem less frustrating than Split/Second(Another game I loved, then didn't love quite so much) and I'm considering picking it up. Shame about the story mode, though.

Posted by Krakn3Dfx

Game deserves 4/5 (definitely not 5/5 tho), there's a lot of content there and it's a blast to play, especially online. If you've enjoyed previous Motorstorm titles, you'll enjoy this one as much, if not more.  If there's too much going on for you to keep up, then I have a jewel matching game you might be interested in...

Posted by zombie2011

This game seemed a step in the wrong direction, they should have stayed in the jungle.

Posted by wsowen02

"When life gives you lemons, build a deadly race track out of lemons," 
 
Portal 2 reference?

Posted by EgoCheck616

This site redesign is an apocalypse. 
A sexy apocalypse.

Posted by Th3_James

O_O I was unaware this even came out. Than again, I have DiRT 3 so I couldn't give less of a fuck.

Posted by Surkov

I loved the previous two games, I'll buy this one when it gets cheap. I would have bought his one launch day if it didn't come out in between Portal 2 and LA Noire. 

Edited by Enigma777

A Forza-like rewind feature would have been welcome here. Also I agree about the SP. The cutscenes and the general artstyle are horrific. 

Edited by TadThuggish

I recall a Tweet by Alex saying "I hate this game." 
 
3/5 stars!

Posted by Alex
@TadThuggish: On a personal level, I kind of hate it. The frustrating moments are straight up infuriating. But hey, a good critic can recognize when there are things a game they hate still manages to do well.
Staff
Posted by Vinny_Says

This review will be so dated next month when no-one will remember who Harold Camping is....

Posted by dragonzord
@TadThuggish said:
I recall a Tweet by Alex saying "I hate this game."  3/5 stars!
Despite what some, let's say moronic, "journalists" think. A review isn't entirely an opinion.
Posted by Underachiever007

Good review, Alex!

Edited by bybeach

Alex seems right about everything here, to my sensibilities. All I can say is the racing mechanics must be at least decent for a 3, because the Ql convinced me  that the racing, such as it is in this game, was the only thing worth paying attention to.  I guess the SP mode made the characters, comic graphics and  storyline unavoidable,..that would have put me off also.  Good for  allowing skip cutscenes, at least.
 
Good review Alex
Posted by Eyz

Unrelated to this topic: Whoa! Fantastic facelift for the site! Love it^^

Posted by LisVender

"Apocalypse-flavored Doritos?" Please, Alex, let Tim Rogers do Tim Rogers.

Posted by Winternet

Thank god there was that live stream thingy yesterday or I would have lost my bet.

Posted by buft

Alex has nailed my problem with this series, floaty physics and hard to read track layouts. the psp version had all the same problems.

Posted by MachoFantastico

Fair score! It's certainly not a brilliant racer even with some great track designs. 

Posted by IrishBrewed

After the joke that was the first game, I am surprised that anyone even bothered to review this turd...It is a down time in the video game world!

Posted by dropabombonit

Great Portal 2 reference, I only played like 30 mins of this game at a mates house and it did seem like a 3 star game to me

Posted by Yodzilla

The multiplayer is a ton of fun, the customization is great, and the graphics are mindblowing but yeah the single player is garbage which really saddens me as a fan of the series.  All of the awesome challenge of the first two games is gone.

Posted by Nelez

Better than Big Rigs?

Posted by Alex
@LisVender: I don't know who that is.
Staff
Posted by cstrfrk

Already returned my copy.  This game is a wreck!  And not in a good way.   
Really?  You're gonna give me a racing game where I have no choice whatsoever about what vehicle I'm driving.  Did they really do this?  Yes they did.  With horrible load times, no car/vehicle choice in single player and, as Alex so aptly put it, atrocious cut scenes, this was a loss all the way around.  I'll stick with Pacific Rift and Dirt 3!

Posted by LisVender
@alex: Well, you're probably better off. I'm going to eat some apocalypse-flavored Doritos.
Edited by Brackynews

Mmmm, apocalicious. My enjoyment of the game is well summarized by Ryan's laughter in the QL. It's just goofy mayhem, and I like it for the reasons I like the fiery buses of Split/Second. In no way is that worth $60 to me, but they didn't add team controlled stationary cannons like I wanted, so it's on my cheap list. :p
 
I'll single out the rooftop level as fantastic, one of the best I've played. Better than just about every track in S/S. If you get a kick out of plummeting off skyscrapers and driving perpendicular to the ground, you should give Apocalypse a shot.

--which you'll likely do by just memorizing all the courses and their destruction patterns, since they don't change from race-to-race--

I read on some-game-site-wiki-on-the-internet that a feature of the single player campaign is track destruction is indeed persistent, the next time that track occurs later in the campaign. Since all character campaigns occur over the same 48 hour span, once a building is down, it's down.
Posted by PieGuy

I hated how it handled in the demo compared to the other two games. What is with developers crapping up games? Maybe this is why Valve is scared of 3.
Half life 2
Half life 2 Episode 2
Portal 2
Team Fortress 2
Left 4 Dead 2  
Maybe the full game of Apocalypse is good but based on that demo no thanks.

Posted by rottendevice

The UK sure loves putting out racing games in May. 
 
Sorry to hear this isn't quite as good as the last two. 

Posted by sopachuco13

I really wish you guys would edit these things a little better. 

Posted by Marokai
@zoner said:
@TadThuggish said:
I recall a Tweet by Alex saying "I hate this game."  3/5 stars!
Despite what some, let's say moronic, "journalists" think. A review isn't entirely an opinion.
Then when there is criticism of the review, the reflexive defense is no longer allowed to be "this is an opinion, you can't be wrong about an opinion!"
 
And for the record, I agree, a review isn't entirely an opinion, but if that's the defense that's given by everyone and their dog everytime there's criticism of a review, it's no longer a valid one.
Posted by Marokai

And also this is just my quick aside, and I'm surely in the minority: But I find something about a review from someone who, last I heard, is no longer even on the same coast as the rest of GB, to be extremely.. uncomfortable. If not unprofessional then it's a little "review-factory"ish that seems to contradict the spirit that Giant Bomb exudes of being a small team giving only a few reviews at a time because "it's really us giving these opinions, bro." A review is representative of the site's opinion of a game, and whether it may line up with the others in this situation or not, for that representation to be completely removed from the entirety of the site, it strikes me as.. a bit wrong.

Posted by sopachuco13


once you break past that wall of irritating, accidental death--which you'll likely do by just memorizing all the courses and their destruction patterns, since they don't change from race-to-race--there is certainly some fun to be had here in a multiplayer environment.

 
Isn't that the point? The first game was predicated on the idea that people would play the races over and over to find the best routes and the grooves in the roads. I think that this game's racing style is inextricably linked to that kind of racing. Hell, for that matter, all racing games are about trial and error racing. Running the same tracks over and over to find their excentricities is how a person learns about the road and their car.   

   

Edited by skelington_

I absolutely adored the first two Motorstorm games, and was skeptical about Apocalypse before picking it up on a whim for a few coin last weekend. Turns out Alex was right - moreover, i think it only just scrapes into that 3 star grade to be quite frank. Apocalypse isn't a patch on the first two games in the series. It's the first game i've bought in quite some time that i've felt genuinely disappointed by, and not proud to have a copy sitting on my shelf.