Thursday, March 22

Motorstorm RC Review (PSV): Escape to a simpler time

The Racing genre didn't really exist for me until the release of the original Micro Machines on the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis). Cars didn't really do much for me: I was more interested in Superheroes than I was in Hot Wheels, cared more for Shinobi than Outrun. The three Micro Machines (not counting Micro Machines Military) games captured my imagination thanks to their whimsical premise: racing scale miniatures in seemingly innocuous, everyday environments. Whether it be thrashing a sports car across a series of school desks, racing buggies around buckets and spades littered across a non-descript beach, or circling bathtubs in speedboats, the drivers of these tiny vehicles experienced frustration and excitement in levels far greater than each banal setting should have allowed. The Motorstorm series is also big on excitement (and frustration), but its art direction and mechanics are somewhat more severe in tone. The announcement of Motorstorm RC took me by surprise and based on what I saw, I wasn't confident that an isometric perspective or the smaller scale would be a good fit for the series. I'm glad to advise that I was mistaken. 

As per the series tradition, the bulk of Motorstorm RC's content is played and unlocked via the Festival mode. The festival's sixteen tracks are separated into four brackets which represent each of the series' four instalments: Monument Valley (the original Motorstorm), Pacific Rift, Artic Edge and Apocalypse. The tracks are tight and terse, with laps of most lasting between fifteen and thirty seconds. The brevity of the events -- which come in four varieties -- are perfectly suited to gaming on the go, or for punctuating more fleshed-out experiences (I've alternated between this, Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus regularly since launch). 

Batteries not included

There's eight vehicle classes and multiple models, liveries and colours to unlock. Unfortunately, unlike the majority of events in preceding instalments, you're unable to select what class of vehicle you can use for each event. This makes sense for drifting events -- where you're restricted to using the muscle car, the only drift-capable vehicle -- but I'd have appreciated the option to avoid using the buggy class altogether on account of its over-sensitive steering. The majority of classes are fun to use, and there were very few events that I didn't care to retry ad infinitum. Motorstorm RC is the embodiment of fun and whimsy with beautiful, uncomplicated visuals, inoffensive music and tight, responsive controls.

Motorstorm RC's high level of replayability is thanks in no small part to its asynchronous multiplayer component, which is amongst the best I've ever encountered. Upon start-up, you'll find yourself in the the Playground -- a sandbox with half-pipes, a football field and other distractions -- where you'll be taunted by messages regarding the desecration of your times across any events that you've completed. At any time you can hold the circle button to retake your throne from PlayStation Network friends and randoms. The spirit of competition doesn't stop at the Playground. When you play any event, you'll often notice the driving paths of friends, high-ranking randoms, and even yourself pacing through each track. Seeing what the community is capable of encourages you to become a better racer. On one occasion, a good friend had registered a time far greater than my own and I resolved to beat it. After being walloped repeatedly by his (and others') beautiful lines, I raced around repeatedly until I registered a time far better than I thought I was capable of. While it's unfortunate that there's no means to directly compete with your friends, I found this approach to be more than sufficient.

Wreckreation allows you to race around any track in a vehicle of your choosing, but I'm still captivated by the Festival proper. The constant lure of your friends' short-lived supremacy of the leaderboards should have you addicted to this near-perfect pocket racer. More dangerous still, a steady stream of appropriately-priced DLC that introduces new cars and tracks to the mix is slowly draining the balance of my PlayStation Network wallet. Right out of the gate, the PlayStation Vita has its killer app. I just wish there were more of my friends playing so I can get sucked in even deeper.  

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