Thursday, October 8, 2009

Motorstorm: Arctic Edge (PSP) Review

While the PSP may not have won the handheld war, it certainly boasts an impressive catalog of games. The Motorstorm franchise is the second Playstation 3 series to make the jump to the PSP. Resistance was the first, and LittleBigPlanet will be the third. Does Motorstorm translate well to the PSP, giving it another great game in its library or does it fall through the ice? Here's the review.

Ice, Ice, Baby.
All screenshots by SuperPhillip.

Winter is just around the corner. Days of shoveling the driveway, icing the sidewalks, and falling on your ass over a patch of ice are just ahead. While some may not look forward to such days, the lunatics in Motorstorm: Arctic Edge make a living off of speeding through hazardous wintry conditions day in and day out. Does the latest Motorstorm have the edge over other PSP racing games, or is it skating on thin ice?

The main mode where you'll spend all your single-player time, with only you and your copy of Motorstorm: Arctic Edge keeping each other company, is The Festival. Progression in this mode works just like it did in past entries. You earn points by competing in various races and challenges. Getting on the podium, first, second, or third place awards you with points. Earn enough points, and you'll unlock the next rank where new and tougher challenges are unlocked. There are eight ranks in total, and while the first few ranks have you facing off against less aggressive opponents, by the fourth rank things get an absurd burst of challenge. One rank you'll be ahead of the pack by ten seconds while the next you'll be duking it out against incredibly intelligent and worthy opponents. It's a bizarre jump in difficulty that may put off players at first, but with enough time invested, you'll persevere.

Snow time like the present to put the pedal to the metal.

There are three types of racing challenges in Festival. The first is your typical race against nine other computer-controlled combatants. Two other challenge types are unlocked through completing races under a strict time limit and staying in first place for at least ten seconds at any time during a race. Doing so unlocks speed races where the goal is to drive through all the checkpoints before time runs out, and races where you earn points by being in first for as long as possible. The eliminator races from Pacific Rift are long gone, so there's only these three types of races to hold players over.

Go all Outrun as you go from checkpoint to checkpoint.

This isn't a problem because there's also twelve tracks to hold players over as well. It's almost twenty-four tracks since all races can be run forwards and backwards. I was worried that there wouldn't be enough variety in the track locales due to the game being located in the Alaskan wilderness. Thankfully, there's enough terrain and types of tracks to keep things fresh. Each track are littered with multiple paths to take. Depending on the vehicle you choose, there's a right path and a wrong path to take. For instance, a motorcycle shouldn't rev around paths with high snowfall whereas a large vehicle like a snowplow shouldn't go anywhere near high jumps. Players will spend a lot of time learning each course, plotting the perfect racing line depending on which vehicle they choose.

Twelve tracks dare to be conquered.

There were eight vehicle types in Pacific Rift. Arctic Edge triples the amount of vehicles, and as races are won, points are accumulated, and rankings are achieved, new vehicles open up. There's still eight vehicle classes from all-terrain vehicles to monstrous dump trucks. Depending on the vehicle, the stats are different from handling to acceleration. While there's twenty-four vehicles, there's three different types in each vehicle class. This time around vehicles can be custom-tailored as you see fit. Don't like the fender? Swap it out for something else. Don't care for the paint job? Change it up to your satisfaction. You can save vehicle templates and choose them from the vehicle select screen.

Aside from The Festival, there's a time trial mode that not only holds records for individual tracks, but it also holds records for both directions of all tracks and records for each individual vehicle. That's 12 X 2 X 8 = Thank God I'm not a math major. In addition to time trial, there's online infrastructure mode which pits you against human opponents worldwide. Up to eight players can compete in one race. Your online tag is tied to the Playstation Network, so if you have a PSN for your PS3, you can use that to hop online and race with ease. Also, while you're in the middle of racing you can pause the game at any time and hop into photo mode. You can take snapshots of the game, save them to your SD card, and upload them to your computer. Now you can catch all of the visceral carnage Arctic Edge has to offer in still form!

Race alone or with friends.

Motorstorm is a racing game at its most very basic. There's no items, there's no weapons-- there's just you, the track's twists and turns, and a motley crew of other racers to contend with. If you need to speed up, you can use a boost. However, use the boost too long, and your vehicle will overheat and eventually explode in a blaze of embarrassing glory. By running through a patch of thick snow or pool of water, you will cool your vehicle down. To win, it takes a smart racing line, knowledge of the course, mastery of the boost system, and a little luck (i.e. not crashing). As for controls you can opt to use the shoulder buttons to brake and accelerate, or you can choose to use the X and circle buttons. You can also choose whether or not to use the PSP's analog nub to steer or the d-pad. It's amazing how the controls of the PS3 game were emulated so well to fit the PSP's lack of buttons.

Three's a crowd, but six is a hootenany.

The package of Arctic Edge is top-shelf material without a doubt. The game is a nice looker and runs at a steady framerate. There's cool effects such as snow and mud splashing onto the screen, and the crashes are full of ragdoll physic fun. The soundtrack is your typical mix of hard, punk rock and techno. You can use your own music, but the requirements necessitate a certain bitrate that makes the entire thing obnoxious. This is especially due to the fact that another game with custom soundtracks, WipEout Pulse, had no such limitations. Regardless, it's a cool feature to have if you can get it to work most of the time.

Motorstorm: Arctic Edge is a phenomenal portable racer. The developer successfully took everything from the console versions of Motorstorm and translated them perfectly to the Playstation Portable. Despite it's uneven difficulty, the single-player mode will last you days with plenty of content and races to conquer, and the infrastructure mode will keep players coming back for more long after winter's gone. If you're a fan of arcade-style racing games, Motorstorm: Arctic Edge won't give you the cold shoulder.

[SuperPhillip Says: 9.0/10]

Interested in Motorstorm? Check out Motorstorm: Pacific Rift.

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