As towering skyscrapers topple over and the freeway collapses into a dark underground tunnel (luckily, headlights have been added), MotorStorm: Apocalypse invites comparisons to Black Rock Studios' recent, "catastrophe evasion" racer Split/Second. During Apocalypse, all of the environmental destruction is predetermined -- it's scripted -- and not an apparent racing strategy (whereas Split/Second has players trigger the gameworld-changing events). Split/Second might offer the more engaging gameplay mechanic, but within the racing genre, large-scale environmental destruction is still relatively new; and Apocalypse can get away with its passive integration of exploding set pieces without being necessarily second-rate.
The apocalyptic theme fits in well with the general attitude of the series. To me, MotorStorm has always been about enjoying the hurt inflicted upon oneself and others more so than the thrill of winning a race. O'Brien says the development team hasn't tinkered much with the core gameplay, aside from a few updates, including the addition of some new vehicle classes (the demo featured a supercar). What has changed is a single-player Festival mode with deeper narrative elements. The Apocalypse story will alternate between three main characters as they ride out 48 hours of chaos.
O'Brien also touches on the revamped multiplayer Recreation mode, which is following in the now requisite tradition of Modern Warfare
and adding an XP system and unlockable perks for handling, boosting and combat. XP will operate as a sort of currency, says O'Brien, and can be used to gamble on multiplayer race outcomes. Theoretically, you could gamble against
yourself, throw the race and still win
... points. Clearly, there are some components of this system yet to be fully explained -- or even sorted out.
With a scheduled first quarter 2011 release, there's plenty of time to get MotorStorm: Apocalypse
tuned up, and while it's not going to drastically depart from the gameplay that has earned a sizable fan base, this sequel isn't a listless rehash. Oh, you will revisit "classic" locations, O'Brien promises, but the apocalypse has reached these places too. Old tracks will be violently altered by earthquakes, creating new ground to cover -- with bruised and broken MotorStorm