Motorstorm 2: Pacific Rift Review (PS3)

Of PlayStation 3’s range of launch titles, the original MotorStorm was an outstanding new racing IP for Sony. Not only did it successfully demonstrate the new console’s visual prowess, it also showed how fun it was to kick mud in your opponent’s face before flicking them the finger and punching them from their ATV.

Almost two years on, the previous game’s Monument Valley setting has lost little of its awe-inspiring impact, yet the game’s initial appeal seemed to wear off fairly quickly. And the lack of a local multiplayer option left a bitter taste in the mouth, leaving the dustbowl vistas and mud-caked tracks somewhat tiresome long before the career mode had reached its conclusion.

Dirty fourplay is an amazing new addition
The monster trucks are surprisingly disappointing

Thank goodness then that Evolution must have been well aware of these issues, as Pacific Rift addresses them and then some. Most notable of all is the addition of a four-player split-screen mode; a major achievement transforming MotorStorm into a fine multiplayer racer that encourages extended sessions with friends, as you tussle to nudge one another off the edge of a cliff. During four-player, the game still runs at a steady 25-30 fps with only some of the detail and vegetation shorn from the track. Evolution deserves to be applauded for including such a significant feature.

Graphically, Pacific Rift isn’t a huge improvement over its predecessor, although the draw distance is spectacular, displaying magnificent landscapes far off in the distance made all the more dramatic by pretty lens flare effects. Less impressive is the murky pixellation you sometimes notice just ahead of you as the ground becomes carved into muddy furrows. Textures on the track often look vague and shapeless mere metres in front of you, which can break the overall spell of visual majesty that the rest of game manages to maintain. It’s a shame, though not a game-breaking travesty.

Pacific Rift’s track design is also excellent for the most part, although some tracks can be unusually barren in some places while horrendously cluttered in others. Certain circuits can prove to be treacherous gauntlets as you vainly dodge rocks, trees and other potentially fatal hazards, striving to limp over the finish line in one piece. Mercifully, you can now skip the crash cinematics after a couple of seconds, so the penalty for ploughing into a boulder or flipping your ride is not as harsh as it used to be. Some crashes can tempt you into keeping your finger away from the X button for a moment, as they’re still as gloriously messy and cringe inducing as ever. Watching your driver thrown from the wreckage like a ragdoll still remains a darkly enjoyable pleasure too.

Melt your wrecked rig in molten lava! Yes!
The landscapes are often breathtaking

Overall, Pacific Rift’s generous track selection is a huge improvement, especially in terms of variety. Divided into four elemental themes – Earth, Air, Fire and Water – each track offers a markedly different challenge from the last, justifying (to an extent) the number of times the game has you revisit them. Fire and Water circuits in particular bring a new strategic dynamic to proceedings with floes of viscous lava causing your engine to overheat if you overuse your boost, while pools or cascades of water cool your engine allowing you to jam your finger on the nitro button without fear of being blast to smithereens. Sinking is another peril to look out for too. An ill-judged jump into a fringe of molten rock or unintentional diversion through a deep reservoir will give you that sinking feeling, writing you off instantly. Choosing the right route in these instances is integral if you want to win, so knowing where these hazards lie is all part and parcel, especially if you want to make waves in Pacific Rift’s online multiplayer races.

Each of the seven vehicle classes from MotorStorm return, this time joined by hulking monster trucks. As exciting an addition as this sounds however, don’t get too worked up, as the huge wheeled behemoths are possibly the most annoying vehicles to control in the entire game. Their suspension is hideously bouncy making the tiniest rut or crevice in the track an obstacle, whereas battles with rival vehicles usually end up with your truck turning on its side unable to move. And rocks are definitely a no go if you want to stay on the ground on four wheels. Monster trucks are great for the five minutes of pure novelty value they present and sadly little more.

Of the other vehicle classes, each is still plagued by hideous understeer, which makes navigating a corner an incredible feat of braking and boosting just to stay on track. Nine times out of ten though, you’ll find yourself veering dangerously close to a precipice only to unavoidably plummet into oblivion. You quickly learn that as before, bikes make for the most fun ride. Fast and nimble, they also make seeking out and taking shortcuts a less difficult prospect. One nudge from a big rig though and you’re roadkill. Speaking of which, the big rigs still dominate the road, but are slow and cumbersome enough that they’re almost completely useless. Your best bet for an all-round decent ride that isn’t vulnerable to being bullied by the larger trucks while still providing a speedy and flexible drive proves to be the all-purpose buggy or racing truck. For that reason alone, you may find yourselves rarely bothering with the other vehicles, unless you’re willing to change things up for the sake of variety or added challenge. Still, it’s always nice to have options even if there is the nagging feeling that we’ve already been here before with Pacific Rift’s vehicles.

Races are as dangerous as ever, although the AI is a little more forgiving than before
Coming back from a flip like this isn't easy

However, progression now unlocks new tracks and vehicles, encouraging you to continue playing, even when you feel like throwing in your muddy towel. Trophy support is also included, if you care enough to collect the things. Simply put, there’s a lot more longevity here than was present in the first MotorStorm and a lot more variety to boot.

Pacific Rift feels like that game MotorStorm wanted to be, representing a much more complete package than Evolution’s previous effort. Clearly they’ve had time to refine and polish the game to a mirror shine, save for a few odd moments of lacklustre graphical detail. The wow factor of the first MotorStorm might not be here, and things have moved on significantly since then, but Pacific Rift is still a likeable enough racer to deserve your attention. Where Pure offered aerial acrobatics and over–the-top arcade thrills, MotorStorm’s sequel is a down and dirty racer that throws mud, dirt, dust and water all over your screen and doesn’t let up. If you weren’t enamoured with MotorStorm to begin with, Pacific Rift will do little to change your mind. If however you’re looking for a fresh batch of vicarious off-road thrills, you could do a lot worse, especially if you missed the first game. For those who played and loved MotorStorm, get ready for Pacific Rift to make you feel dirty all over again.

Top game moment: Hurtling down the outer edge of a volcano towards a stream of white-hot molten rock, before over-heating and exploding in a shower of twisted metal.

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By Eversor (SI Elite) on Nov 12, 2008
Boy, that was good review. I can't say anything bad against it, because there is nothing to say.
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Nov 12, 2008
So, it's worth buying. Great.
By Nakerman (SI Veteran Newbie) on Feb 24, 2009
I hope MS3 is announced soon now the PSP one has been shown. I really like this game, good hard fun.
By Nookie (SI Member) on May 31, 2010
just got this game in a bundle pack and really enjoying it. simple but effective