I'm far from sold on 3D. In Virtua Tennis it cripples your depth perception so you move to engage with an object that appears to be in a position it really isn't and it's completely negated when it comes to driving games because whilst the object of control is rooted in the foreground, your focus is constantly on the horizon, rendering the 3D relatively useless.
Motorstorm Apocalypse finds a way to get around this problem and make the visual gimmick relevant by throwing things at you. Cars, rocks, people, buildings. The world is coming to an end, the cities crumbling into dust, and naturally the Stormers figure that what better way to celebrate this anarchic armageddon than to turn the urban wasteland in-transit into the racing funpark of dreams.
Evolution found themselves wanting to do something different after Pacific Rift, they took a look at the current crop of racers on the market and, by their own admission, found themselves uninspired.
'The original concept for Apocalypse was actually an original IP we came up with called Urban Smash,' said Evolution's Matt Southern. 'But we were still working on Pacific Rift at the time. After completion we began scouring the forums and we came to the conclusion that we'd missed an opportunity in terms of urban racing. We dug Urban Smash back up and it laid the foundations for what was to become Motorstorm Apocalypse.'
But, as Southern notes in typically aggressive fashion, it was still not enough. For Urban Smash they'd gone to Washington DC and driven around a number of big American cities, trying to get a feel for what urban racing might entail, but they eventually made the decision to create their own city, an option that gave them far more creative licence and opened the door for far more of an emphasis on concept work.
Evolution themselves class the game as 'urban offroad racing', the game starts with a slant on the Omaha Beach landing, with the Stormers speeding off of their boats and into the city en masse. Originally the city was built empty, everyone had been evacuated after all, but it was decided that it needed an injection of life. To that end, you'll find remnants of an insane private military corporation and a whole bunch of apocalypse-courting Crazies. You can run people down, but they'll get back up in comedic fashion. As Southern notes, some aspects of the game were 'inspired by shows like Jackass...you'll run someone over, laugh, and they'll get back up again and dust themselves off'.
Evolution are fiercely proud of this game and with good reason. The scope of destruction is massive and, although it looked quite scripted in the presentation, playing the game, particularly in 3D, makes you feel part of the action. There was one playable level where a scripted event was suddenly followed in rapid succession by a flying truck that flattened my car, it certainly hadn't been there the first time I'd played through the track.
I'd be the first person to criticise 3D for not really adding anything to a game, but with Apocalypse it almost adds too much. The sheer amount of on-screen action is almost bewildering. Anyone who shied away from Pokemon due to flashing lights would do well to give this one a miss in case it melts your optic nerve. It takes a little while to get used to, but one in, you're truly immersed. I beg to differ with those who argue that 3D and racing games go hand in hand, but for an action-oriented racer, where you have countless hazards bounding towards you, it makes for one hell of a thrilling ride.
There's dynamic lighting, races get revisited as you jump around in time to approach the apocalypse from different perspectives at different stages of the destruction and a new air cooling mechanic that will need to be mastered for the quickest times. There are new cars: superbikes, supercars, full on hogs as well Motorstorm classics. There's an enormous amount of customisation available too with vinyls, parts, bodywork, paint and offensive weaponry. You can't tweak and fiddle about too much with the minutia of the mechanics but then, as the team acknowledge, 'this isn't Gran Turismo'.
'We wanted to add something new to the genre. When we were looking for inspiration it didn't come from the racing genre, we felt it had become too predictable. Simply doing MS as a street racer would have been doing the same as a dozen other unremarkable street racers and we didn't want that...Our focus was fourfold: Persistence. Chronology. Change. Progression.'
When it comes to the promised multiplayer options, it looks like Apocalypse won't disappoint either. You'll be able to take your customised rigs online and trade them. Racing teams and clans can design team livery and bodywork. There are boost, handling and combat major categories in terms of upgrades, with ten sub-categories for piling on the points. There'll be leaderboards, free DLC, gambling opportunities and the option for up to 16 players to go head to head.
Furthermore, you'll be able to create complete multiplayer modes from scratch and, if they prove popular, they'll be considered for entry in official online competitions by the development team.
Motorstorm has always been fun, but this latest instalment looks like it might actually prove to be one of the best of the bunch. With improved, furious action, ever-changing courses and a multiplayer mode that's blasted open the doors to user-generated content and customisation, this is certainly one to keep an eye on.