Platform: PS Vita | PS3
Developer: Evolution Studios
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
MotorStorm RC is the best MotorStorm game to date. There, I said it. It's fun, it's shamelessly addictive, it'll cause you to punch your friends once they take the lead on the last corner and yell in frustration as you're pipped to the line, and you'll keep coming back. Time and time again.
And it's less than a fiver.
On a console that's poised in a precarious position, attempting to bridge the gap between triple-A and the cheap and cheerful offering of the smartphone generation, MotorStorm RC points the way ahead for Sony's Playstation Vita. In looking to make a smaller, less risky title, and in harking back to a seemingly forgotten sub-genre of the racing game, Evolution have inadvertently produced their finest work yet.
Anyone who played Micro Machines will be instantly at home here, as the game sees you flinging RC variants of MotorStorm vehicles around tracks that have been built in homage to all of the previous games in the series. For veterans and newcomers alike, it will take seconds for the joy to seep in: the same arcade joy that covered you the first time you played Mario Kart. RC aficionados will feel perfectly at home tool with the Vita's default setup mapping acceleration and braking to one stick, and steering to the other. The conceit of the denizens of the MotorStorm world using RC cars to amuse themselves during downtime is a perfect one, and permeates every facet of this game.
Nowhere is this more apparent than on the tracks themselves, their settings plucked from the various locales we've seen throughout the series so far. The muddy dirt tracks of the original sit next to tropical tracks from Pacific Rift, snowy circuits from Arctic Edge and more modern, urban settings from Apocalypse.
There are eight car classes, each of them built around existing MotorStorm models - with favourites like the Big Rig, the Buggy, and the Muscle Car all returning, the latter proving exquisitely suited to drifting. Each class handles differently, as you might expect, with faster cars requiring real lightness of touch, and no small amount of focus. They're not unlocked at the start, though, so you'll have plenty of time to get to grips with the main mechanics before moving up a gear.
Whichever car you choose, the focus of the game is the same: high-speed, low-grip, fast and furious shenanigans. This is aided by swift loading times, instantaneous restarts, and races that are often over in under two minutes. All of the on-track action is spurred onwards at blistering pace by a soundtrack that pulses and blares, with techno trills and bass-heavy beats.
There are races to win, hot lap times to beat, overtaking challenges to conquer and drifting battles to top, and naturally. doing well unlocks further competitions. There are three tiers of medals to unlock for each event - bronze, silver, and gold - and, when it comes to the races, they will streak ahead of you on the track, daring you to beat them like shining, coin-shaped ghosts.
Alongside the natural progression of things - event unlocks, not bowel movements - winning medals also nets you new liveries for your little cars, as well as objects and items for the Playground. Ostensibly a dumping ground for a bunch of ramps, jumps, and things to crash into, the Playground also features a cute little football pitch for players to muck around in too.
But, for the most part, you won't be battling it out against medals or hopping across building sites in the Playground. No, you'll be up against the rest of the world, and this is where MotorStorm RC really shines. The smooth integration of every achievement you, your friends, and everyone else in the world makes provides a compelling competitive element to the racing that takes what Criterion started with Autolog and feeds it directly in to the gameplay itself. Each race is populated with people to beat, beyond the bots you've left behind. There's no rubber-0banding in this game, no false perception of skill. If you're good, you'll win. If you're fast, you'll prevail. But the compelling part comes from the fact that there'll always be someone faster.
The Pitwall is a more traditional affair, with notifications of the activities of your friends popping up as soon as your 3G or Wi-Fi snatches a connection. From there it's a simple case of pushing a button, and by the time you've given your fingers a little stretch, you're in. It's an outstanding portable game - incredibly simple at its core, yet tricky to master, with an endless stream of incentives that push their way from the leaderboards of old, onto your screen, constantly taunting you with their ghostly lap times. It's extraordinarily compelling, in a way that (if I'm honest) I never quite found with Autolog.
And you get all of that on two platforms. The cross-play nature of the title means that when you buy the game you get near-identical versions for both PS3 and PS Vita. Whenever you sign into the PSN on either device, your progress is automatically uploaded and downloaded from the cloud, so you're always up to date. Throw split-screen multiplayer into the mix on PS3, and suddenly there's a local party game for four players to enjoy.
Put simply, MotorStorm RC provides a huge amount of bang for your buck, although it might not seem so on the surface. But in taking a rather casual model, outfitting it with cross-play functionality, incorporating some of the finest social competitive features we've seen in a long time, and generating an incessant desire to "just have one more go", Evolution have crafted a magnificent must-have for the Vita. And it costs less than a double JD and coke.
- Instant accessibility matched by near-perfect portable appeal
- Well integrated social features
- Superb price point
- No real-time online multiplayer
- Occasional framerate blips
- Idiots might confuse the low price with a lack of quality
The Short Version: The cheapest of the Vita's launch titles turns out to be one of the most enjoyable. A fantastic retro-flavoured racer with some wonderfully futuristic elements, MotorStorm RC proves that the Vita can carry off sub-£5 games with aplomb, and points towards some very interesting cross-platform opportunities to come.