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Sean Pettibone

Review

Motorstorm: Arctic Edge (PSP) 

Even though the title has been miniaturized for PSP, Motorstorm: Arctic Edge still delivers massive scale and epic races through a series frozen tracks. This isnít about realism, itís all about arcade thrills with massive jumps, brutal crashes and intense speed. Visually, the game is impressive by PSP standards, since it runs at a smooth frame rate throughout and includes the seriesí trademark crash animations. Motorstormís standard races are complimented by battle modes, time attack sections and other challenges. These elements combine to make for a surprisingly intense handheld racing experience that delivers thrilling combat driving. 


While youíd expect the portable version of the PS3 series to deliver a watered-down experience, Motorstorm: Arctic Edge is a surprisingly faithful edition of the series that recreates the seriesí trademark elements faithfully. A new setting in the cold climate of a desolate mountain gives it a refreshing feel, though the basic gameplay mechanics are largely intact. The game is all about bringing chaos to the racing course Ė where monster trucks, motorcycles and other extreme sports staples battle against each other in a series of off-road courses. Each course brings open-ended layouts with multiple paths and terrain. Knowing which path to use with your vehicle makes a huge difference, since certain vehicles are better in the mud and gravel, while others excel in snowier sections. Usually, the fastest route depends on which type of vehicle youíre using, with the higher sections offering better traction for smaller vehicles while larger ones need the more straightforward sections in the lower portions. Stages also have steep curved walls you can drive through, jumps you need to master and tricky sections youíll need to navigate without bumping into walls.

Perhaps one of the most annoying things about the game is that you can bump into some objects without losing too much traction while others cause you to crash at the slightest touch. This can be frustrating and causes you to lose a lot of time for apparently no reason. Making jumps is fairly simple most of the time, but hitting ramps at the wrong angle can make you crash into a wall and punish you severely with lots of damage. These aggravating crashes donít happen most of the time, but when they do, it feels cheap, making Arctic Edge feel less polished than it should. Aside from this, the racing in Arctic Edge is fairly straightforward. That is, except for one key element Ė the boost meter. While you might be able to put up a decent finish without it, you need to learn how to use this to succeed. It takes a few seconds to charge up at the beginning of each race, but once enabled, pressing down on the key gives you a nitrous charge. It increases your speed dramatically, but also leaves you more vulnerable to flying into a wall or off the side of the track, since it reduces your steering ability. The longer you have it enabled, the higher your temperature goes, and if it overheats, youíre vehicle will explode. With this in mind, you need to keep an eye on this and not rely on it too much. One of the more interesting aspects of the boost here is that you can cool down by driving through snow or water sections, which is a cool feature to learn.

Motorstorm allows you to choose from two modes: Festival and Wreckreation. Wreakreaction is just what it sounds like, a few time trial and practice modes where you can run around without much at stake. The real meat of the game comes in Festival mode, which allows you to earn points to unlock additional levels and vehicles as you race through stages. In this mode, your standing at the end of each race decides how many points you get. Earning enough of these allows you to proceed to additional racing tiers, which increase in difficulty. Progression is fairly consistent early on, and youíll unlock many stages quickly without much effort. Races are divided into tiers that you can unlock by earning enough points. While the early tiers donít offer much competition, your opponents become more aggressive as you work your way up to the harder stages. Before each race starts, you select which stage youíll race and your vehicle to use. Most races require you to use a specific vehicle and class, which makes things interesting since youíre always switching between vehicles. There are a wide variety of these available during the course of your career ranging from motorcycles, trucks, and buggies. Thanks to the cold weather, you also get a chance to race more exotic vehicles including large plows and snow machines. Each of these vehicles offers different types of control and handling, with the larger vehicles giving you more weight at the expense of maneuverability. Thereís a somewhat limited selection available at first, but you can earn other vehicles and classes as you win races. Arctic Edge also allows you to earn paint jobs and decals that let you create a custom look for your vehicles. The controls in Arctic Edge are fairly decent and most players should have little trouble moving around. Using the analog stick and shift button is fairly intuitive and the cars and vehicles are fairly responsive throughout, making the arcade-action style of play easy to learn and get into. Arctic Edgeís physics are fairly decent, with some nice crash animations, though the game isnít too realistic; itís still loads of fun to play.

Visually, the game delivers an impressive by PSP standards aesthetic experience with consistent frame rates, nicely rendered vehicles and expansive courses. Its courses have a cool, post-apocalyptic vibe to them which adds to the gameís underground feel, giving the game a punky, outlaw feel that makes it feel more dangerous. The action moves along at a smooth pace throughout and thereís little in the way of slowdown. Impressive special effects such as light-sourcing and weather effects give Motorstorm a polished and highly professional appearance. Players can choose from either a behind-the-vehicle perspective or a first person viewpoint that allows for a slightly more immersive experience. There are loads of different-size vehicles on the courses simultaneously, and the PSP version does an excellent job in recreating the sense of chaos and unpredictability that made the PS3 Motorstom titles so much fun to play. The only drawback in terms of presentation is the somewhat lame soundtrack, which fills your ears with a predictable mix of tired metal. Fortunately, the music can be turned off Ė greatly enhancing the experience.

From an online standpoint, the game is excellent and supports up to 6 players simultaneously in ad-hoc mode, delivering the same intense gameplay as the standard modes. Arctic Edge also includes support for remote play if you have a PS3. Most of the same modes and similar play are available online as well. Before you set up a race and opponents, the gameís easy to navigate menus make this a straightforward process. Between the online modeís added value and the solid single-player game, Motorstorm: Arctic Edge offers a solid dose of off-road racing with challenging track layouts, a varied selection of vehicle classes and a good progression system that keeps you coming back for more. While itís not as elaborate as the PS3 editions in terms of visual quality, the game delivers most of the essential gameplay elements that made the series so popular. There are a few minor annoyances with track layouts, some weird collision detection and other minor issues, but Arctic Edge is an exciting title that brings Motorstormís intense off-road racing to the PSP effectively.


- Michael Palisano

Grade: B

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