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November 19, 2008
Motorstorm: Pacific Rift - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
13/11/2008SonySonyEvolution Studios1-42-12
Media HDD Space Resolution Sound Format Tilt Controls OFLC Rating
Disc151KB720pDD5.1NoPG

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Motorstorm Pacific Rift does look wonderful.
When the original MotorStorm was released here in Australia nearly two full years ago, it was one of the most popular launch titles the PS3 had to offer. The graphics were jaw-dropping, the speed was intense and the crashes were a joy to behold. Needless to say expectations are high for this sequel, and the good news is Motorstorm: Pacific Rift delivers in almost every way.

MotorStorm: Pacific Rift takes place on an island that has been "claimed by nature". Just why all these drivers with a death-wish have descended on this particular island is never made clear, though the variety of landscapes incorporating Water, Air, Fire and Earth is probably as good a reason as any.

The bulk of single-player mode will see you participate in "The Festival" – a series of events that you must win (or at least place in) to improve your rank and unlock more events. The majority of the events are races where it's you against fifteen rivals in a sprint to the finish. There are a few variations in race types including timed races, speed races where you have to pass through all of the checkpoints before the timer hits zero, and races that have a wreck limit on them. You'll also encounter Eliminator events where whichever vehicle is in last place when the timer hits zero explodes, until there is just one driver left.

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Using one of the quad bikes
There is also an online mode which allows you to take on up to eleven of your friends or any other MotorStormers that happen to be online at the time in either ranked or unranked races. The best news for online fans is that the game runs almost as smoothly online as it does when playing direct from the disc. Split-screen racing is also available, along with free-play and time attack. There is a leaderboard which shows you how your lap times compare to the best times in the world, and also how they compare to your friends.

There are a wide range of vehicles in the game, though your selection is often limited in any given race. From the nimble but unprotected motorbikes and ATVs to the fast but less manoeuvrable rally car all the way to the slower, but crushing big rigs and monster trucks, there is something for just about any terrain or circumstance. All of the vehicles handle in their own unique way which can take some getting used to, and they all have their own strengths and weaknesses which you'll need to master. The ATV for example, is very responsive allowing you to dodge rivals and obstacles alike more easily, but it doesn't fare as well in water or when you run into those rivals and obstacles (resulting in a slow-mo cut scene of your ATV crashing and your unlucky driver being thrown off in a believable and often entertaining way). The big rigs are much slower off the mark, but when they get up a head of steam their speed is comparable to the smaller vehicles, and they can crush just about anything in their path. Water is no object to them, and only the bigger obstacles (such as trees and large rocks) can bring their momentum to a halt.

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Motorstorm Pacific Rift on PS3 looks great!
No matter which vehicle you use, mastering the boost bar is a key to success. Boost is almost always available to your vehicle, though you can only use it for so long at any one time before your engine overheats and your car explodes. As soon as you stop using boost, the engine cools down which in turn allows you to use boost again. Environmental elements can help and hinder your use of boost. For example driving through water will cool your engine down allowing you to use boost pretty much continuously whilst you're in the water. In contrast driving too near to lava will heat the engine up, making it that much quicker to explode if you try to boost too often.

The most important use of boost isn't just the speed increase it gives you, but the way you can use it to keep you from crashing. The steering in many of the vehicles isn't sufficient for the speed you are travelling at, but if you turn sharply enough to swing out the rear of your vehicle, and then crank the boost, your vehicle will power out of the turn and speed off in the right direction. It's an entirely satisfying feeling when you get it right, and it will often be the difference between the perfect corner and crashing, or running off the edge of a cliff.

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Now that's a great car!
The tracks themselves are wonderfully designed, with a variety of possible routes to take on every track. Some routes will favour certain vehicles, for example their will be paths monster trucks can utilise but motorbikes cannot due to the rocky terrain, and learning which paths are quickest for certain vehicles will be a key to victory, especially as the difficulty increases.

There is also great diversity in some of the tracks – one minute you'll be racing through sandy beaches, the next you'll be trying to navigate thick jungle, or maybe even a waterfall. There are tracks which provide you with some awesome ramps to launch off (which is heaps of fun on motorbikes in particular) along with cliff faces to cling to and lava to avoid. The differing terrain definitely keeps things interesting, and with multiple paths to success each track will need to be replayed often in order to master it.

MotorStorm: Pacific Rift is fast, exciting racing at its finest - for as long as it lasts. One of the complaints levelled at the original MotorStorm was that it lacked modes outside of The Festival to keep you busy. Though this has been partially addressed in Pacific Rift – there are twice as many tracks, online mode is a bit deeper and there is trophy support to keep you gunning for specific objectives – it would definitely still benefit from other modes like a career mode or stunt mode. The Festival will keep you busy for a while, but after that there is not a lot to keep you coming back. There is the promise of downloadable content which may yet extend the life of Pacific Rift.

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Note Motorstorm's ground deformation...
The only other complaint worth mentioning is that the Havok physics engine in use is a little too strict at times If you're racing the motorbike and you hit a very small rock, as often as not you'll be treated to a crash. Likewise when you're racing in the ATV it only takes a very small rise in the track level to flip your vehicle. You can also find yourself crashing for no apparent reason when going over a ramp that you've hit perfectly, due to the over-sensitive physics. This is not a major problem, but it can affect the flow of what is otherwise a very frantic game.

However impressive the screenshots look on this page, the fact is they do not do Pacific Rift justice – the game moves and looks absolutely fantastic. The vehicles themselves look great and watching them disintegrate during crashes is a highlight. There are neat touches too, like if you tap on the accelerator before a race when driving a motorbike or ATV, you can actually see your driver's hands revving away too.

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Jungles look pretty lush.
The terrain is first-rate; jungles look like jungles and individual leaves are clearly distinguishable even up close. Water looks and behaves like water should, whether it's a pool of water in the middle of the track or the ocean roaring at the bottom of a cliff. Everything is clear, vibrant and a joy to behold. Some of the effects like the water splashing up onto your windscreen, or the heat-haze coming off of lava look excellent too. Basically the attention to detail is clear, and it really pays off.

The speed of the vehicles in the game is almost always frantic, but the visuals never miss a beat. The tracks will deform over the course of a race – grass patches get muddier as the race progress, and if you run into obstacles on the side of the track they will stay where they have been knocked to, creating more obstacles for you on the next pass.

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Another big Motorstorm explosion.
The music selection is another highlight, with forty-six licensed tracks in game from many recognised bands like Fatboy Slim, Ministry, Machine Head and Aphex Twin. There's some re-mixed Nirvana on there, and even a David Bowie track. Most of the audio tracks are rocking tunes that really do set the mood for some adrenaline pumping racing. If the in-game music isn't your style you can take your own music (that has been stored on the PS3's HDD) and add it to the track-list. The sound effects are suitable, with engines roaring, metal crumpling and glass shattering during crashes just as you'd expect.

Fans of the original MotorStorm, and indeed racing fans in general will find much to enjoy in MotorStorm: Pacific Rift. The game looks absolutely fantastic, and it provides an intense and competitive bout of racing action. There are twice as many tracks as the original, the terrain is diverse and the tracks entertaining. A few additional modes would have added longevity, but in every way Pacific Rift is superb fun while it lasts. If you enjoyed the original game, or are looking for an off-road racing title, pick this up immediately.

Review By: Mike Allison

Order your copy now from Gameswarehouse.
GRAPHICSThe tracks and terrain look spectacular. Vehicle models are superb too, and watching the crashes is a guilty pleasure.
92%
SOUNDForty-six licensed songs, many from well-known bands, and all of them pumping. Sound effects are solid.
85%
GAMEPLAYFast and furious racing fun. Computer-AI is fiendish at times and the learning curve is well paced.
87%
VALUEFestival will keep you busy for a while, but lack of other modes (like career) hurts.
80%
OVERALLPacific Rift is great fun from start to finish. It’s a must-have game for fans and one well worth considering for everyone else.
88%

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