MotorStorm: Arctic Edge
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1 to 8
Developer: bigBIG Studios
Release Date: September 29th, 2009
MotorStorm is an original PS3 racing franchise that features insane locations, dramatic crashes and a wonderful assortment of vehicles to enjoy it all. SCEA also happens to be responsible, so it was only a matter of time before a PSP iteration came to fruition. I’m extremely thankful that Arctic Edge is brand-new and not just a hand-me-down from the PS3. This time the competition has been taken to the Arctic Circle, one of the harshest environments on the planet. Forget lava pits and intense desert tracks, PSP racers must conquer snow, blizzards and intimidating glaciers. bigBIG Studios did an impressive job porting over the same feeling of the PS3 titles, while offering something unique for portable gamers. The only problem is that sometimes you bring over all the faults as well.
The bulk of the experience lies in the Festival mode, where players are faced with a gauntlet of varying racing events: standard, race, and Time-Ticker races. Time-Ticker is a great addition. You acquire points while driving, and gain them faster the higher your position. Thus the idea is to snag first place and stay there. Progressing expectedly increases the rank/difficulty of new events. There are eight ranks in total, and after the fifth, your sanity will be tested. There are twelve courses to do all this, and they’re acceptably unique…but given the presence of snow, the tracks eventually seem to blend together as one super course.
Like the previous MotorStorms, Arctic Edge sports several vehicle classes. This PSP entry introduces snow machines, snowpluggers, and snow cats (snowploughs retrofitted for racing). The rest of your favourites, bikes, buggies, and big rigs, happily return. Each course draws unique racing lines for each vehicle class. With a bike, you want to traverse lightly-snowed areas, whereas big rigs permit your driving just about anywhere. That’s one of MotorStorm’s main attractions; each vehicle must be raced differently for every course.
Yet again, problems arise since Arctic Edge mirrors the PS3 games so much. In this case I’m referring to questionable AI and over-sensitive physics. CPU-controlled racers aren’t out to win, but rather completely obliterate you. If you choose a bike, this becomes extremely noticeable once you hit the rank five events. Opponents are just ruthless. For this review, I reached rank six and experienced an annoying dose of kamikaze racers. The physics are semi-realistic in that a truck can easily destroy a small bike. The problem stems from the balancing bigBIG had to do, much like Evolution Studios did with the first two titles. Merely touching a wall when on a bike can mean your doom. After a crash, a second or two passes before you can resume racing. That time can sometimes cost you entire races. These problems don’t ruin the game, but they’re certainly noticeable.
What’s makes Arctic Edge great is the sheer variety. Sure you spend a ton of time in Festival mode with all its events, but there are others like the Garage and Wreckreation. The Garage lets you look at all the vehicles in your possession, as well as current badges (think achievements), stats and unlocked media. All this is unlocked by playing through the Festival and completing online races. Wreckreation contains several modes of its own, including: Time Attack, Free-Play and Multiplayer. Time Attack pits you against the leaderboards, which are populated with insane scores. Free-Play is self-explanatory, don’t you think? Multiplayer is available for both ad-hoc and online match-ups, the latter of which is a little sluggish at times, but I played several races with only occasional lag. It’s not perfect, but for the PSP it’s not half-bad either. All of these extra modes, plus the unlockable goodies make Arctic Edge a keeper.
Though the controls rear another slight issue. The analog nub just isn’t as precise as the DualShock 3 analog sticks, resulting in my veering off the sides of tracks here and there. It’s also a little strange for the gas to be mapped to the R button for a PSP racer. It’s a minor inconvenience though; one that can be fixed in the control options. I always judge games based on their default controls, but never knock them if the developer adds in the option. After playing for a while, I adjusted to the “MotorStorm” controls, but still feel they were looser than the PS3 iterations’.
Visually, Arctic Edge looks the part. While some courses are on the plain side, the majority are highly-detailed, with plenty going on in the background. The framerate is generally smooth no matter what shows up on the screen. Some of the tight corners can be a little tough to see given the PSP’s screen size, but damn do they look nice. Eyeing a massive drop when you’re so close to an edge is breath-taking, even on a smaller screen. The vehicles don’t employ the finesse of their PS3 counterparts, but still look nice. They feel a lot heavier though. One of the most impressive aspects is the draw distance. In terms of audio, the soundtrack isn’t really my style, but fits the game well with lots of rock, alternative and jazzed-up songs. I love rock, bit the band selection just isn’t for me. The sound effects are very well-done however. Every vehicle sounds unique, and the larger ones roar appropriately. When you slam into a wall, the game makes sure you know.
MotorStorm: Arctic Edge is a fun racer, and fits the PSP perfectly. The very nature of the genre works well for the little black portable. After all, races can be played in spurts while you wait for the next bus. I really appreciate what bigBIG has done with the Time-Ticker mode, and online multiplayer. If you’re a fan of the first MotorStorm titles, then this is an obvious buy. If you’re on the fence, I’d love to tell you to download a demo, except I can’t because one doesn’t exist. With any luck, Sony will change this policy in the coming weeks as more and more pick up a PSPgo, which doesn’t allow for renting games. Arctic Edge is most entertaining, and if you enjoy the genre, I’m sure you’d feel the same way.
Final Score (Not an average): 8/10
I played through two-thirds of Festival until it became crushingly difficult for me. I also played eight online multiplayer matches in different events and modes.