Review: MotorStorm RC

MotorStormRC

The original MotorStorm was one of the PlayStation 3 launch window titles back in late 2006 into early 2007 (depending on which part of the world you hail from).  Since then the MotorStorm series has spawned three additional titles, each with wildly different themed environments.  As far as fast paced, fun but challenging arcade-style racers go, the MotorStorm series has been regarded as one of Sony’s top platform exclusives. Each game contains courses that have pathways best suited for the large array of vehicle types, ranging from motocross dirt bikes, dune buggies, stock cars, monster trucks and semis. Speed is not always the key to winning races in the MotorStorm universe.  As with any good racer, the key to winning is knowing the strengths of each vehicle and the various eccentricities of any given course.

Evolution Studios has once again released a MotorStorm title to coincide with the launch of another Sony console, the PlayStation Vita.  This time Evolution Studios twists the almost formulaic MotorStorm experience by putting gamers in control of remote control cars on various tracks based on the themes from the first four MotorStorm titles.  MotorStorm RC goes one step further by being released on both PS Vita and PS3.  Unique to the MotorStorm world this time around, though, is the fact that gamers are not directly racing online against other players but rather asynchronously against friends and other online racers’ uploaded times.

MotorStorm RC starts out in a small playground area to give players an opportunity to become familiar with the controls.  The game smartly offers players a chance to pick from one of two control schemes.  The left stick either steers left or right or turns the car in the direction pressed.  While the more traditional steer by pushing the stick left or right method can take a few minutes to learn, I found that the other option was impossibly confusing.  Fortunately the game does offer players a choice and doesn’t simply force one control scheme up our tailpipes.  I started playing MSRC on the PS3 and like most racers with the DualShock 3, I was quick to pick up on the fact that R2 applies gas and L2 applies brakes (and reverses if necessary). Obviously, on the Vita there is no R2 or L2.  Instead Evolution has mapped the gas/brakes/reverse to the Vita’s right analog stick.  After playing for a few hours on the PS3, relearning how to move forward took a few minutes when I switched over to the Vita, but in short order the control scheme almost felt more natural on the handheld.

The core experience of the game is found in the various maps based on track themes from each of the previous MotorStorm titles.  Four detailed tracks are in each theme.  In addition to a traditional Race mode where medals can be earned by placing first, second or third, MSRC also adds additional challenge types including Hot Lap, Pursuit, and Drift.  Each of these modes challenges players with finishing a track, passing a certain number of other racers, or drifting a set distance under three distinct times.  Completing any mode under the given time awards medals.  Medals are then used to unlock new maps and car types.  In the end, the game basically offers each mode type on each track for each vehicle (except for some of the drift challenges, which are only available on one map type for each theme).

Not only does the game have tons of replay value with the mixture of modes, cars and tracks, but MSRC also displays the track times of players on your friends list who are also playing the game.  The desire to replay tracks over and over again to beat a time posted by folks on my friend list is highly addictive and really adds to the fun of the game.  Of course, no game is complete without the ability to talk a little smack to friends after their time has been crushed, and Evolution Studios has added the option to send messages via PSN or Facebook after each race.

Often times I find racing games (and past MotorStorm titles even) to be frustrating in that later tracks always tend to be out of my reach due to a lack of Jedi-like focus behind the virtual wheel, and so I have a hard time unlocking medals and tracks towards the end.  What Evolution Studios has opted to do with MSRC, though, is bordering on sheer genius.  In partnership with Scion, MSRC for the Vita is free.  Additionally, there are tons of low price micro transaction options available for the game.  Can’t win enough races to earn more medals to see all of the boards?  Buy the unlock.  Want to see all of the cars, but can’t earn all the medals? Buy the unlock.  PlayStation Plus members currently even get discounts on the unlock options.  Evolution Studios also has plenty of new designer car models available for download at incredibly low prices.  The best part about the micro transactions?  Buy them for the PS3 and they apply to the Vita as well–earned unlocks transfer between platforms.

While the PS3 version costs $9.99, and the Vita version is currently free, I know several folks who have already purchased all of the additional unlocks and DLC for the game because it is priced so low, it is almost insignificant to my friends.  This is where the game will continue to grow legs.  Already there has been one 4-track expansion made available and just today Evolution announced the Carnival Expansion to be released tomorrow for just $3.99.

But enough of the financial side of the game, there is still more I need to talk about.  First off, the music is fantastic.  The previous MotorStorm games have always revolved around a rave type culture of racers traveling from one location to the next racing in extreme conditions.  The music in MSRC certainly takes cues from that lifestyle.  Dub step brings that rave vibe into the not so rave culture of remote control racing.  Lighting on several levels also adds to the atmosphere of the rave vibe.

In the PS3 version of the game, there is an additional mode call Wreckreation which includes up to four-player local split-screen in a Free Play mode.  Time Attack mode is available on both the Vita and PS3 as well and gives players an opportunity to race tracks to get better with each vehicle type.  The PS3 version also offers 3D support.  With 3D enabled, two players can race using the Simulview technology of Sony’s PlayStation 3D Display.  Playing solo with 3D enabled, I can’t say that there is any dramatic enhancement to gameplay, but it is nice to see the depth used to help bring out just how much detail has been applied to the tracks and all of the debris that clutters the sides of the tracks.

While MotorStorm RC isn’t exactly the next great full car racing title, it is definitely a fresh change of pace for the series and an arcade off-roading experience that should not be missed.  The addictive nature of the Pitwall and ranking against friends offers plenty of challenge and replay value.  Quick loads for each track also add to the “one more turn” mentality typically found in puzzle and retro arcade games.  Currently free for the PS Vita and $9.99 for PS3, MotorStorm RC is easily one of the best games out so far this year, available at an incredible value that’s too good to pass up.

BuyIt

Pros:
+ Quick, short races allow for plenty of fast replay
+ Pitwall and friend rankings offer plenty of personal challenge and replay
+ Fun themes and plenty of car types add lots of game to master
+ Unlocks earned on PS3 transfer seamlessly to Vita, and vice versa
+ Music adds to the overall MotorStorm vibe even though RC cars initially seem out of place

Cons:
- No direct online racing (only asynchronous)
- Later game track unlocks can be challenging
- Some cars are tricky to master

Game Info:
Platform: PS3 and PlayStation Vita via PSN
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Evolution Studios
Release Date: 3/6/2012
Genre: Racing
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1
Source: Review code provide for PS3 version. Vita version downloaded for free.

About the Author

Tim has been playing video games for more than 20 years. He manages to find time to game in between raising three kids and working as a network administrator. Follow Tim on Twitter @freemantim.