At last year's Tokyo Game Show, Sony announced that it would be folding Evolution Studios, along with its subsidiary Bigbig Studios, into its stable of internal development houses for a sum later reported to be $33 million. Most notably, Evolution is responsible for former Sony chief of Worldwide Studios Phil Harrison's favorite game, the PlayStation 3-exclusive MotorStorm, while Bigbig's largest project to date is the PlayStation Portable action title Pursuit Force and its sequel, Pursuit Force: Extreme Justice.
At the time of its acquisition, Sony noted that Evolution was already at work on a sequel to MotorStorm and was expecting the game to land on the PS3 in 2008. Today, Sony hiked the curtain back a bit farther on MotorStorm 2, saying on its official PlayStation Blog that the game would queue up on the starting line this fall.
In its brief statement, Sony also offered up an early look at some of the features gamers can expect from the next installment in the popular off-road racer. Whereas the original MotorStorm circuit ran through rugged mountainous terrain, the sequel has been transported to a tropical Pacific island, "replete with thick swamps, dense jungle, towering peaks and steaming volcanoes." All of the vehicle types from the first game will return for MotorStorm 2, and Evolution will be adding monster trucks to the mix.
Sony also listed a few of the game's more prominent features, saying there will be 16 new tracks, 16-player online battling, and four-player split-screen play.
MotorStorm may have been a brand-new franchise for Sony's PlayStation 3, but developer Evolution managed to make a flat-out success of its simple formula for destruction. In another bold move, the developer has decided to ditch the dusty environment that made the first game so iconic, in favour of a brand-new tropical island setting. This time, Evolution has taken inspiration from the islands of Hawaii, where volcanoes, waterfalls, and crumbling cliffs will act as all-new hazards for the vehicles, which now include monster trucks. We grabbed the development team at the London PlayStation Day to talk more about the game and to take our first hands-on with it in solo and multiplayer modes.
Still early in development, the version of MotorStorm: Pacific Rift that we played was purportedly around 40 percent complete. That means it was a little rough around the edges. But the basic elements of the game were in place, and the proposed third-quarter 2008 release date allows plenty of time for polish. The two tracks we got to play were Beachcomber, which is a single-player level, and Ringod Spires, which is a multiplayer level loosely based on a track from the first game. Both circuits showed off the new environmental additions to the game, such as vines and branches that can take out players on bikes and buggies. Another new addition is water, which can both slow you down and help you cool down your engine. Just like in the first MotorStorm, you can use a boost button to speed up, but if overuse it, your engine will explode. If you take a little dip in the water, though, you can cool your engine down quickly.
Although the first game offered online play, many owners complained about the lack of a split-screen mode. This has been addressed in Pacific Rift, and the developers have been almost overzealous by allowing up to four players to share a screen. Of course, there will still be online multiplayer for those who are connected to the Internet, and all of the 16 tracks in the finished product will be playable in multiplayer. Since new tracks were released for the first MotorStorm, there's a good chance the sequel will also be expanded upon, but with 16 in total, that's double the number that shipped with the debut MotorStorm.
Also new to the game is the action button, which has been mapped to the square button on the Sixaxis and the DualShock 3. By pressing square and pushing left or right on the analogue stick, you can jerk suddenly to one side and knock an opponent into whatever object lies at the side of the track. This is beneficial if you're in a big vehicle, such as the monster truck we were playing in, and you're attacking a smaller opponent on a bike. However, this move uses up boost, and its sudden jerky movement can cause you to overcompensate when righting yourself on the track. The bikes, ATVs, rear-wheel-drive buggies, rally cars, racing trucks, and mudpluggers will all make a return, and those who want to go on a bike will have a whole new selection of insults to choose from on the triangle button.
Developer Evolution has stuck to the proven sound from the original MotorStorm and has included a Pendulum track in the sequel, this time in the form of a track called "Tarantula." However, you can also now create custom soundtracks and import them into the game, allowing for the first time the possibility of smashing opponents off the road while accompanied by a soothing jazz mix. Evolution also promises to emphasise hero and villain characteristics in some of your opponents. Some will be more aggressive and forgo such necessities as helmets and padding. The developers have also incorporated new animations into racing, so you'll see opponents abandoning their vehicles and scrambling across the track or getting visibly frustrated if you knock them off their bikes.
It looks as though Evolution has really listened to the fans of the first game when building MotorStorm: Pacific Rift, and it has done well to incorporate split-screen, custom soundtracks, and double the number of tracks for the sequel. We're sure to see more of the game in the run up to the Q3 2008 release, so keep an eye on GameSpot to find out more news as we get it.
Previews: MotorStorm Pacific Rift Sony's off-road driving sequel lands in some Uncharted territory.
By Andrew Hayward 07/15/2008
You're reading an E3 2008 preview, which we've broken into three sections to make it easy to sift through during this week of convention madness. Check out E3.1UP.COM for all (meaning words, screens, and videos) of our E3 2008 coverage.
What's the game about? MotorStorm: Pacific Rift is the sequel to Sony's multi-million selling 2007 off-road racer, MotorStorm. Far removed from the muddy, dusty desert settings that defined the original, Pacific Rift's 16 tracks (double that of the original) take place on an isolated island in the Pacific Ocean. Much-demanded four-player local split-screen action is included in the follow-up, with the online mayhem bumped up to 16 players this time around.
What's new for E3? This is our first hands-on with the game, which (according to an on-screen indicator) is 70% done and in beta. We had a chance to take the new monster trucks for a stroll around Cascade Falls, a jungle track with branching paths, a large pool of water, and some luscious foliage. In addition to that single-player jaunt, we were able to play a two-player split-screen battle in RainGod Spire, a track apparently inspired by the RainGod Mesa course from the original game.
SCREENS: Click the image above to check out all MotorStorm: Pacific Rift screens.
What's our take? It's tough not to look at MotorStorm: Pacific Rift and think that the two main inspirations are the original game (obviously) and Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. The track's massive jungle settings appear to be ripped right out of Naughty Dog's PS3 shooter, which isn't a bad thing -- there's certainly a more lived-in and authentic feel to these courses, even if the visuals still need a few more coats of polish to match up to the near-photo-realism of Pacific Rift's predecessor. From what we played, the courses are much more structurally impressive, with winding paths all over the place (even more than the original), massive jumps (including one that resulted in some five seconds of air), and several opportunities for devastating collisions.
Most of the complaints about the first game revolved around the lack of content and specific features, so it's little surprise that the actual racing seems carried over without much variation. All seven vehicle types from MotorStorm return, including bikes, rally cars, and big rigs, with the monster truck marking the lone addition to the fray. Every vehicle type has its own distinct advantages and drawbacks, and the monster trucks are no different -- sure, you'll be able to knock around motorcyclists and ATV riders with ease, but a slower pace and difficulty alongside deep pools of water give you some variables to consider when picking a ride.
SCREENS: Click the image above to check out all MotorStorm: Pacific Rift screens.
Really, that seems to be the long and short of it -- MotorStorm: Pacific Rift takes the familiar, loose off-road racing to a new setting and piles on the content, creating an experience that will undoubtedly appeal to fans of the original -- though it remains to be seen if there's enough variance to draw in those that didn't dig the first game.