MotorStorm RC Preview – Back to Basics
Written Friday, December 23, 2011 By Lee BradleyView author's profile
The Vita's launch line-up is stuffed with titles designed to show-off the handheld's capabilities. Games like Little Deviants and Reality Fighters wouldn't, probably couldn't, exist on any other platform. Even slightly more traditional experiences like Uncharted: Golden Abyss and LittleBigPlanet use as many of the handheld's unique features as possible. And why not, eh? If you've got it, flaunt it.
Spend some time with MotorStorm RC however, and all of this couldn't be further from your mind. This is a game that's designed not to showcase the Vita's features, nor justify the handheld's overflowing capabilities. It just wants to be fun. No more, no less. Based on early experiences, that's exactly what it achieves.
Whether or not it should be called a MotorStorm game is another matter. This is an isometric racer that owes its inspiration to the dusty arcade experiences of the past. Rather than the desert-based boosting of the first MotorStorm, or the catastrophic carnage of Apocalypse, MotorStorm RC is the progeny of Super Sprint, Super Off-Road and Micro Machines. Classics all.
You pilot a little remote-controlled car around a set of small, tight tracks using the dual analogue sticks in the same way you'd use an actual RC remote: one stick for the steering, one stick for acceleration. However, such is the unbridled joy of chucking your little zippy car around at top speed, you're likely keep the accelerator jammed to maximum regardless of the consequences.
There's no oil slicks and no tornadoes and very little in the way of distractions. It's just you, your rivals and some joyful arcade racing with cars that are ultra-responsive, ultra-fun and ultra-maneouverable. It works so well because it's so pure.
Adding variety are the tracks and the cars. There are 24 different RCs to unlock from a selection of eight categories, from buggies to big-rigs and super-minis, each displaying subtly different handling models and speeds. They hit all of the marks you'd expect, with the fastest cars sacrificing acceleration or steering and the slower cars offering improved manoeuvrability or out-of-the-gate speed. Every single one of them sounds like a swarm of wasps trapped in a biscuit tin.
The tracks, meanwhile, are what provide the link to the grown-up Motorstorm games. Each of the four sets draws from the main series, in terms of setting. There's the dusty environs of the first game, Pacific Rift-inspired tracks on a tropical island, crumbled cities from Apocalypse and the icy wastes of Arctic Rift. Unlike those games, there's no alternative pathways. Each track is relatively small, linear and self-contained.
The backstory - not that the game really needs one - is that RC racing is what the chaps and chappeses do on the MotorStorm tour, when they're not racing. It's a nice, if unnecessary touch.
Built up around all of this are a number of game modes, online options and cross-platform features. Aside from the normal race mode where you pit your skills against AI opponents, there's also a time attack mode called Hot Laps. This mode provides on-track ghost lines that indicate where you need to be on the track in order to earn the various medals on offer. It's scary just how quickly you can get sucked in to the hypnotic flow of attempting the perfect race.
Multiplayer is an odd one. Rather than go the traditional route and offer Wi-Fi or 3G-enabled match-ups, MotorStorm RC instead offers what they're calling "asynchronous multiplayer." What this seems to mean is that there basically isn't a multiplayer. Instead, there's a kind of Autolog-esque leader board system called the Pitwall, allowing you to check out your friend's best times and attempt to top them.
Rather niftily, the Pitwall extends across the PS3 version of the game, meaning that a kind of cross-platform play is possible. Kind of. The PS3 version, incidentally, also gets good old fashioned four-player split-screen in lieu of online multiplayer. You can access both versions for the price of one download.
The lack of online competitive play is a baffling choice, to be honest. All racing games should have online multiplayer. It should be a standard requirement, especially in a racer as basic as MotorStorm RC. We'll have to see what gets announced in the future. The developers have made noises about ongoing support for the game, so I wouldn't discount the possibility that it could be patched in later. We live in hope.
Regardless, we're still pretty positive about MotorStorm RC. It may just be because by referencing the likes of Super Sprint, the game triggers some nostalgic seratonin switch in our heads. Perhaps your enjoyment of the game will depend on whether you stood for ages in your local, smoky arcade waiting for your turn on the cabinet. Or whether you pumped hours into the home computer and console versions of Micro Machines. Either way, actually playing MotorStorm RC is a joy.