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MotorStorm: Arctic Edge

Platform(s): PSP, PlayStation 2
Genre: Racing
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Bigbig Studios
Release Date: Sept. 29, 2009 (US), Sept. 18, 2009 (EU)


PSP Preview - 'MotorStorm: Arctic Edge'

by Dustin Chadwell on Sept. 12, 2009 @ 7:21 a.m. PDT

MotorStorm Arctic Edge sees the music, the festival and the brutal off-road racing arrive in the breathtaking yet lethal and unpredictable setting of Alaska. With temperatures plummeting, sudden avalanches, broken ice bridges, and three different racing altitudes, this is possibly the most inhospitable environment the MotorStormers have ever had to deal with.

MotorStorm: Arctic Edge for the PSP brings the series' off-road arcade-style racing to Sony's portable handheld.  The series has already explored the rugged desert in the original MotorStorm and a tropical island in MotorStorm: Pacific Rift, but Arctic Edge introduces players to the treacherous wilds of Alaska.  The below-freezing temperatures mean that avalanches, fragile ice bridges and lack of vehicle traction await you in the ice-laden environments.

First and foremost, the presentation absolutely screams MotorStorm.  If you've played the first title or Pacific Rift on the PS3, you'll notice that the menu design and overall look doesn't stray from what the developers have usually done with the series.  There's a short CGI introduction at the beginning, detailing that the game takes place in an Alaskan setting, and then you're off.

Just because the Alaskan environment is dangerous doesn't mean that it can't be used to your advantage.  Avalanches can be caused by loud crashes or vehicle explosions, but they can also be created by a horn and some careful timing. If you have a tailgater who just won't let up, you can bury him in the snow with a well-timed honk.  Ice bridges become more precarious as the elevation increases, so heavy vehicles can be used to destroy these paths before competitors cross them. Like the waterfalls in earlier MotorStorm games, snowbanks can be used to cool off overheating engines

From the main menu, you have three available gameplay options: Festival, Garage and Wreckreation.  Festival is your main mode, where you'll spend the majority of your time working through the eight different ranks on your way to the top.  This is presented as spiral of stages, and you'll unlock more as you accumulate points from winning races (or placing in the top three). 

There are a number of vehicles in the game for use in this mode, but at the beginning, you'll only have a couple unlocked.  It doesn't take very long to unlock all eight of the vehicle classes, and some of the new additions are right at home in this snowy setting, like the Snowcat and Snow Machine, which are powerful enough to drive through packed snow or have enough traction to keep up a decent pace in the snow without swerving wildly.  There are also returning vehicle favorites, like the ATVs, big rigs, bikes, buggies, rally cars, etc.  Certain races will limit your selection of vehicles, regardless of what you've currently unlocked, but there seems to be an equal amount of races that gives you the option of choosing what you want. 

Garage mode displays the items that you've collected or unlocked thus far.  There are badges in the game, which are like in-game achievements or trophies for completing certain goals, and you can also view unlocked media (like the CGI intro) or change out your current driver.

Wreckreation mode unveils three additional modes within, using vehicles and tracks from the Festival mode.  There's Time Attack, where you race against ghost cars; Free Play, which is pretty self-explanatory; and the multiplayer component.  Multiplayer supports up to eight players via ad hoc and online play, but I haven't tried it out yet.  Since only media have access to the title at the moment, there isn't exactly a large group of people to play with, but I'll be sure to cover my experiences in the final review.  Free Play lets you choose from the game's 12 available tracks, and you can specify whether they're utilized in reverse or forward style, select one of three AI difficulties, and opt for one to five laps.  Within Free Play, you can also choose time ticker mode, which gives you points while you're in the lead, and the first player to 999 points wins the race.

The controls are fairly customizable to minimize any problems that may arise from introducing the franchise to the PSP.  You can opt for the classic control setting, which has you using the face buttons for acceleration and braking, or the MotorStorm setting, which has you using L and R shoulder buttons instead.  You can also switch between analog or digital controls, depending on your preference.

So far, MotorStorm: Arctic Edge looks to have successfully brought the enjoyable racing chaos of the MotorStorm series to a portable console.  I'm definitely looking forward to playing more of the game, so be sure to keep an eye out for our review later this month.

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