Review: MotorStorm: Arctic Edge (PSP)September 22nd, 2009 | Written by Chris Selogy | Topic: Reviews, Sony PSP
With the PSP’s great pedigree of racing games, it’s no surprise to see Sony extend one of its biggest racing IPs of this generation to the PSP in the form of MotorStorm: Arctic Edge. Taking the off-road racing gameplay from the mud and lava of the island from Pacific Rift to the frigid climate in Alaska, Bigbig Studios is adapting the game for a whole new style of environment with snow, ice, and even avalanche hazards. Bigbig did a great job of making sure MotorStorm: Arctic Edge had the full MotorStorm experience with only a few compromises due to the capabilities of the hardware it’s on.
MotorStorm: Arctic Edge takes the off-road racing action to an unnamed location in Alaska, which means you’ll see a lot of snow, ice, and dirt. In the transition to the PSP, the amount of destruction has been kept to a minimum, so signs, barrels, and flimsy parts on your vehicle are the most likely things you find being knocked around the track. The two major uses of the new environment are the avalanches that can occur on snow-filled levels and ice bridges that can collapse with bigger vehicles on them that become inaccessible for the rest of the race. There are two new vehicles classes that fit the new location well: the fast, nimble snowmobile and the powerful snow plow.
The racing itself in Arctic Edge nearly captures the feel of the console versions perfectly. That’s not really a surprise since the myriad of other quality racing games on the system have shown that it can handle them really well, both visually and control-wise. Because of the downgrade in visuals, there are a few quirks that make some of the harder parts of the game a bit harder than you’d really expect. There are some weird bits of geometry in all tracks that you can easily catch on for an instant crash and the game may not be as lenient when hitting walls as you may expect, which are a bit exaggerated when you get to higher-ranked races with more aggressive AI opponents.
Like its console brethren, Arctic Edge features the Festival mode as its main single-player mode. Here you have just over 100 races to work through amongst twelve tracks, along with reversed versions of those tracks. The tracks typically limit you to a few vehicle classes so that you will try out each vehicle, but offer enough of a choice so you’re usually not forced to pick a class you hate. Of course, each race that you finish in at least third place gives you points that go towards opening up the next rank’s matches, but you usually have to get first place in every available race to reach the requirement to get to the next rank. A few of the races are locked away, which can be unlocked by completing a task some of the races offer to earn stars towards those races. Besides the standard Race, Checkpoint, and Invitational modes, there’s a new Time-Ticker event that constantly gives four racers points, with more points for each of the higher spots. The race continues until someone reaches 999 points, which is cool in that it gets very tense in higher-ranked races.
Outside of the Festival mode, Arctic Edge offers a few other modes that mirror what was offered in Pacific Rift. The multiplayer mode offers the ability to play with up to eight total players online and six total players in local ad-hoc in Time-Ticker or Race modes on any of the tracks in the game, which is a fun time if you’re itching for some multiplayer action. For the extra single-player modes, there is the Free Play mode that offers a quick race set-up and the Time Trial mode, in which you’re challenged to beat eight times for each of the 24 tracks, for a whopping total of 192 challenges.
To add to all of this extra stuff, Arctic Edge offers a photo mode that lets you take screenshots in-game to save to your memory stick along with the badges, which is the game’s own achievements system. The vehicles are fairly customizable, usually in cosmetic ways with paint schemes, stickers, and various superficial parts of each vehicle that you unlock by playing through the Festival mode.
Arctic Edge is a good-looking game, mostly through the new setting and the way that the levels are designed. The new locales offer a decent amount of variety from avalanche-prone snow levels to icier ones that require more drifting to dirt tracks in the mountains. The new avalanches are a bit of a disappointment since they don’t alter that area of the track after they happen, though seeing the screen shake as they happen makes it all the more obvious that you need to get out of the way quickly. Vehicles don’t have as much of a damage element as you might expect, so it gives off the feeling that damage isn’t close to being as dynamic as you’d expect, even for a PSP game. The cool down effect from the arctic blast, or whatever mysterious force that causes quicker cooling of your boost, isn’t easy enough to see, so it’s harder to use it in your boost strategy than it was with misters and rivers in Pacific Rift.
Audio in Arctic Edge is about on par with the other MotorStorm games, though the soundtrack seems to have a bit more mainstream rock here rather than having more techno that fits the Burning Man vibe that the entire series is supposed to have. Sony did include the option to use your own songs in the game, though it’s not that intuitive since it requires a bit more work than just having the songs on your memory stick. Sound effects are quite nice, with all of the explosions, crash noises, and such that you’d expect.
Bigbig Studios did a great job of shrinking the great MotorStorm gameplay and feature set for MotorStorm: Arctic Edge, making it one of the better console transitions to the PSP so far. With the deep Festival and online modes, the package is worth the $40 for what is probably the best racing game for the PSP this holiday season.