Evolution Studios' "not-quite-sim-not-quite-arcade-racer" makes its first foray onto other platforms with Motorstorm: Arctic Edge; an off-shoot of the lavish environments from PS3 sequel Pacific Rift. Arctic Edge, as the title suggests, is set atop a snow-ridden mountain — the perfect environment for a racing competition.
Developed by BigBig Studios, the biggest compliments you can pay to Arctic Edge are comparisons to its bigger Playstation 3 brother; in terms of gameplay and structure this is the complete PS3 package scaled down to a PSP. Which is impressive to say the least.
Motorstorm: Arctic Edge features a range of tracks, modes and gameplay types; aswell as full online and ad-Hoc multiplayer support.
Motorstorm has always been an interesting game in terms of its actual gameplay. Shunning floaty controls, the Playstation 3 iterations of Motorstorm have always been about weighty vehicles. Arctic Edge is no different, with an impressive physics engine that really helps you to feel the weight of the cars you're driving. The age-old Motorstorm control philosophy of correcting oversteer with the game's "Boost" mechanic is in tact here as much as ever. The game controls particularly well on the PSP's analogue nub, but if you'd prefer to play with the DPad this can be altered in the options. Most impressively, crashes are represented by the customary rag-doll physics and damage models players have come to expect from the Motorstorm franchise. Also impressive is the fact that BigBig Studios have managed to include Motorstorm's multiple route track-design philosophy, a feature we expected to be dropped for this PSP game. There are no concessions made to the gameplay in Motorstorm: Arctic Edge — it features everything that is present in the PS3 game, which is a gigantic feat in itself.
Motorstorm's class-based car selection returns in Arctic Edge. Motorbikes, rally cars and big-rigs all make a welcome return, perhaps without the same nuances in control as their Playstation 3 counterparts, but with plenty of personality between them. With tons of liveries to unlock, your vehicle selection will always feel fresh, which is especially important when taking them online.
Motorstorm: Arctic Edge can look a little rough around the edges, which is understandable considering the commitment to offering such a compelling gameplay experience, but on the whole it's still an attractive PSP title. Car models look solid, with well animated suspension and prominent design intricacies. Tracks also successfully convey the wild nature that's often been associated with the Motorstorm games. Most importantly though, the frame-rate is absolutely rock-solid, rarely stuttering regardless of the on-screen action.
Motorstorm: Arctic Edge features a "badges" system — an option that makes you wish piracy wasn't so rife on the PSP so the system could support Trophies in the first-place. Still, these alternatives offer plenty of incentive to keep playing the game, and subsequently unlocking new vehicles and liveries.
When we said Motorstorm: Arctic Edge was very close to its Playstation 3 counterpart, sadly that includes the warts too. Motorstorm: Arctic Edge's AI puts up little challenge, rarely blocking overtakes and failing to make up any real ground when you happen to take the lead in a race. This results in a game where you rarely feel pressured into perfection, which takes the heat out of some of the races in single-player. Of course, this is likely to change when playing online or via adHoc against real, human opponents.
Like Pacific Rift, Motorstorm: Arctic Edge's single-player campaign can get a little repetitive. It takes a helter-skelter format of presenting numerous events. Winning these events earns you XP which in turn unlocks more events. It's an age-old progression method for racing games, and sadly a rather sterile one at that. There's no doubt the game throws plenty of content at you, but it's a shame the single-player experience couldn't have been more interesting and challenging.
Many of Arctic Edge's tracks feel a bit basic. A trip through a lumber yard and high-altitude mountain peak aside, the courses lack the personality that could be designated to them by a more powerful engine. The design is on the whole fine, but the game fails to leave a lasting impression, perhaps an attribute of the game's platform rather than the developer's vision.
Motorstorm: Arctic Edge features a complete online multiplayer component which we'll detail further when we've had a chance to experience it in a retail environment.
If Motorstorm: Arctic Edge is an indicator of the type of quality titles we can expect to see during the PSP's resurgence, we're very excited about the future indeed. The game's not quite perfect, but that doesn't make it any less fun.