Let me start by saying that the first time I started this game I was certain I would play it for half an hour and never go back to it. The first races were just too easy and the cars looked just too small and I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to enjoy it. But then, the challenges started to become more difficult. I no longer managed to beat the threshold time to get all three medals for each of them. I realized that the fastest times on the leaderboards were up to 30 seconds better than mine. Finally, I broke and I decided I would not put this game down until I managed to shave enough seconds off my total time to unlock its most difficult trophies.
It’s the challenge of MotorStorm RC that kept me coming back for more. It’s a classic case of a game that’s easy to learn but very difficult to master. The premise sounds easy enough. A Micro Machines clone that offers several game modes, including straightforward racing, drift challenges, hot lap time trials and pursuit (overtake a given number of enemies as fast as possible). The courses are very short and seem simplistic at first glance – most of them have literally 5-6 turns and it takes on average 15-20 seconds to complete a lap. Nothing so far seems too appealing. But the fact that the race is over so soon makes the challenge to push the boundaries by hundreds of milliseconds at a time that much more exciting.
MotorStorm RC is divided into four locations, each of them offering initially 12 events. Beating all of them unlocks four additional races per location and a Supercar class that is the fastest in the game. The starting seven car types, which include buggies, superminis, monster trucks, etc. all handle differently and can also be customized by collecting medals which are awarded for beating certain times in each of the events. The customization only changes the ways the cars look, however, and has no influence on their performance. MotorStorm RC offers a very arcade approach to racing and even though the cars behave differently and the terrain certainly influences the way they drive, this is by no means a racing simulation.
The main focus of the game is put on the timer on top of the screen which mercilessly shows the time go by and proves to the player how much he or she sucks at the game and how many more times he or she will have to retry the challenge to finally get the expected result. I didn’t even pay too much attention to how the cars and the locations look, although the presentation on Vita’s small screen is very pleasing, because my mind was always set on the next corner and on the opponent in front of me. And the feeling of accomplishment when the timer stops a second or two earlier than previously is what makes this game a true gem.
When the tension of the races gets too high, MotorStorm RC invites to the playground are where the cars are waiting for the player to be casually driven around. They can be used to play football on a pitch with a real goalkeeper or to shoot hoops or even do tricks on a half-pipe. Performing certain stunts awards the player with bonus skins for the cars (such as the gnome seen in the screenshot above) and trophies (hint, hint – there are two different baskets on the playground – swish!). It kept me occupied for some time but the playground is not big and diverse enough to allow the player to keep exploring. Maybe in a multiplayer environment, which is not present in the game, the playground would have more appeal in a Burnout Paradise kind of way. It would have been cool to be able to perform tricks and stunts with friends, jumping over each other, scoring goals, and having a good time altogether.
All in all, MotorStorm RC took me by surprise and it took me by storm. Transforming form a child’s racing game in the early events to a nigh unbeatable monstrosity at the end, I was sucked into the endless cycle of driving the same course over and over again, reaching for better scores. This is what arcade games are all about and MotorStrom RC does it perfectly.
| Ghost Busted
|Beat a friend’s ghost in a Race or Hot Lap event who currently sits above you in the leaderboards.|
| Wall Brawl
|Beat 10 times after launching through the Pitwall.|
Even though direct multiplayer modes are absent from the game, the indirect challenges that come with the Pitwall and ghost racing are a big part of it. The Pitwall is a place of shame and pride and it constantly updates with the latest friends’ results, showing where they are better than the player, but also highlighting where the opposite is true. I was never big on trying to reach the top of leaderboards in games because I know there is always a handful of maniacs whose results are unbeatable. However, competing directly with people on my friends list and beating their scores was rewarding, especially with the ghost car tracing the exact route the friend took in their attempt. This approach makes it more fun than just racing against the clock and eliminates the risk of bumping into each other, which is crucial in a game where the time is more important than who finishes first.
| Let it Slide
|Bank more than 2000 points in a single drift|
I would have to say that the drift challenges are my favorite events in the game, even though there are only three of them. Or maybe that’s the reason why I love them so much. I didn’t have to play them so often and I didn’t get as frustrated with them as with the other challenges? This whole game is a lesson in love-hate relationships… At first, drifting seemed impossible and the final score of 5000 points that needed to be reached in order to score medals felt out of reach. I played the whole game with the active camera angle, which places it very high and gives the best overview of the coarse which is most important in high-speed races. In drift challenges, however, I found it much easier to tune the car motion with the camera very close to the car. That, and using the long straights to change the direction of the drift, allowed me to clear the entire challenge in one smooth drift on all the courses.
| Monument Valley Champion
|Set a time of 10:00 or less across all Monument Valley events.|
| Pacific Rift Champion
|Set a time of 10:00 or less across all Pacific Rift events.|
| Arctic Edge Champion
|Set a time of 12:00 or less across all Arctic Edge events.|
| Apocalypse Champion
|Set a time of 10:00 or less across all Apocalypse events.|
| RC Champion
|Set a time of 40:00 or less across the whole MotorStorm RC Festival.|
Those five trophies are among my most prized ones so far in all the games I’ve played. Maybe it didn’t take that long to get them but the road was hard and demanding although, at first, it didn’t seem that way at all. There are after all only 12 races in each of the locations and the average time on all of them is way below 1 minute so I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. However, after I finished the 12 races in Monument Valley the overall location score was somewhere around 49 minutes and I had no idea why. The Supercar challenges turned out to be the answer. Getting all medals in the four extra races still left me some 15 seconds above the threshold for the individual location trophies. And on top of that they want me to shave of an additional 120 seconds for the ultimate trophy? This CAN’T be done! And yet, it can. A second or two here, three more there, a perfect drift advances me another 10 seconds and step by step I was able to inch toward the 40 minute mark.
I want to make myself clear – this is hard. This will make you want to scream and shout and throw the Vita under the train or out of the window, depending on which floor you live on and if there are tracks nearby. There will be swearing and sweat and frustration. You will want to give up and play a round of Spelunky or Zen Pinball for a change. But when the clock starts losing advantage, when another perfect turn is made and the ghost trace of the previous best score is left behind… you will make a mistake and hit something and have to start over again. But the timer will be beaten eventually and it will bring a feeling of true euphoria and bliss, as much as a simple handheld racing game can.
I still have no idea how the top scorers on the leaderboards reached the times they did and I’m almost convinced either glitches, shortcuts or magic was at play. Kudos to them and kudos to Evolution Studios for giving us a different title than usually but one that is as at least as much fun as the ‘true’ driving games they have in their portfolio. Hopefully, Driveclub won’t disappoint either.
| Lunatics Unite
|Obtain every other trophy in the game|
This was my first game in the MotorStorm series and I understand that it’s nothing like the others. I would love to hear your opinion on this game and others in the series. How do they compare? I prefer arcade driving games, Burnout Paradise being my unchallenged favorite and among the top 10 on my best games of the generation list. What’s your take on racing games? Are you a Gran Turismo person or a Need for Speed one? What about Driveclub and The Crew coming soon? There’s certainly no lack of titles to satisfy the virtual drivers out there.