MotorStorm: Pacific Rift Review

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The first MotorStorm is pretty great. It’s brutal, aggressive, dirty and a lot of fun. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to play it before the official patches went missing and I couldn’t try the DLC. Without the DLC, the game feels kind of bare but, ultimately, the core gameplay was enjoyable enough to keep me engaged. MotorStorm makes for a great foundation and I went into its sequel hoping it greatly expanded upon what was already established. Developed by Evolution Studios and published by Sony Computer Entertainment, MotorStorm: Pacific Rift was released for PlayStation 3 in October, 2008. With a new setting, new vehicles, and new features, I had high hopes it was going to deliver the goods and then some.

Pacific Rift retains the core gameplay of its predecessor and takes players away from the desert and puts them in lush island environments. Along with the new setting comes new obstacles to overcome and the game introduces a new vehicle class. Big Rigs are no longer the only big bullies in the dirt. Monster Trucks have been added to the roster and they will wreck your shit if you’re not careful. You can attack other opponents during a race by tapping a button to ram into them or take a swing at them if on a bike or ATV. Furthermore, when on bikes and ATVs you can duck and bunny hop.

I am happy to say that as of this review, the game can still be updated and you can still purchase, download and access the DLC. I’m also happy to say Pacific Rift has rectified most of the problems I had with its predecessor. The multiplayer servers were shut down some time ago but the game does support split-screen and there’s a lot of offline content to keep you occupied. I also want to mention that, according to the internet, there are some unlockable vehicles that are unobtainable now due to the server shutdown. However, there are workarounds to get them.

Much like the first game, the real meat of the offline or single player portion of the game is the Festival. But things work a little differently this time around. One of the first things you’ll need to do upon launching the game for the first time is select or create your driver. You choose the gender and appearance and then you can then begin racing. The events are split up into different elemental zones and each zone has its own set of tickets or events. Also, its own set of tracks. Most of the tickets need to be unlocked and you are awarded points or experience based on your finishing position. After earning enough, you’ll increase your Festival rank and will be rewarded with new drivers and vehicles.

One of my bigger issues with the first MotorStorm is the lack of variety. Pacific Rift rectifies this with more tracks set in more diverse environments and includes more event types. The Festival is still primarily full of standard races but you’ll also have to complete Eliminator and Speed events and these need to be unlocked by completing the Target Time or Wreck Limit events that precede them. Target Time requires you to finish the race within the target time and Wreck Limit events require you to not wreck your vehicle more than a specific amount of times. Pacific Rift does come with additional game modes, some of which were added in as DLC. You can now set up races against the AI and set their difficulty. You can also try to set record times in the Time Attack mode and Speed Weekend mode which is full of Speed events which are all about racing through numerous checkpoints as fast as possible.

Once again, all the tracks are designed so that every vehicle class has a chance. Each track contains numerous routes and finding them is all part of the fun. The same classes from the previous game return along with monster trucks and many events in the Festival don’t restrict you to one class. The returning classes have the same strengths and weaknesses as they did previously and monster trucks do well in deep terrain and can easily crush and destroy most of the other vehicles on the tracks, minus the Big Rigs.

The core mechanics are basically unchanged. Pacific Rift is an off road racing game where terrain plays a big role. Vehicles can accelerate and brake and will deform parts of the terrain as they speed around the tracks. You can activate a boost but if the engine overheats, your vehicle will explode. In Pacific Rift, water and fire can affect your engine. For example, driving through water will quickly cool your engine and driving near fire or lava will quickly heat it up so you do need to be mindful of these things when boosting.

As mentioned earlier, the tracks are split across four elemental zones; Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. Each zone consists of unique tracks designed to fit their respective elemental zone. For example, tracks in the Fire zone typically consist of fire and lava and tracks in the Water zone typically consist of wet and humid environments. From beaches to mountains to jungles to swamps, the variety is excellent and the base game comes with a lot more tracks than its predecessor. You’ll drive through lush foliage, around fire, lava, waterfalls, and through mud pits and pools of water. New tracks were added in via DLC including some brand new tracks and remixed volcanic versions of original tracks.

As you move up the ranks in the Festival, things get more challenging. There is definitely rubber banding and for the most part, I would say the AI is more aggressive in general this time around. But they make for a fun and challenging racing experience. However, I did find several of the later events to be quite frustrating. I was able to win the gold in the first fifteen or so events in each zone. I had to retry several events but they felt fair. After that is when things got even more challenging and many of the later events do restrict you to one vehicle class. Plus, the opponent AI becomes let’s say questionable. For one thing, during later events, it feels as though everyone is in the way all the time. In general, AI opponents will block your path and ram into you and they’ll even drive off jumps and onto you which can be fun and exciting but later on, their aggressive nature is amped up and I found it gets to be a little ridiculous.

The AI will noticeably try to fuck you. At a certain point, it seems like they stop trying to drive efficiently to win and instead just focus on doing everything possible to fuck you up. I’ve seen opponents ahead of me start swerving because they were clearly trying to block my path and depending on the part of the track, it will cause them to drive off-course, into a hazard, and/or crash and explode. That’s part of the problem. They try to fuck you even if it’s not in their best interest at that time and that’s why it’s noticeable. They end up feeling less like opponents and more like moving obstacles with the sole purpose of preventing you from winning. Regardless, I can’t say I ever found it impossible to catch up but maintaining the lead in some of the later events can be quite challenging so the routes you take become much more important. In the end though, the more the challenging the AI gets, the more intense and exciting the events can be.

Visually, Pacific Rift is a colorful game with diverse locations and the tropical environments make for a nice contrast to the first game which is all desert. Pop-in is often noticeable but I can’t say there’s too many eyesores so the presentation still holds up rather well. The foliage is lush, the backgrounds are often gorgeous, and the environments are detailed. Bodies that go flying off bikes and ATVs will ragdoll, vehicles will get covered in dirt and show visible deformities, and tires will kick up dirt and debris as vehicles speed along dirt and muddy roads. Just like its predecessor, Pacific Rift features a soundtrack consisting of licensed music from various artists. As for the technical aspects, the frame rate would dip when there was a lot of action on-screen and I did not encounter any major issues.

I had an amazing time with Pacific Rift. It addresses almost every issue I had with the first game. Plus, I love the tropical setting. The brutally aggressive racing is a ton of a fun and even though I think the AI gets a little ridiculous as the challenge ramps up, races consistently remain exciting and dirty. Vehicles are swerving around, crashing into each other, rolling over, exploding, and bodies are airborne as dirt and debris is flying through the air. That shit is so much fun to see. Races can get pretty intense and learning the tracks is all part of the fun. You’ll want to learn all the possible routes and experiment with different vehicle classes to really master them. Best of all, every event feels exciting. Whether you’re racing opponents or trying for the best time in a Speed event, it’s always exciting. Speeding along dirt roads, evading fire and lava, driving off ramps and ledges, crushing opponents with a monster truck – it all makes for an exciting experience.

I would absolutely recommend MotorStorm: Pacific Rift. It’s a great example of a sequel done right. Even though I really enjoyed the first MotorStorm, I think Pacific Rift is a far better game and I would even recommend skipping the first one and jumping right into this. Unless you prefer the desert setting, Pacific Rift retains what made the first game so great and gives you a lot more. It contains more content, more variety, and I found it more enjoyable overall. Definitely check it out.

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