Two kinds of racing games currently dominate the genre: the gas-brake-honk kind, and the your-face-attached-to-the-front-of-a-hurtling-rocket kind. The MotorStorm series proudly falls into the latter category. MotorStorm: Apocalypse, true to its name, is set in a quake-ruined facsimile of San Francisco. The object of the game is to win a series of racing challenges while the city is falling down around you.
The effect is impressive. Entire buildings collapse in the distance. Bridges undulate. Explosions create yawning holes in the roadway. And yet none of this feels overly grim. Credit the game’s buoyant look and feel: No matter how morbid the action gets onscreen—and it does include barreling headlong into groups of shadowy virtual people—the game’s cheery graphics and chipper, dance-club soundtrack always make the morbid milieu feel breezy.
Apocalypse’s single-player mode follows the character arcs of Mash, Tyler, and Big Dog, who represent Easy, Medium, and Hard difficulty levels, as well as the “Douchey,” “Douchier,” and “Douchiest” of characters. Between races, starched cutscenes of the graphic-novel-in-motion variety introduce gamers to these unlikeable characters and their dramatic motivations for racing. The cutscenes are so wretched that Sony would have been better off shipping the game with a book of sudoku puzzles, and instructing gamers to complete them during Apocalypse’s interminable load times.
Even though Apocalypse is among the first PlayStation 3 first-party titles to achieve third-incarnation status—developer Evolution has tackled all three of the series’ main games—gassy load times drain the game of all dramatic momentum. Like a plate-glass window intercepting a bird, the “Now Loading” notice (complete with ellipses, which have no business whatsoever in a videogame) keeps bringing things to a crashing halt just as the game finally starts to get cooking.
The final kiss of death for Apocalypse is that the elaborate tracks are often so busy coming to pieces that it’s impossible to spot crash-inducing debris and obstacles in your path. This usually leads to sequences of repeated crashes—call it a digression of crashes—which is so thoroughly maddening, even the most measured gamers will consider hurling controllers at the screen.