Motorstorm: Arctic Edge Review

Has Evolution Studios edged out the competition?

By Edwin Evans-Thirlwell, September 21, 2009

BigBig’s reskinning (to all intents and purposes) of racing trucks, mudpluggers and monster trucks as snowmobiles, snowpluggers and snowploughs is hardly ground-breaking. Nor are avalanches, you may be surprised to hear. Players can trigger them in certain areas by blasting the horn, or less desirably by exploding, bringing insta-death down on the heads of rearwards drivers and temporarily blocking the route off. As much the same effect can be achieved by cramming three or more motors into a chokepoint, this new dynamic is quickly lost in the general carnage.

You take the high road...

You take the high road...

The overarching single player structure is no major shakes. Wreckreation gives you one-off goodness in the self-explanatory form of Time Attack and Free-Play, while Festival is the nearest thing the game has to a campaign option: eight, progressively tougher tiers of events which, in theory, turn you into a more rounded performer by making you tackle different courses for different objectives (beat the clock, finish with a 10 second lead, etc) against different combinations of vehicles. Some of these are less fun than others – a Big-Rig-only showdown, for instance, is basically Dodgems in slow motion – but the variety is laudable. New events are unlocked by swiping podium spots.

Given the prioritisation of style and scale over substance and finesse, Arctic Edge would be lost without its pimped-out visuals. Textures and geometry aren’t what they might be on a PS3, of course, but the game’s draw distances easily outstrip most rival handheld racers and the physics model is satisfyingly overpowered, all Jack-in-the-Box suspension and epic drift. The audio-scape is a predictable jumble of thrashy nu-metal.

A cunning shortcut? Or an impending life insurance claim?

A cunning shortcut? Or an impending life insurance claim?

My biggest objection to Arctic Edge is also what I most like about the game: it’s the same old Motorstorm in pocket-sized form, a solid “diet” reissue of a sensationally stupid racer. Between this and Polyphony Digital’s license-saturated offering, Sony certainly has the racing genre covered at both ends this autumn; let’s just hope Evolution Studios lives up to its name when the next Motorstorm appears.

7 out of 10

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