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Critical Reception: SCEA/Evolution Studios' MotorStorm: Apocalypse

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to offroad racing sequel MotorStorm: Apocalypse, which reviews describe as "some of the most sensational racing you can experience on the PlayStation 3."
This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to offroad racing sequel MotorStorm: Apocalypse, which reviews describe as "some of the most sensational racing you can experience on the PlayStation 3." Apocalypse currently earns a score of 78 out of 100 at Metacritic.com. GameSpot's Mark Walton scores Apocalypse at 8.5 out of 10. "The MotorStorm series has always eschewed simulation in favor of big thrills, chaotic racing, and exotic circuits," he notes. "In MotorStorm: Apocalypse those elements have been refined to focus on what the series does best." "The thrills are bigger, the racing is more intense, and the circuits are intricately designed and breathtakingly beautiful," he praises. "They're also complete and utter anarchy. Earthquakes tear up roads, tornadoes hurl speeding trains at you, and helicopter gunners do everything they can to turn you into a fiery ball of twisted metal." Apocalypse's new story mode offers ample opportunity to show off the new destructible environments, and little else. "Warnings of a massive earthquake have caused the city to be evacuated, leaving only a few stubborn inhabitants," Walton notes. "Why a security team known as Dusklite is hunting you is never fully explained, and the racers' motivations remain a mystery, so you never empathize with them. The story is at best a means to an end: a premise for the destruction and a way to get you from race to race." "By destroying the very ground you're racing on, Apocalypse throws up constant surprises that test the reflexes of even the most hardened racing fan, making each race an absolute delight from start to finish," Walton writes. "The jaw-dropping track design that will keep you coming back for more, creating some of the most sensational racing you can experience on the PlayStation 3." Jose Otero at 1UP.com gives Apocalypse a B rating. "My car gets wrecked; tossed around; ran over; rear-ended out of the winning spot; taken down from a qualifying spot; squashed; or flattened against a highway divider by a monster truck," he describes. "But after all that, I still hit the X button to respawn my ride in MotorStorm Apocalypse, and go diving back into the fray." This often leads to frustration, however. "Once you clear the rookie campaign, the kind of skills you'll need to reach a qualifying position for advancement to the next race can then border on omnipresence," Otero warns. "And remember, that's just for a qualifying spot (which is usually third place on Pro difficulty). If you're in a race where everybody drives the same vehicle, then the races can be pretty easy. "But take into account that MotorStorm tends to purposely pit you against bigger vehicles; so while you speed along on a tiny dirt bike, a Big Rig then comes along, and well, you know the rest. I swear, at one point I thought there was a monster truck with my name permanently printed on his bumper from how many times he ran me off the road." "But if you're up for the challenge," Otero writes, "it's ultimately rewarding when you race that perfect line and survive the innumerable hazards. Carefully maneuvering through dense car crowds (up to 16 at one time) in competitive races, survivor events, and eliminator challenges has to be one of the most exhilarating experiences in a video game -- even if you start to feel like a glorified crash test dummy." Joystiq's Randy Nelson rates Apocalypse at 3 out of 5 stars. "As far as awesome spectacles in gaming go, MotorStorm Apocalypse is up there with the best," he begins. "I don't know if I've ever seen a game, let alone a racer, with this amount of action happening at any given moment. I can't help but marvel at the degree and detail of the destruction it renders on a city-wide scale -- which is a problem, since I'm supposed to be focused on racing." Nelson continues: "Everything comes at you so fast, furious, loud and bright that opponents trying to ram you off the 'track' (little in this game resembles an actual race course) are the least of your worries. No, the greatest risk is running into the scenery ... over and over and over again." "The twitchy control doesn't help, nor does the fact that even the largest vehicle feels like it's filled with some lighter-than-air gas," Nelson notes. "Actually, I think the real culprit is a physics model that's clearly way past its prime -- and that was in 2006 with the original (and far less crash-filled) game." "The phrase 'rough around the edges' gets bandied around a lot when talking about games, but I can't think of one in recent memory to which it applies more appropriately or literally," Nelson concludes. "MotorStorm Apocalypse really nails the whole apocalypse thing, no question. It's the actual racing that's taken the back seat. "There are moments when the planets align and the experience becomes pure arcade racing magic -- but they're only moments. The rest of the time you're just an angsty, glorified crash test dummy."

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