It's a beautiful day. The sky is that brilliant blue shade that you only get on the very best days of summer, and there's not a trace of cloud in sight. What better time, then, to head to the cavernous vaults of Fabric on London's Charterhouse Street. I'm reminded of my childhood, when my mother desperately tried to drag me away from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the Atari ST, and out into the fresh air. Now, some two decades later, I'm heading to what feels like the most light-deprived spot in town - and I'm going to spend the morning with a DualShock 3 in my hands. Some things never change.
So, I make my way past the bouncers and clatter down the club's metallic stairs, down into the belly of the Earth. The last glimpses of sunlight disappear, and I join the other journalists, all of us skulking about in the dark like coffee-quaffing moles in T-shirts. But here's the thing: as soon as Evolution's presentation starts, we forget all about the outside world. Hell, the sun could be going supa nova for all we care - because MotorStorm: Apocalypse has our complete and utter attention.
Evolution's new approach to the franchise is almost certainly going to set chins awagging. Thanks to the pictures that leaked online earlier this week, you may have already heard about the setting: a coastal US city that's suffered a devastating earthquake. However, none of these refugee images do justice to the utter chaos of the game in motion. You see, while the main earthquake has supposedly been and gone, it seems that Mama Tectonic Plate hasn't quite finished shaking her booty. Aftershocks are a distinct possibility, but even when the ground isn't shaking under your wheels there'll be plenty of other serious threats to your no-claims bonus.
Races take place over, under and straight through the ruins of the evacuated metropolis, forcing drivers to deal with all manner of environmental hazards - collapsing buildings, sunken roadways, and massive piles of rubble. On top of that there's a Private Military Contractor on the prowl - and in typical video game form, all the troops have gone mad and started shooting everything that moves. Throw in the now-mandatory band of crazy nut-jobs who've stayed behind to loot, party, and get run over by speedfreaks like your good self, and you've got yourself a recipe for a good time.
The MotorStorms of old were hardly a sedate experience, but as a result of these explosive additions, Apocalypse feels like a balls-out thrill ride. Barely a second of race time can tick by without something bursting into flames, keeling over, or crumbling into a heap, causing thick clouds of smoke to spew across the makeshift track. Mere moments after starting Sony's first demo a runaway oil tanker overtakes the racing pack, a suicidal lunatic hanging from a ladder at the rear; the truck veers across the road and into the side of the track, ending its life as a fireball outside an abandoned shopping mall. Later on you'll find yourself soaring over a hill and into a massive jump - but when you hit the ground, the whole road gives way and collapses into a disused carpark that lies underneath, offering a choice of routes.
The obvious comparison point is Black Rock's recently-released Split/Second, but while there are certainly some similarities between the two, there's a clear difference in Evolution's approach to mass destruction. Split/Second used its destruction effects as a sort of glorified power-up set to be triggered by players, but here the bedlam is almost constant, and part of the surrounding world. You're not just racing against your fellow drivers, you're battling to keep control of your vehicle as the ground gives way beneath you, as you tear through a falling block. And as if that wasn't enough to worry about, there's also the series' familiar Nitrous Boost system, which blows your motor to smithereens if you push it too far.