Regular readers will notice that the following article is a slight departure from our usual preview style. For gamescom 2010 we've adopted a streamlined structure, allowing us to cover as many games as possible while giving you the important juice and info. In many cases we'll be running longer, more detailed previews upon our return to the UK.
What is it?
The third (console) game in the Motorstorm series; Apocalypse is a racing game set during the midst of a devastating earthquake. Sitting behind the wheel of supercars, super-bikes, muscle cars and choppers, players will see the already dilapidated city falling to pieces around them. To enhance the experience, the game is being developed with technology-of-the-moment, 3D, and this is exactly how I experienced the game when I played it behind closed doors at gamescom.
What was shown?
Sitting down with Simon Barlow, Assistant Game Director at Evolution Studios, I played the game with an insightful narration from the developer. After donning the 3D glasses and choosing a set of wheels (I opted for the supercar), the race was underway. Set in an apocalyptic take on California's Bay area known simply as The City, I raced alongside twenty or so other racers across a range of different vehicle types, all of which were prepared to ram each other into oblivion to cross the finish line first. Control wise, it plays out very similarly to the first games - although the handling feels suitably sensitive, the over-the-top drifts and combat options are a firm reminder that this is no simulation.
Graphics are perhaps the most interesting point of discussion here. The use of 3D couldn't be more appropriate; buildings were crumbling, dropping huge chunks of debris onto the track. Bits of miscellaneous debris hovered in front of the screen, giving a perfect sense of the destruction that was surrounding my vehicle. In many ways, it reminded me of Split/Second, although everything seemed to play out on a much grander scale. Every now and then, the camera would detach itself from its usual position behind my car, and show a bridge or a building as it was ripped from the ground, showering a slow motion rain of rubble down onto the track.
When asked about whether Split/Second had influenced the design of the game, Barlow said that it was actually disaster movies and action adventure games that had inspired them. Barlow cited The Day After Tomorrow, Uncharted and God of War as some of their influences - quite different to what you'd expect from a racing game. Barlow also spoke about how the game would maintain a narrative, again, something we're unaccustomed to for this genre of game. Evolution Studios is well aware that this is unconventional, and has crafted the narrative appropriately.
The story focuses around three racers, all of which are drivers in the Motorstorm championships. After hearing that an Earthquake was due to hit The City, the drivers packed up shop and made their way there, keen to take the racing festival to the most dangerous place possible. Following the action upon their arrival is a character that Barlow referred to as a journalist. This journalist will tie together the three storylines, giving the game a sense of structure. Although I didn't see any of the cutscenes first hand, Barlow said they would replace the loading screens so not to take players out of the action.
Just like the previous games in the series, Apocalypse handled very well. I was told that my finishing position of 7th place was "very good for a first time", but seeing the mangled carcass of my car cross the finish line failed to fill me with confidence. Again, the damage is authentic, and taking on a car larger than your own will inevitably end in tears. I haven't played all that many 3D games, but this is one of, if not the best application of the tech I've seen yet. Although they're entirely different games, I suspect that Gran Turismo 5 might steal some of its thunder in the wake of gamescom. From what I've seen today, however, Motorstorm: Apocalypse could be well worth keeping an eye on.
Motorstorm: Apocalypse will be available for PlayStation 3 in Q1 2011