MotorStorm isn't exactly a racing series on par with Gran Turismo, but it's one of the most successful new IPs on this generation of consoles. With two games already on the PlayStation 3 and Sony keen to reignite gamers' love of the PSP, it was never going to take long for the off-road racer to arrive on the handheld. Arctic Edge is that game, offering familiar seat of your pants high-speed action, a new setting, and, perhaps slightly worryingly, a new developer at the helm. Is Arctic Edge a worthy entry in the MotorStorm series?
From the outset things are very similar to the previous MotorStorm games. There's yet another racing festival, this time taking place on a mountain in the Arctic, and a whole load of extreme off-road racers have turned up to ride their bikes, cars, jeeps, trucks, snowmobiles and ATVs around the perilous courses. Races are displayed on an event spiral, with points awarded for your performance in each race. Points go towards your overall rank and stars can be earned in certain events to unlock bonus events that aren't simply about getting to the finish line first. With around 100 events to work through the festival mode certainly won't be breezed through in an afternoon.
Arctic Edge isn't nearly as tough as Pacific Rift, but it's still not as forgiving and easy to get into as its arcade-style visuals suggest. MotorStorm has always been at its best when you're careering along at breakneck speed, and this hasn't been sacrificed in Arctic Edge just because it's running on a handheld. This is a proper MotorStorm sequel and not a spin-off to be forgotten about.
Inside the Wreckreation Time Attack, Free-Play and Multiplayer modes, you're free to choose whichever vehicle you like, but in the Festival mode you're given limited choice over vehicle selection. From previous games there's the Bike, ATV, Buggy, Rally Car, and Big Rig, with the Snow Machine, Snowplugger and Snowcat being exclusive to the Arctic setting. Whether you're taking the rough low route on a track in a big truck or skimming along narrow platforms up high on a bike, the thrill of being on the edge that made the PS3 games so much fun is here in abundance.
Developer BigBig is hardly a newcomer when it comes to PSP games. Having been responsible for the excellent Pursuit Force and sequel Extreme Justice, this is a studio that knows its stuff when it comes to getting what it wants out of the Sony handheld. This comes across in quite stunning fashion when you race in Arctic Edge for the first time. While the visuals here clearly can't match the PS3 games, BigBig has done a remarkable job creating such large tracks to race around.
MotorStorm's trademark vistas are here to ogle at, you get the same feeling of small and large vehicles competing against each other, and all of the courses have been created with clear care and attention. It all runs at a pretty nifty frame rate too, despite the odd moment of sluggishness when the entire pack of racers is on screen together. Completing the festival experience is an incredibly trendy soundtrack, with tracks from The Prodigy, Pendulum and The Chemical Brothers being the highlights.
There's a ton of variety to the courses, too, with each of the 12 tracks being split into four distinct zones. Being set in the Arctic there's obviously a lot of snow and ice about, but the higher you get the more treacherous the conditions become. Tracks set towards the bottom of the mountain are muddy, feature lots of gravel and are generally in keeping with some of the courses found in Pacific Rift, whereas the highest tracks are made up of snow, ice and glaciers, making for a very different driving experience.
Multiplayer is supported for both ad hoc local play and Infrastructure online play for up to six players. As well as standard racing across the tracks and with vehicles of your choosing, developer BigBig has implemented a neat new mode called Time Ticker. This is similar to the Eliminator mode that fans may be familiar with, but instead of having one player knocked out at the end of each lap, players constantly earn points as they race, with the total rising faster the further up the field you are. This makes for some fun games where you can win despite never being in first place throughout a race.
Arctic Edge is a great achievement on the PSP. The developer has managed to maintain what made the first two games in the series so popular, yet resisted simply giving people a cut down version of what they've already played. The Arctic setting makes for some great track design and incredible visuals, but there's just something holding the game back from being a true classic. The Festival mode feels a tad too formulaic and sterile, with modern racing games doing a better job at all the stuff outside the actual racing. It's also still a fairly tough game, despite its arcade visuals and premise. Still, with a ton of content, impressive multiplayer functionality and impeccable production values, MotorStorm: Arctic Edge deserves a place in your PSP collection.