LAS VEGAS — MotorStorm, Japan’s best-selling Playstation 3 game, wheeled its way onto the American gaming scene via the sands of the Nevada desert this month.
Members of the media tested the heavily multiplayer off-road racing game in Las Vegas Feb. 27, before heading out to the dessert near Nellis Airforce Base for some dune buggy misadventures prior to the official March 6 American release date.
"With the power of the Playstation 3, our games are becoming more realistic looking," said Alex Armour, spokesman for Sony Computer Entertainment America. "With that in mind, we set out to create an interactive MotorStorm event for media."
With that take, Sony presented a MotorStorm day where journalists got the chance to meet the developers, play the game and then drive around in buggies in the Las Vegas sand dunes.
A whole new rally
"We wanted to harness the power of the PS3," said Nigel Kershaw, lead game designer for Evolution Studios, the game’s developer. "PS3 is a very very very powerful machine. We had to learn its power and what it could do."
Evolution set out a few years ago to develop a game that could combine the realism of a simulator with the playability of an arcade racer.
According to Kershaw, Evolution has been the leading producer of rally racing games, having previously produced several World Rally Championship games.
Rallying is the Tour de France of auto racing. Instead of driving around in a circle, drivers race road legal cars through a linear path, across several stages. In WRC races, teams of drivers and co-drivers survey the course for up to two days before spending up to three days on the actual rally.
Kershaw admitted the sport hasn’t enjoyed much of a following in the United States, and that provided much of the inspiration for MotorStorm.
"We knew exactly what we wanted to achieve," Kershaw said.
Evolution Studios chose Monument Valley in the southwest as their backdrop. Ariel reconnaissance and ground prospecting enabled the designers to make a stunningly realistic driving playground with real-time track deformation as you race around.
Monument Valley has a place in American pop culture. The area was chosen not only for its beautiful iconic landscape, but also because of a stated history of off-road racing.
Life of the party
Despite all that, Kershaw said there was still one problem with Monument Valley: it was in the middle of the desert.
In comes "the festival," which Kershaw compared to a cross between the Indy 500 and the Burning Man festival. The festival adds audio and visual elements that complete the experience. There’s live music on stage with flashing lights and a screaming crowd that breathes life under the hot sun.
This idea came together organically as the product evolved over time. It was a way for Evolution to breathe some life into the valley.
The goal is to become the champion of the festival, battling in a no-hold-barred environment of racing and destruction.
The festival also gave Sony and Evolution an excuse to include a soundtrack that can only be labeled as "sick." Bands include: Queens of the Stone Age, Nirvana, Primal Scream, Slipknot, Kings of Leon and Everytime I Die.
"The idea was to make it the best gig you’ve ever been to and give a reason for all these crazy people to be there," said Kershaw. It worked, and the festival gave life not only to Monument Valley, but to MotorStorm.
Sega’s Daytona. Midway’s Cruis’n USA and Cruis’n World.
In the last decade, gamers pumped quarter after quarter into these racing classics because they offered the simple and visually appealing thrill of jumping behind the wheel and racing your heart out. And if we crashed and exploded, no worries-we got right back on the track. Nothing too fancy; nothing needlessly complicated.
Both games faltered in the console world because that world lacked the technology to deliver the arcade experience.
MotorStorm is trying to bring that back, while adding a clip full of features like mixed vehicle classes and a tantalizing 720p visual performance.
Mixed vehicle racing allows the player to select among dune buggies, motorbikes, rally cars, semi-trucks and more, and race them all together with their own strengths and weaknesses.
Overall, the Playstation 3 is just waiting for a game like MotorStorm, and it needs more games like it to blast through the American market.