Motorstorm was a huge hit when it originally debuted on the PlayStation 3 as a launch title and its success saw a sequel in Motorstorm: Pacific Rift. To continue its rise as a successful franchise, Sony have decided to bring it to the PlayStation Portable under the guise of Motorstorm: Arctic Edge, although this time there is a new development studio behind the wheel in BigBig Studios, who previously worked on the Pursuit Force franchise.
As the name suggests, this time around the festival is set in the extreme cold, which opens up the doors for new vehicle types, as well as some interesting tracks. As has become the conventional format with Motorstorm, players take part in races that have vehicle classes associated with them and by coming 1st, 2nd or 3rd, they unlock points. These points can be used to unlock higher ranks, which in turn, unlock more racers to compete in. Stars can also obtained by achieving certain objectives, such as being a target time or sitting in first place for a set amount of time. These can be used to unlock races that differ from the stereotypical race, such as Time Ticker, where points are awarded every second based on the position held. In this mode, the racer to obtain the target total first is the victor.
Although there are a huge amount of races available to compete in, and the game should be commended for this, it would be have been nice to see a few more modes available. The majority of races revolve around the standard competitive format and there just isn't enough diversity. The tracks are great and there are twelve of them, which does help to offer some more deviation to stop the game from becoming stale. However, even with mirror modes and class specific races, it does feel like there are just races stuck in there for the sake of it.
This would be a major issue, but it's easy to overlook because of the sublime gameplay. The controls in Motorstorm have always been relatively simple, and that hasn't changed for Arctic Edge. Aside from the throttle and brake, players have access to a boost, handbrake and horn. The boost is where the strategy lies though, as it can only be used for a limited amount of time before it causes the chosen vehicle to overheat. Using it wisely can be the difference between winning and losing, especially in later events. Crashes can also significantly impact race results too though, and they feature in Arctic Edge just as prominently as the previous titles. It could be argued that the tracks are perhaps even more perilous now too, with the added winter element that's present.
There is a good range of attributes shared by the tracks, with plenty of mud, snow and huge jumps. Ice also plays a big part in some of the courses, as it can seriously affect traction with some vehicles. As expected, picking the right vehicle can make a massive difference to race performance and even the most skilled drivers will struggle if the wrong one is chosen. As well as the standard cars and bikes, the field now includes Snowpluggers and Snowplows. All of the vehicles handle really well, aside from the bike which feels a bit stiff. However, it's safe to say that when these vehicles are combined with the new tracks in Arctic Edge, it's definitely a winning combination. It feels great to fly around the tracks, and with the AI as competitive as always, there is always a strong sense of competition. Winning a race, especially later on, always feels like a huge achievement and it's a testament to the game's design.
The look and feel of Motorstorm has been preserved extremely well and although the graphics aren't up to the standard of the PlayStation 3 versions, they are still impressive. What's probably the most impressive aspect though, is how well the physics work. Some of the tracks feature some definite gravity-defying elements, but everything seems perfectly plausible. The sound design is also top notch, and the accompanying licenced soundtrack again helps to promote the festival atmosphere. The only slight gripe with the graphics is perhaps that sometimes it can be difficult to see elements that are approaching due to the sheer speed. A group of pixels can quickly become an obstacle that needs to be avoided, and because of this, memory is sometimes relied upon more than perception.
As well as the numerous races available to players as part of the festival, there is also a full online component. All of the game types can be played online on all of the tracks, so nothing has been cut to allow for the modes inclusion in the game. It's definitely a nice feature if there is the community available, and the addition of online leader boards should help to make things even more competitive. Aside from this, there are plenty of unlockable items in the game and the ability to customise the vehicles. The options available are all cosmetic, but it's still a welcome feature as parts can be changed as well as colours and sponsors. Wreckreaction Mode is also available for those who don't want to take part in the campaign. Here they can do quick races against AI, or take part in Time-Attack mode.
Motorstorm: Arctic Edge perfectly recreates the look at feel of the Motorstorm franchise on the PlayStation Portable. The only concession that appears to have been made is with the graphics, something which is hardly surprising. Everything else is just as would be expected in a full console title, and while it would have been nice to see a larger amount of variety in the race modes available, the excellent gameplay makes this easy to overlook. The addition of a full online mode is also something that is worth highlighting, and it's the icing on the cake of what's simply an extremely polished product.