MotorStorm: Arctic EdgeESRB:
Platform: PlayStation 2
Developer: Big Big Studios
1 player/ 1 player vs 2 player
8MB memory card save
The MotorStorm: franchise made its debut on Sony’s PS3 at launch and a PSP version was released a few weeks ago. For those without either one of those machines MotorStorm: Arctic Edge is now on the aging PS2. The game is a virtual port from the the PSP game and has no online components. I’m not sure of what to expect from the PS2 as it is way past its best before date and lacks the now expected high def graphics, but the machine still holds a few surprises; is MotorStorm: Arctic Edge one of them?
The PS2 started to show its age a few years ago, but developers have continued to try to squeeze every bit of polygonal goodness out of its ancient hardware. I don’t blame them for trying, as the old PS2 has consistently outsold the newer more powerful hardware until quite recently. I for one have gotten used to next gen graphics and have a hard time with PS2 games as the modern consoles leave it further and further behind.
There is the odd title here and there that still looks pretty nice and MotorStorm: Arctic Edge is one such title.
Right off the hop I noticed the huge mountain vistas which are gorgeous. I also noticed that the game’s framerate was fairly consistent with minimal draw-in. That’s not to say there is none to be seen in the game, as there are plenty of ugly areas you will find throughout, but it was less than I thought. The game does slow down in high traffic areas with some noticeable missing textures. By and large the biggest issues arise from overcrowding on screen which seems to bog down the hardware. From here everything tends to suffer as the framerate drops, even the gameplay suffers from the slow motion sickness. Overall these issues can be forgiven noting the age of the hardware, but it can be distracting and a bit disappointing when it does happen.
In terms of the environments, I did like the locales in the mountains, with colorful and bright tracks to discover and play. The game’s scope is really hampered by its hardware limitations, but still do impress from time to time. Overall I would say that this is a solid looking racer on the PS2’s 10 year plus emotion engine.
Arctic Edge’s sound is great across the board, featuring foremost an expansive, up-tempo track list full of big name bands like the Queens of the Stone Age and The White Stripes. Ever since the Burnout series showed the gaming world how effective an up-tempo, almost raucous, soundtrack can be the feature has become a standard for any arcade racer. Arctic Edge really delivers the goods here. Sound effects in this game are also particularly well executed. In a lot of ways, the audio has a big responsibility in this game due to the fact it now has to make up for a lot of the shortcomings of the PS2's visuals. Thankfully, Arctic Edge has a very good audio system that adds weight to crashes and really makes you feel like you're pushing the petal to the metal throughout the game. My sub and speakers really got a great workout as I cranked up the game during my play time. I was actually bopping my head to the soundtrack as I flying through some of the games cool tracks.
MotorStorm: Arctic Edge is a game that travels backward in time. The game goes from the PlayStation Portable to the PlayStation 2. Like you’d expect from any backwards conversion, some of the game’s gloss and lustre is lost in the downgrading. But as ports go, Arctic Edge holds up well enough on PS2 for diehard racing fans to consider it.
The meat of the game is Festival Mode, where players race motorcycles, snowmobiles, cars, and even dump trucks, across 12 different treacherous arctic terrains in a series of events. Some events are standard races against AI opponents and some are time attack or special route challenges. But the tracks themselves steal the show with various reversible twists, turns, and terrain that actually affect the handling of whatever vehicle you’re driving.
While the graphics take the major cut in the downgrading to the different machine, the controls do hold up well. The R1/R2 buttons are for forward motion; the L1/L2 buttons are reverse. Circle is the hand break and X is the boost. You can also fiddle with camera angles and views using X and Triangle. Let’s not forget the taunt/attack/honk horn Square button. In the end all you need is go forward or reverse, break and boost. Once you get the hang of a track and a good feel for what you’re driving, Arctic Edge turns into the kind of Zen experience good racing games turn out to be.
Arctic Edge on PS2 also preserves the vehicle customization that the MotorStorm: franchise is known for. By completing track challenges in Festival Mode, you earn points to put toward vehicle upgrades and unlock cosmetic stuff like paint or sponsor decals. It’s not as much of a thrill because of the graphics downgrade, but it’s nice to have something to work toward in the races.
I thought the game was pretty easy in terms of AI. It can be finished in fairly short order and the CPU counterparts rarely ever challenge you enough to get frustrated. In fact once you get ahead in races, you will find they almost never catch up and pass you, and of course you must keep your vehicle on the track to accomplish this. I had a bit of trouble at the outset as I reacquainted myself with the PS2 controller. Around minute 30 you will find yourself competing and winning pretty much anything the game throws at you.
Unfortunately the game has zero online capabilities, although there is a two player option where you can race and bash each other. The PSP version of the game is the only way to play online or via Ad Hoc.
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