It’s pretty commonplace for launch titles to be a little… shall we say, shallow? Perhaps that’s being slightly uncharitable, but it’s nonetheless clear that the value components for a lot of the PS Vita’s launch titles are, understandably, on the low side. Someone forgot to inform Evolution Studios of this long-held gaming tradition, however, because this is one title that’s bursting with content, and all for a measly £4.79; that’s cheap as chips, as a certain mahogany-coloured man once said.
MotorStorm RC is a curious blend of MotorStorm staples and Micro Machines. You drive a selection of cute little RCs, based on the vehicle types available in previous MotorStorm titles, including buggies, racing trucks, monster trucks, rally cars, muscle cars, minis, and big rigs, each of which comes with its own pros and cons. You can opt for a traditional control set-up (D-pad and X for accelerate, thank you nicely), or one of the two new control systems, which use the analog sticks for both vehicle control and movement. I found both to be very awkward, the second one especially so, but you’re soon given the option to customise the controls to your own specifications, so these new control set-ups are fortunately entirely optional. It’s not an overstatement to say that was a game saver for me.
Just as in past titles, there’s a standard Festival mode, where you work through individual events trying to earn medals which in turn unlock new vehicle types, paint jobs and more events. It’s a system which works wonderfully on a handheld; it’s easy to be drawn into the compulsive and highly addictive nature of quickly jumping in and out of different events, earning medals before moving on to the next one or trying to get all three medals in the event, and thanks to the minimal loading times and short tracks (lap times are typical in the 10-20 second range) it means there’s hardly any down time. RC even takes a page out of Trial HD’s books and makes the restarting of events instantaneous. All of this makes MotorStorm RC the perfect template for portable racing titles on Vita to follow.
The developers have even managed to evolve Need for Speed’s Autolog system by leaps and bounds. There are easy-to-access leaderboards for every single event, a live feed that constantly updates you on the progress of your friends and rivals, and also in-game ghost lines representing your rival’s best lap. It’s the best of Autolog and a typical time trial mode combined, made much more immediate and hassle-free thanks to the genius way it’s been seamlessly integrated into every facet of the game.
The Festival itself is split into four different themes around which the tracks are built. The themes are, naturally, based on RC’s four elder brothers: Monument Valley (from the original MotorStorm), Pacific Rift, Arctic Edge, and Apocalypse. While the tracks aren’t like-for-like replicas of the original ones, they’re littered with familiar features, landmarks, and handling sensations, so they at least feel like the tracks you find in the original titles. There are also four different event types: standard races, hot laps (time trials with ghosts), drift events, and overtaking events (where you have to overtake a set number of opponents as quickly as you can), so there’s plenty of variety thrown into the mix as well.
The vehicles and tracks are very cute and endearing, and the replication of the four highly distinct locales from the previous games is impressive, but if anything lets MotorStorm RC down, it’s the presentation. Weak graphically, and lacking as it is in detail and polish, this isn’t a title that you’ll be using to show off Vita’s graphical advances. It certainly looks decent for a budget PSN title, but nothing more than that. The soundtrack features far too much dubstep for my tastes (between this and WipEout 2048, dubstep is obviously popular in racing titles right now), neglecting the additions of heavy rock, electronic, drum and bass, and metal which allowed the soundtracks from its predecessors to appeal to a much wider audience.
As I mentioned in the introduction, MotorStorm RC will set you back a mere £4.79, making it the cheapest Vita game currently available. For that you get a fairly lengthy Festival mode, 16 unique tracks, 8 vehicle types, a bonus time attack mode, a free play mode, a copy of the game for both the PS Vita and the PS3 (with shared game progress and PS3-exclusive features), and a playground mode; a lot of content, in other words. The playground, which is a great new addition to the series, is a self-contained area featuring a skate park, football pitch, small racing track, basketball court, and construction site, where you can mess around and experiment with your different vehicles, earn trophies, and perform tricks.
If you were initially disappointed that this wasn’t a ‘proper’ MotorStorm game when you first heard the concept, then you really should give it a second look. Although Arctic Edge was a great title on the PSP, MotorStorm RC is far and away the better portable title; it’s a perfect fit for the platform it’s on. Addictive and highly compulsive, MotorStorm’s come back from the brink of oblivion with the antidote to the PS Vita's poor-value launch offerings.
This review is based on a digital copy of MotorStorm RC for the PlayStation Vita.