We take a look at MotorStorm for the PS3, and we discover this is one seriously hot game that makes dropping a few grand on an HD TV worth the money.

Had enough of predictable racing games? Us too, which is why we have the hots for MotorStorm. In every race you’re running a chaotic gauntlet of erratic physics, hostile AI and dangerous muddy slop. And it demands intense concentration because no two races are ever the same; by the third lap the course will have been carved and smeared into a brown sludge, mutilated objects and pulverised car shells blocking every turn. It’s a game that uses its complex physics engine as a core element, rather than a gimmick.

There are six vehicle classes to choose from: bikes, buggies, mud pluggers, big rigs, rally cars and ATVs. Bikes are our favourite. At the expense of being easily knocked off you can weave through small spaces and packs of other cars. Furthermore, if an ATV or fellow bike rider is nearby, you can press square to punch them and knock them flying into the muck.

Part of the game’s strategy is choosing the right vehicle. Another element of strategy comes in the form of boosting. By pressing X you can steadily increase your speed, flames spewing from your exhaust pipe. But you have a temperature gauge so if you boost for too long you’ll literally explode.

The tracks on offer are all desert-based. It’s a rhapsody in orange and red, with only the time of day helping to shift the colour palette. Moonlit night races are particularly atmospheric, and the scorching auburn sun of the early evening really shows off PS3’s sophisticated light rendering.

Everything looks beautiful. We all expected it but you really don’t understand until you’re watching it. The elaborately-detailed textures, beefy car models, raucous physics and shimmering reflections make PS2 look laughably low-tech. Pause the game at any time – during a crash or takeoff from a ramp for example – and you can spin and zoom the camera freely, admiring every impeccable detail.

It’s the liveliness of the races that makes MotorStorm so playable. It can be unforgivingly difficult and one crash can literally end your entire race. But it’s exactly as we’d imagine real off-roading to feel – volatile and merciless, like you’re always on the edge and struggling for control.

In terms of ‘next generation-ness’ MotorStorm is everything we hoped for. It’s something you genuinely couldn’t see running on another console and something that actually makes dropping a couple of grand on an HD telly seem worthwhile. Our only concern is that it’s a one trick pony. Once you’re sick of random argy bargy off-roading there’s very little avenue to grow any genuine skill. And with only eight tracks being re-used again and again at different times of day you will soon see it all. But forget about that for now – you will love it, and you will play it for hours. What more praise do you need?

Format: PS3
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1

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