The fan-favourite section returns and this time around it is to have a look at one of the genres I enjoy the most. I could have named these as arcade racers and it would have been an adequate name but there’s a line that some racing games cross where not only the cars behave in an forgiving/unrealistic fashion but go way beyond with breakneck speeds, massive drifts and even explosions. That’s what I decided to call crazy racers.
The games I’ll be covering this time around are Burnout Paradise, Motorstorm: Apocalypse and Split/Second: Velocity.
What are they?
As it’s obvious even from the title, these games are racers and of the arcadey type. None of the games feature any real vehicles or brands but these aren’t Gran Turismo either.
The main differences between them is that Burnout is the only one to feature an open world instead of individual courses and that Motorstorm is the only one that, apart from cars, it features bikes, atvs, trucks and can actually race at the same time together.
Like I mentioned earlier, Burnout is the only game that is set in an open world and Criterion sure put a lot of effort into that. None of the previous Burnout games were open world either so they had to implement the system from scratch but the ideas they came up with were pretty clever. The road layout was nicely crafted and while races could start from anywhere in the map, they would always end in one of the eight cardinal points. That meant that you had the freedom to really choose your own path and that made the open world aspect of the game to be actually meaningful.
Motorstorm’s “leitmotiv” would be the inclusion of all kinds of vehicles in its races. Every class with its own strengths and weaknesses, the game makes you think of strategies to win (or just survive) within its races. Those vehicle types have been from the start of the franchise but this particular Motorstorm: Apocalypse certainly has the record for most types. Since the game was no longer offroad exclusive the developers added more city-friendly vehicles like superbikes or compact cars.
Apart from that, there’s the apocalypse portion of the game. The game is set in a cataclysm and that has an effect on the courses not only visually but actually altering the layouts and adding hazards. For example, a tornado could throw debris onto the course that you’d have to avoid or maybe an earthquake would make a building collapse and completely block a road where you could previously pass.
As for Split/Second, there’s something similar to the Motorstorm: Apocalypse dynamic events. Similar to other arcade games like Burnout or the latest Ridge Racer games, there’s a bar you can fill by performing tricks like drifting and such but, instead of using that as a regular nitro bar, filling that bar gives you the chance to trigger events in the circuits. Blowing up a building, make an helicopter drop bombs on your rivals or maybe just activating a shortcut. It really makes the driving more intense and spectacular.
The good parts
You could say that the good parts from these games are the fact that their quirks are implemented particularly well (on the three of them).
For Split/Second and its crazy triggers the best part is how many there are within each track and how varied they got. Dams will get destroyed, entire boats will be dropped on top of you, gas stations will blow up… Michael Bay would be proud.
The balance between Motorstorm vehicles is superb and the design of each track feels handcrafted with plenty of alternative routes, that, with the way the enviroments are always changing around you makes you feel like a badass when you manage to survive the chaos and come up on top.
It should also be mentioned that the game features a 4 player split screen mode which is a joy and a very robust online portion with plenty of customization for your vehicles.
In Burnout, what has always set this franchise from the rest is the sense of speed of the cars and that was certainly very present in this sequel. Cars are incredibly fast and they handle in the most unrealistic way but the driving feels always tight and responsive. Having to handle such an overwhelming speed and avoid road traffic is the key to success.
It should also be said that the damage model present in the game was amazing back in its time and, even if it’s not very realistic, it’s still a joy to look at the metal twisting like burnt plastic as you crash.
The bad ones
To be honest, there isn’t that much to say because overall I enjoyed the three titles quite a bit.
My problem with Split/Second are the later stages of the game when the difficulty is at its highest because they are quite unforgiving. You’ll have the impression that all of the other rivals are focusing their hatred on you, even damaging themselves just to have the change to slow you down so you don’t win. It becomes a little too frustrating actually.
Then I have only two minor gripes with Motorstorm: Apocalypse. The first is the decision to change from some great licensed soundtracks in the previous games to a mediocre original one in this one. The other gripe would be with the way the camera shakes whenever there’s an eartquake in the game. Because it’s pretty annoying not being able to see properly where you’re going when that happens.
Burnout paradise’s main flaw is the inability to play split-screen multiplayer. These kinds of games are incredibly fun to play with friends at home and the only option Burnout paradise offers is switching the controller in turns. What a missed oportunity.
Here we have two of my favourite games from last gen and another game that I find to be a hidden gem. I recommend the three of them really.
Motorstorm apocalypse is my personal favourite because of the magnific Motorstorm formula added to the chaos of the apocalypse. If evolution (or what remains of them) were to kickstart a sequel I’d throw all my money at them because what they had with this game was truly special.
Burnout Paradise is so good that I went and beat it three times (damned corrupt files though) but the game never became my go to game to play when I invite friends over and that’s just because the offline multiplayer portion was such an afterthought.
As for Split/Second, I loved most of my time with it and I really wish more people had the chance to play it but, comparing it with the other two games, it really is the worst one. It’s still a very good game, it’s just that the others are better.