To put it mildly, MotorStorm: Pacific Rift has been one of the most genuinely exhilarating console racing experiences I have ever had, so the prospect of receiving a further dose of action in the form of DLC was one of salivating proportions.
This is where the Speed and Adrenaline Expansions come in, Evolution Studio’s first attempt at expanding the MotorStorm experience since the launch of Pacific Rift last year. But with so many games now turning to DLC, how do Evolution’s efforts weigh up?
Read on as I dissect both expansion packs with a fine shard of broken glass.
First up is the Speed Expansion, which predominately takes the form of the new Speed Weekend festival, much in the same vein as the Revenge Weekend and Devil’s Weekend packs that were previously available for the first instalment of MotorStorm. This time around however the festival takes the form of a series of revamped speed events, akin to those that were found in the main game but with some new added bonuses and functionality.
These speed events work under a slightly different structure than before, requiring you to compete in a qualifying round before the main event. As before, you have to pass through a series of checkpoint races within an allotted time frame, which are divided into a requirement of a remaining 15 seconds for easy races, 20 for medium and 25 for hard. Successfully completing these qualifiers subsequently unlocks the main speed event, whereby you repeat the same race but with a multitude of new obstacles placed in your path which are designed to either enhance or hamper your time. For example, hitting green barrels will add on an extra second, whereas red barrels which will deduct a second, and there are also vehicle specific hazards such as low barriers that you have to duck under, should you be suicidal enough to race with the bikes or ATVs.
Whereas the speed events in the main game were often crushingly difficult, I found the Speed Weekend to be surprisingly lacking in challenge for the most part – with persistence it is entirely possible to finish the festival in one sitting. The inclusion of dividing the events into qualifying and main events was also initially ambiguous, as repeating the same track felt disjointed, particularly upon the realisation that you can unlock all the rewards by just completing the qualifiers.
It all makes sense however when you discover that the Speed Weekend was principally designed with online playability in mind. Progressing through the main events pit you up against every fellow MotorStormer on your friends list through a live leaderboard, which updates after you set a new time. This of course instantly puts you in direct competition with your friends, which results in some addicting gameplay of compulsive competitiveness – it’s a simple but well thought out system which works well, and it even cheekily sends a gloating notification to your rival if you manage to beat their time.
It is certainly a fun diversion from the usual MotorStorm mayhem, but I have always felt that the game is at its best when you are in the midst of a sadistic sandwich of destruction – a time trial feels all too tame by comparison. Even so, the focus on continually trying to beat the times set by your friends is refreshing, but then I would still have more fun nudging them off of a cliff in a heated online race.
What fans have really been craving for however are new tracks. The track design featured in Pacific Rift has always been of a consistently outstanding quality, and the new selections found in Speed do not disappoint in this department. In total, there are three new tracks for you to desecrate, starting with Quicksands which is a simplistic run through an open beach area, featuring jumps and sharp turns and, whilst not as complex as some MotorStorm tracks, is very picturesque and ideal for bikes and rally cars due to its wide terrain. Dark Fire Swamp ups the ante by utilising a forest area under a volcanic guise, but the highlight comes from Engorged, a treacherous trek through some water logged ruins. The track is dominated by a vast flowing river which runs throughout the track and is ideal for monster trucks as a result. My only criticism towards the tracks is that both Quicksands and Dark Fire Swamp are noticeably shorter than Engorged, but the diversity that each track delivers is once again utterly unmatched.
The tracks don’t even end there, either. Also included in the Speed Expansion are three volcanic remixes of existing Pacific Rift tracks, featuring Caldera Ridge, Wildfire and The Rift, which do a tremendous job of leasing some new life into these long standing tracks. In some cases, playing through these track variants is a completely different experience, as the new volcanic themes often provide alternative routes to what you may be accustomed to.
Finally, the Speed Expansion also offers four new vehicles in varying classes and some new paint schemes for each vehicle class in addition. There is a new bike, the Mohawk Montana, an interesting looking buggy dubbed the Lunar-Tec R-Cam, and the Atlas M-SUV, a morbidly intimidating monster truck that resembles a Hummer. Successfully completing the Speed Weekend will also unlock the Castro Monstruo, a pickup monster truck which looks somewhat bland when placed next to the Atlas M-SUV, and comes as a bit of a disappointment after finishing the main meat of the expansion.
Overall, the Speed Expansion has the makings of a good investment. Compared to some DLC, the load on your wallet is relatively light at £4.79/€5.99, and you do receive a healthy amount of high quality content for what you pay.
The Adrenaline Expansion was released a week later, and follows in a similar vein to that of the Speed Expansion with a wealth of new tracks and vehicles. First and foremost however, there is no new festival mode in the Adrenaline Expansion, which is initially disappointing as it means that this expansion is limited to merely supplying new tracks and vehicles, with no new gameplay experiences or challenges to progress through.
Fortunately, the new tracks are once again of a superbly high quality for the most part, and do both the game and the expansion pack supreme justice. Reef Runner is a clear highlight, taking place on a beach area similar to the Quicksands track from Speed, but it’s a much more dynamic and vast area in comparison. Initially starting through a rock infested beach, you soon find yourself duelling through a dense scenic forest area before finishing back on the beach which is packed with multiple routes. It also serves as a reminder of just how excellent the lighting and water effects are in this game – I am hard pressed to find any other racing title that matches them. Another fire themed track returns in the form of Brimstone, set inside a desolate, volcanic wasteland. Suffice to say, Brimstone simply isn’t very interesting to play through and feels dull and uninspired as a result. It is also short lived compared to the other two lengthy tracks. Finally, Hollowed Earth takes place within a chaotic cavern and is another fine example of Pacific Rift’s diverse track design. It is an exhilarating trip through blind turns, complex multiple routes and a vehicle engulfing waterfall, which all makes for some very intense racing.
Adrenaline also follows in Speed’s turbulent tyre marks by including a further four volcanic remixes, one of which originating from the new Hollowed Earth track, whereas the others take place in the familiar territories of Badlands, The Edge, Mudslide and Scorched. As before, these volcanic remixes offer a myriad of new dangers to these otherwise familiar tracks, particularly in the case of Badlands which has dramatically different routes.
As for the new vehicles, I felt that they were of slightly more appeal than that of the Speed Expansion, although that may partially have something to do with the fact I am biased towards the rally cars. To my delight, one of the new vehicles was the Italia Futura, a convertible Corvette inspired rally car which looks slick. A new Land Rover esque mud plugger also makes its debut in the form of Monarch Drover, along with the Nord Kodiak truck which looks like something out of Death Race. Lastly, the Falfer Imperial is yet another monster truck, although its archaic roots are comical since it is essentially a classic car with monster truck wheels.
The range of vehicles offered by both of the expansions coupled together is impressive, as there is now a new vehicle for most of the seven classes in the game to suit everyone, but then every vehicle in each respective class has always had similar characteristics, so the appeal lies purely from a cosmetic viewpoint.
In addition, Adrenaline also includes a total of six new drivers which sport three distinct costumes per driver, which is nice if you are tired of the current line-up that Pacific Rift has to offer, but they are otherwise a throwaway set of add-ons.
Adrenaline may not have any time consuming play modes, and you could argue that it is not as good value considering it is the same price as Speed, but the sheer quality and fun factor of the new tracks make it a package that is hard to resist for the asking price.
In conclusion, if you have to own every piece of content for MotorStorm and have no qualms with purchasing map packs, then these latest expansions will no doubt fulfil your appetite of destruction. The Speed Expansion offers better value for money thanks to the inclusion of a new festival to play through, but the content available from the Adrenaline pack is still equally worthwhile. Let’s just hope that Evolution continue to support the game with such shining examples of DLC.
Reviewer’s note: The Playstation 3 version was tested for both reviews.