Bouncing over the brow of a hill, my vision was obscured by flying mud just long enough for the motorcycle rider beside me to lash out with his foot. The cynical blow sent my dune buggy careening off course and into a tree, shattering it into a thousand airborne fragments.
That’s MotorStorm: Pacific Rift in an adrenaline-soaked nutshell - muddy off-road racing on outlandish courses with a touch of competitive violence thrown in for good measure. The original game was one of the first released for PS3 and wowed gamers with its realistic crash physics and fast paced action. This first game’s stark desert setting has now been swapped for the lush green valleys, tropical beaches and volcanic highlands of the Hawaiian islands, and is certainly a treat for the eyes.
Just like in the first game, smart use of turbo boost is the key to victory, but the tropical location adds another dimension to boosting this time around. Driving through water cools your engine (making boost last longer), while getting too close to lava will quickly overheat your turbo, causing a catastrophic engine meltdown.
It’s good to see that the agonisingly slow loading times of the first game have been drastically improved. It seems the sometimes maddeningly-high difficulty level of the original has also been softened somewhat. Unfortunately, I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that the main changes are mostly cosmetic. It’s like they’ve slipped a new skin on an old friend and called him a different name. Sure, Pacific Rift still has the wince-inducing rag-doll physics and the ultra slow-motion crashes the first game was famous for, but apart from the new setting not much else has changed. Don’t get me wrong: bouncing and whizzing through hectic terrain in a high-powered truck or buggy is great fun. If you’ve never played the first game, you’ll have blast with this. But if you already own the original, there’s not a massive incentive to fork out another $120.