Review by dancer62

"Ported from PSP!"

I've been playing the dickens out of Arctic Edge, on both PSP and PS2. And that's odd, because I hate winter and I'm a sports car person, not an offroader. Ice, snow, yecch! Last winter my poor little Supra sat in a snowdrift in front of the house for 2 weeks while I had to bum rides from friends with SUVs.. Still, although the Motorstorm series has previous PS3 games set in the tropics and the desert, Arctic Edge is the only one in the series so far available for PSP or PS2.

Arctic Edge on the PSP is the real deal.. one of the three games that show the PSP at its best, with Gran Turismo and any of the Monster Hunter Freedom series. Spectacular, compelling, addictive! So, I had to have the PS2 version, too. How does a PSP game translated to the PS2 compare? It's great, right from the opening movie that sets the stage for a motorized extreme sports tournament among icebergs and glaciers in a frozen wasteland.

Menus are easily navigable, and self-explanatory.. career mode, single race, time trial, multiplayer (PSP has ad-hoc and online, but no game sharing, PS2 has split-screen), garage (where you can customize vehicles, review statistics and extras, and select your driver), control and audio/music options.

Festival or career mode is the core of the game, each race awards points based on finishing in the top three, festival points unlock vehicles, races, and customizing kits. The main festival races are two or three lap competiions against nine other vehicles, on tracks with multiple paths and hazards. Some races also award stars, stars unlock special races: speed (checkpoint races with strict time limits), time ticker (accumulate points based on race position until one competitor reaches 999 points), and invitational series of races that award bonus vehicles.

Graphics are clear, with nice effects including snow, rain, shadows, sun glare. Vehicles are nicely detailed, and tracks feature animated waterfalls, fire breathing statues, multicolored searchlights, rising columns of colored smoke, aircraft flying past, and destructible ice bridges. There are enough landmarks to make each track memorable, and to establish preferred path, turn-in, and braking points. It takes time to learn all twelve tracks in forward and reverse, and different paths are better for different vehicles. Vehicle and driver select screens are a little distorted, apparently from squashing the PSP's widescreen mode to fit a standard TV for the console version, but the gameplay screens keep their proportions.

There are eight types of vehicles, from motorcycles to arctic snow tractors. Some vehicles like motorcycles and rally cars are fast and nimble but fragile, others, like sno-cats and big trucks are more ponderous but have tons of momentum and can smash their way through the pack. The vehicles all handle predictably, and my crashes are my fault, not the car's. Even the big rigs are surprising agile.

Gameplay is amazing, think Burnout offroad! Effective use of boost is vital to keep up with the pack, but overuse of boost will cause your vehicle to overheat and explode. Like Burnout, to be competitive, you have to be going faster than is really controllable, which can lead to spectacular crashes (lovingly detailed in slow motion). There are no points for crashes or takedowns, though. It's frustrating to be in the lead in the last lap of a race and crash, dropping from first to tenth in a heartbeat.. that's what the restart button is for.. and, if you're like me, you'll use it a lot. OTOH, I always know why I crashed, and either have a plan to avoid it next time, or, if I was shoved off into a crevasse by a big truck, I'll hope for better luck..

The soundtrack is really good hard rock, the few crap pieces are easily edited out of the playlist. I've never played a game that was more music-driven. The pounding beat of the music meshes with the frantic action of the races and ratchets up my pulserate. This is a game for cranking the music up and the sound effects down (but keeping them loud enough to hear the boost overheat warning). Good artists, I'm going to have to buy a Queens of the Stone Age album to hear more of their stuff.

After a race, a movie is shown of your vehicle and driver driving the course just raced. It is not a true replay, but a canned demo of the course, but I find it fun to watch while while my hands uncramp from the last race. The animation is great, suspensions working, exhausts spouting flame, wheels or treads spinning, driver sawing away at the wheel, damage to the vehicle, other vehicles cartwheel and explode, snowflakes, raindrops, clouds and mist, aircraft overhead, multiple camera angles. Nice! The driver model seems less smoothly animated than on the PSP, but OK. I love to watch the big Sno-cats go flying through the air!

There are two control schemes available, "motorstorm" put the accelerator and brake on the shoulder buttons, while "classic" follows the normal Playstation racing game pattern of putting acceleration on the x-button, brake on the square, e-brake on the circle. Control is smooth and predictable. Same controls on the PS2 and PSP, making it easy to go from one to the other.

The main career mode is compelling although, as other reviews have mentioned, the difficulty level takes a huge rise around level 4, and you'll be punching the restart button often. Besides the career mode, there are other things to do. Badges are awarded for various accomplishments (distances driven, number of crashes, wins without crashing, making custom vehicles, etc.). In time trial, you can try to beat the game developers' fast times, or just explore the courses. The PS2 version does not have the logo collecting subgame, although the logos are still hidden on the courses, there is no photo mode to register them, and no badges for logo collecting. Customizing the vehicles is cosmetic and does not affect their performance, but changing parts, repainting, and changing decals can give them a new look. It's all very addictive.

Overall, impressive graphics, great soundtrack, compelling gameplay, lots of options, it's not a game you'll tire of soon. High tension racing, low key customizing, exploring and sightseeing, or just kicking back and letting a replay run and listening to the music. It's one of the best games for the PSP, and a great game for the PS2. I'd rank it with my PS2 favorites, Tokyo Xtreme Drift 2 and Gran Turismo 4. The PS2 still lives!

Positives: Fantastic gameplay
Lots of options and things to do
Great graphics and soundtrack

Negatives: Uneven difficulty

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 07/23/10

Game Release: MotorStorm Arctic Edge (US, 10/20/09)

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