Between the futuristic styling of WipEout 2048, the kart racing in ModNation Racers and the arcade action of Ridge Racer, the PS Vita has the speed freak audience covered. And yet even with all the variety that currently exists on Sony's brand new portable, Sony is able to put out a racing game that is nothing like the competition. That game is MotorStorm RC, a radical departure from the top selling PlayStation 3 franchise.
MotorStorm RC is a game about remote controlled cars. I know that seems obvious, but this is part of a sub-genre you don't see very often. Instead of experiencing the race from behind the car or inside the driver's seat, this RC game looks at the track using an isometric angle. This overhead perspective can be a little jarring, especially when it comes to controlling these remote controlled cars.
Evolution Studios has decided to use the PS Vita's two analog sticks to emulate the classic RC car controller. The left analog stick is responsible for steering, while the right deals with acceleration and reverse. It's an unorthodox set-up I wasn't expecting. I remember spending a lot of my youth assembling and driving remote controlled cars as the local hobby shop, so I had no problem jumping into this intriguing racing game. But I wondered about all of those people who never owned an RC car. There's a learning curve here that might actually be greater than wipEout 2048.
The game's events are split into four different festivals, each based on a different MotorStorm games. This means we get a bunch of stages based on locations from the first game, Pacific Rift, Arctic Edge and last year's Apocalypse. The different festivals really highlight how unique each of those games was. The Arctic Edge levels are full of slipping and sliding, while the Apocalypse courses take place in locations a lot of us see every day. Ironically, the four locales give the game a nice sense of variety, something the first four games lacked.
Much like wipEout, Burnout and other modern racers, MotorStorm RC has you doing more than racing other opponents. Some stages require you to hit a certain lap time. Another will have you trying to pass a bunch of opponents as quickly as possible. One inspired event has you drifting around corners for points. There are 48 races in all, enough to keep even the most hardcore racer going for a good while.
The courses themselves are extremely short, taking no more than 15 - 30 seconds to make the full trip. Racing these bite-sized stages barely gives you enough time to take in the detailed environments. The Sun Gold Mesa takes place over a gorgeous stretch of canyons. Charred Rock Café sees you racing through the parking lot of a local eatery. Wrecked has you driving over broken airplane wings and bridges in the overgrown jungle. In sharp contrast, Road Block requires you to drive around destroy buildings, tanks and burning cars.
There isn't much to do outside of playing through the game's four festivals and collecting all 144 medals. You can look at your garage, which offers a possible 131 vehicles to earn. There's a time attack and free play mode, both of which are exactly what their name suggests. And if you're too stressed out by the high speed action of racing, you can do tricks in the playground.
In an interesting move, the developers of MotorStorm RC opted against including a multiplayer mode. Perhaps asking for a fully-featured online mode is too much, but this is a racing game that would lend itself well to local Ad Hoc gaming. Thankfully you can compare your scores via the well implemented leaderboards. It's a testament to the strong user interface that I'm not more upset about the lack of proper multiplayer.
It's also disappointing that players aren't given a better selection of cars. For the most part, you'll only have one car available for each event. There are others you can choose from, but that involves either winning enough races or using real world money to buy it. It's a shame that so much of this game is locked away from the start.
MotorStorm RC probably won't resurrect the remote controlled racing sub-genre, but it does make for a solid downloadable title for the PS Vita. While the unorthodox gameplay and difficult computer AI will turn some gamers off, I had a fun time with this throwback. It won't keep you away from wipEout for long, but MotorStorm RC is a lot of fun in very small doses.