Although we've been playing MotorStorm: Pacific Rift for hours, and although it's undoubtedly better than the original, we're struggling to pinpoint exactly why that is. Sure, it looks prettier than before with dense, intrusive foliage and giddying speed blur, while the selection of vehicles and customisable options are more varied, but the core gameplay is almost identical.
Pacific Rift steers away from the cliff-top racing of the original and dumps you on a deserted island packed with dense forests, beautiful sandy beaches and tracks laden with scorching lava pools. There seems to be a bigger emphasis on vehicle attributes this time around too.
There are rally cars, buggies and even the new monster trucks. Each one comes with benefits - bigger vehicles can carve through water easily and ATVs are able to slip through tight tunnels. The thrill of skidding through a hairpin on a bike - knowing that one false twitch of the left-stick means a mouthful of dirt - is about as high an adrenaline boost as you are going to get in any racing game, but on the downside there's the return of the laborious big rigs that are just about as fun as being a bus driver in Rochdale.
Now each of the vehicles can be kitted out with a new chassis to liven up even the dullest motor. You can put a dinosaur skull-shaped body kit on a car if you're into that kind of thing.
Apart from being able to ram other cars off the track with o and u side-swipes, the biggest improvement is the plausible random behaviour of the AI that you race against. One minute they'll be tearing past you with their boosters blaring and the next they'll explode into bits as they overheat their jets.
Take-off from one of the huge mountain-top ramps and they're just as likely to scuff their launch and splat against a rock-face like Wile E Coyote as you are. This erratic nature makes for some seriously unpredictable entertainment and means you'll never play through the same race twice. It's not only the gung-ho racers that help keep things varied either.
Trackside obstacles become strewn across the course creating another danger for you to overcome, like oil-barrels or bits of shanty town houses that have been smashed by the bigger vehicles. You'll have to keep your eyes peeled if you're going to take the championship. This isn't to say that MotorStorm: Pacific Rift is an easier game than the first one though.
For our money, we fancy that Pacific Rift is way easier than the original. While most racers are just as fallible as you are, there are also a lot of moments where the guy in front will suddenly slow down and let you fly past. This is no more apparent in the new Elimination Mode where the person in last place when the counter hits zero is blown up and taken out of the race. It's ideal for novices but a bit patronising when you're a skilled racer and then you see the guy up ahead slam on the brakes for no reason.
All about the race
Amongst the other new modes are checkpoint races where you have to ride between all the gates before the timer runs out, a time-trial mode and Wrecked, where you can only total your vehicle a number of times or you'll fail to gain bonus points. Despite these new variations, Pacific Rift is still primarily about the racing, and while it's still brilliant, we feel like it's holding MotorStorm back.
After playing Pure (PSM3#105 75%) and being won over by its SSX-inspired trickery we can't help but feel a little underwhelmed with the relentless racing in Pacific Rift. The track designs of Disney's ATV racer have a real bombastic feel as you fly over mighty chasms and the camera pulls out to show the world below, so it's a shame that you rarely get the same excitement values here.