"Well, this isn't MotorStorm" was my immediate reaction to MotorStorm RC. Yes, it was created by Evolution Studios and each of the game's sixteen tracks allegedly drew influence from MotorStorm's previous four entries. But gone was the first person point of view, the ridiculous sense of speed, the exotic locals, and that oddly perfect Burning Man atmosphere. In its place was a top down racer reminiscent of Super Off-Road or RC Pro-Am. MotorStorm may have finally saturated its market with Apocalypse last year, but to slap the name on an arcade-like radio control car racer felt like a cheap opportunity to cash in on brand recognition.
It took a little while, but eventually another asset that has defined MotorStorm manifested in MotorStorm RC - that swift kick in the pants known as difficulty. The first instance was the seemingly impossible race on the Easy Glider event, but soon every event became an intense struggle and I kept returning to older courses to get better times. But I'm getting a little ahead of myself here; let's detail what exactly composes the challenge of MotorStorm RC.
Four groups of races are separated into themes defined by the preceding MotorStorm games. Not exactly, mind you, rather it looks like Evolution looked at what had came before and went full throttle with the remote control car aesthetic. The overhead view is significantly detached from the action, leading to rather small cars but enhancing the suspicion that you're racing through a diorama of MotorStorm classics. There's still plenty of room for ice, dirt, concrete and debris-scattered fields - and each feels appropriately unique - but all of the courses feel designed for the loosey-goosey handling one might expect from radio controlled cars.
Sixty four challenges for eight classes of cars come in the form of standard races, events where you have to overtake a certain number of cars in a predefined time, ghost races, and tricky drift events. None of these are too far outside the norm on their own, but the way MotorStorm RC incorporates and applies ghost data from your friends (and others on the leader board, I believe) is wholly unique. Your friend's race data is transformed into an unobtrusive arrow, and it snakes around the course right along with the physical racers. Furthermore whenever a friend smashes your time (or vice versa) MotorStorm RC is quick to let you know about it. On one hand this asynchronous multiplayer can come off like a band aid on the absence of legitimate online racing. On the other, it's really damn cool and, in a way, ensures your friend's data and times live on far beyond the normal lifespan of an online community. It's a great idea, and deserves to be incorporated in every racer from here forward. The PlayStation 3 version is also good for four player split screen racing, giving it a leg up on its Vita counterpart.
However wanting to one-up your friends isn't the only challenge in MotorStorm RC. As previously mentioned, the game is ruthless in later stages. Each event presents the opportunity to earn three medals based on finishing position. Medals accumulate in a game wide total that builds to unlock further race events. A myriad of cars can also be unlocked, though under more abstract circumstances like getting all three medals on a specific course. It's not unlike the usual MotorStorm progression, and incentivizes going back and getting first place on easier courses to earn all three medals. Not only will you be better prepared, but you'll also hopefully have access to faster, more advanced cars.
Handling is the crux of any racer, and MotorStorm RC is something of an acquired taste (or should I say, acquired race) in that category. Your relative position changes but the default (and best) camera never shifts position. This makes acclimating oneself to control a process learned exclusively through practice before intuition eventually takes over. It was frustrating out of the box, and unfortunately it was frustrating for entirely different reasons later on. I'll credit Evolution for keeping the AI's lap times consistent, but to be doing so well in a race only to have it ruined by a rear ending someone and spinning your car 180 degrees is a huge momentum killer. Replaying a track is instantaneous and races honestly never last for more than a couple minutes, but it's deflating and disheartening to have a perfect run wiped out by a stupid physics mistake. This is MotorStorm in a nutshell and it's always been a love it or hate it affair, so fair dues in that regard. Personally I have respect for its mission but lack the drive to maintain interest in the long term.
That's not to say MotorStorm RC doesn't have other hooks in place to draw you back in. A playground full of skate ramps, basketball goals, and soccer nets is progressively unlocked. It's ultimately frivolous, but actually quite a bit of fun to mess around in when you get tired of racing. It reminded me of burning time away with the ramps in Skate or Die II; unrelated to the game at hand, but a silly blast all the same.
Special commendation goes out to MotorStorm RC's slick interface. The PSN version isn't beset by the frequent loading found on the Vita edition and, as a whole, the game feels seamless. The music, which seems to mirror the recent dubstep craze, never stops or resets, remaining continuous through every transition. Additionally, quitting back to the menu and selecting a new race or customizing your earned cars is instantaneous. This may seem like a relatively minor feature, but it speaks to the care and attention that Evolution invested in creating a game specifically for the download space. Some of their peers can't even get that concept right and it feels like Evolution made it a priority as soon as they were free from the shackles of a spinning a retail disc
MotorStorm RC also syncs with the Vita version, which, as of this writing, also happens to be free. Assuming both are synced to your PSN account, races and medals unlocked will carry over and each game gets their own set of trophies. The PlayStation 3 version also looks better, especially on the Arctic Edge stages, and the analog triggers on the dual shock make for better gas and brake than the Vita's sticks. It's the preferred way to play, but being able to take it with me on the go and actually make progress was a remarkable asset, and hopefully the first of many PS3/Vita crossovers.
MotorStorm RC doesn't appear to be related to MotorStorm, not at first anyway. Dig a bit deeper and you'll eventually discover Evolution's signature talent at pushing the player closer and closer to perfection. Frustration induced by goofy physics is a bummer, but somewhat mended through the novel asynchronous play and the oh-so-sweet instant crossover with the (currently free) Vita version.