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    Sand blasted

    Gazing out across the heat-hazed volcanic landscapes, the sun-kissed beaches and the thick impenetrable jungle in Motorstorm: Pacific Rift, it’s hard to understand what I was thinking of when I originally gave the game 7/10 when I reviewed it for this place back in November last year. Perhaps I still had the memory of the original Motorstorm nestling at the back of my mind, and though it was a relatively flashy launch game that finally convinced me to stump up the exorbitant amount of money for a PS3, it wasn’t genre-defining.

    Motorstorm: Pacific Rift improved on the original in practically every way. For someone who was obsessed with Matchbox (and Corgi) cars as a kid, it ticks the “collect-em-up” box by featuring the most pleasingly diverse and astonishingly detailed collection of vehicles you could hope to find in an off-road racer. Compare and contrast the vehicles in Motorstorm: Pacific Rift with the lacklustre designs in Codemasters’ recent FuEL and the game’s already streets ahead.

    Then there are the track designs. Each of the four “elemental” track zones from Air, Fire, Water and Earth lend themselves to some of the most twisted and complex track designs I’ve ever seen in an off-road game. They make as good a case as any for a track-based game vs a soulless open-world environment as it’s possible to make.

    The new Speed Weekend DLC for Motorstorm: Pacific Rift brings several enhancements to the single-player gameplay as well as a few bits and bobs for the multiplayer side of the game. The main content is a whole new speed challenge mode that covers all of the main vehicle types (Bikes, Quads, Buggies, Mudpluggers, Rally Cars, Racing Trucks, Big Rigs and Monster Trucks). It’s a good way to ensure that you can pick and choose the vehicles you’re most comfortable with before chipping away at those vehicle types you haven’t quite mastered yet.

    Bikes and quads get a slightly different set of challenges to cars and trucks, but the general idea is the same. First, you race a qualifying lap in your chosen vehicle in a timed challenge. You need to get through each time gate as quickly as possible to amass enough time to hit the qualifying mark. Do so, and you go on to the race proper – and again this is a timed challenge, though with a twist.

    For bikes and quads the main race challenge sees you either ducking under low beams or bunny-hopping red barrels. This is about as tricky as it sounds, and the L1 and R1 buttons allow your rider to duck, or bunnyhop accordingly. Timing is of the essence here, and missing an obstacle or hitting one trims a few vital seconds off your overall race time. If you fail to make the cut, there’s nothing for it but to try, try again.

    For cars and trucks the gameplay’s slightly different. Rather than ducking under or bunnyhopping over barrels, you’re tasked with hitting green barrels and avoiding red barrels in the main time challenge modes. This isn’t as easy as it sounds, particularly when you realise just how fiendish Evolution Studios have been with their barrel placements. A mis-timed strike on a green barrel might nab you extra seconds, but when that barrel bounces out in front of you and hits a sneakily placed red barrel robbing you of 3 seconds, you’ll realise that there’s more to this mode than just charging round the track. It’s almost puzzle-game-like in the way you have to be extremely careful about the knock-on effect of a successful barrel strike. I thought the idea was superb, and worked really well – though if I had any hair to tear out, there were a few times I’d have torn it out in clumps.

    Tougher than your granny wearing boxing gloves

    Veterans of Motorstorm: Pacific Rift will already know that the game is tough and uncompromising, and in some ways it can still prove frustrating to the point of endangering your joypads (hurling a SIXAXIS at your wall is going to be a costly exercise though. You’re far better off just hitting the “restart race” button and getting back in there for more!)

    Speed Weekend is just as hard, but if you’ve worked your way through most of Pacific Rift’s single player mode already, you’ll know what to expect. Opponents seem to be utterly hell bent on nudging you into trackside objects or off sheer drops, and if you’re riding a bike or a quad, you’re pretty much fair game for any meatier opponents in big rigs or monster trucks. Know what though? I never get tired of seeing my ragdoll rider propelled miles into the air after being crunched under the wheels of a Bigfoot.

    The new Speed Weekend’s mix of several new tracks and several twists on existing ones helps to pad out the DLC’s value quite substantially. One of the new tracks, Quicksand, is a very fast and challenging short track layout that requires expert use of the handbrake for tight turns around its unforgiving bends, but it’s the variations on older tracks that really kick arse. The volcanic variants of tracks like Caldera Ridge turn already hazardous and tricky layouts into harsh environments that scream danger around every corner. And that’s just how we like it, right?

    In essence, the Speed Weekend pack and the upcoming Adrenaline Pack add bucketloads of content to a game that’s already glued into my PS3’s drive more or less permanently anyway. For £4.79, you’re getting a serious chunk of game-life-extending gameplay that embellishes what was already a nigh-on-perfect game.

    If you’re one of those loonies who hasn’t picked up Motorstorm: Pacific Rift purely because you weren’t that keen on the original Motorstorm, then you don’t know what you’re missing. It’s dirt-cheap at most e-tailers at the moment, and for the price of the game plus the two content packs you’d be hard pushed to find better value. Thoroughly recommended.

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