E3 2009: Hands on with MotorStorm: Arctic Edge on PSP

So hot it's global warming

E3 2009: Hands on with MotorStorm: Arctic Edge on PSP

If Gran Turismo is the real driving simulator, that makes MotorStorm: Arctic Edge the raw driving simulator. Putting a freeze on clean racing lines and pristine sports cars, this crash-and-bash offroad racer comes to PSP with the same spunk that has made its PlayStation 3 counterparts a smashing success.

While the visceral feel of its racing remains intact, Arctic Edge is an entirely original experience. All of the venues and vehicles are original creations, seizing upon the unique Alaskan locale for cool courses that introduce new racing elements and surprising obstacles.

Three of the game's courses and a handful of the vehicles were on display at E3 2009, each of which we took for a test drive.

First up was Mud Bowl, a mix of slushy snow drifts and bare ground. Patches of mud from the melted snow make for tricky handling. The track is peppered with jumps for hurtling your vehicle through the air, often over other racers.

Straddling a snowmobile proved a workable though not entirely apt choice for the race. The sections of bare ground weren't great on the snowmobile, the rear of the vehicle sliding about when gliding through turns.

It's a great option when tackling The Chasm, however. Blanketed in snow, this chilly course has you zipping through a network of caverns in falling snow. The rally car we buckled into ploughed through the thick ground cover, giving it an edge against smaller vehicles such as the bikes and buggies.

Despite being slower, big rigs and mud pluggers actually fared well in the two lap race because they can barrel through the snow using their full mass.

The trickier Eagle Falls track isn't as friendly to those hulking machines. Tons of jumps and branching paths favour nimbler vehicles that can dart about and pick the best path to the finish line. Buckling up in a buggy proved a good choice, the mid-weight machine is able to keep up with the bikes and yet not get jostled by the big boys.

Of course, all of the tracks can be completed using any of the vehicles - branching paths favour different vehicles, though, and varying your tactics is a must depending on which course you're on and which wheel you're behind.

Thanks to simple controls, all of our time was spent concentrating on finding the optimal path through each branching course and navigating the diverse terrain.

Although customisable, the default settings place acceleration and brakes on the R and L buttons, respectively. Holding the X button lets you boost. You can taunt opponents - a feature sure to come in handy in both local and online multiplayer races - with the Triangle button.

While we only took three courses for a spin, the fundamental racing mechanics of Arctic Edge are of the highest quality. It's beautiful, bold, and brash in its driving. There's as much fun to be hand in battering opponents and watching your vehicle dash to pieces against icy rocks as there is in boosting to the finish line.

The promise of online action only sweetens the deal for when Arctic Edge releases in the autumn.