Game Reviews: Racing Along With PlayStations

The early months of a new console's life are often overloaded with driving games.

Take the Nintendo Wii: Less than a month after its launch, it was already home to "Excite Truck," "Need for Speed Carbon ," "GT Pro Series," "Monster 4x4" and "Cars."

Sony's PlayStation 3 has seen a similar glut, with "Need for Speed Carbon" (again), "Ridge Racer 7" and "Full Auto 2."

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It's nirvana for speed junkies, but not such good news for those of us who wish the PS3 had a decent role-playing or platform game.

Casual PS3 racing fans are probably waiting for the arrival of one of the genre's two big guns: Electronic Arts' "Burnout 5" (later this year) or Sony's "Gran Turismo 5" (heaven knows when). But in the meantime, developers are courting every niche of the racing audience.

—"MotorStorm" (Sony, for the PS3, $59.99): You'll want to take a shower after a few laps around the mud-filled tracks of "MotorStorm," an eye-popping tribute to the down-and-dirty charms of off-road racing. It lets you drive seven different types of vehicles, from zippy but fragile dirt bikes to lumbering semitrailers.

The courses are huge and seem to change with every lap, as the dirt turns to mud and your fellow drivers destroy various obstacles. Lighter vehicles can scoot along high, narrow ridges, while the big rigs need a wider path but can plow through the burnt-out junkers littering the track.

The size of your machine will also determine how aggressively you want to drive, since the heavier vehicles can easily turn the bikes into roadkill.

"MotorStorm" can get chaotic, with vehicles crashing and burning (quite spectacularly) all around, and it's a lot of fun to play with friends. The single-player career mode is somewhat less satisfying, mainly because there are only eight courses and the events aren't varied enough.

Three stars out of four.

—"Formula One Championship Edition " (Sony, for the PS3, $59.99): On the other end of the spectrum is "Formula One," where the tracks are clean and the cars are shiny.

It's far more demanding than most racing games; in career mode, you have to jump through all kinds of hoops just to qualify for a racing team, and even then it may take a while before you face competition.

The cars are a lot of fun to drive, however. The controls are very responsive and there's a terrific sense of speed, so most of the battle is in learning the tracks and figuring the best times to hit the accelerator or the brakes.

Most of your opponents will be driving awfully fast as well, though, so it takes precise driving to break away from the pack.

Serious F1 geeks will appreciate that they can tweak just about every aspect of their car's performance. And while everything looks gorgeous on the PS3, the overall presentation is a little dry.

If you prefer a realistic simulator over mayhem-filled arcade racing, "F1" is a worthwhile choice.

Three stars.

—"Burnout Dominator" (Electronic Arts, for the PlayStation 2 , $39.99): EA's "Burnout" has become one of the industry's most popular series thanks to the sheer adrenaline rush of demolishing as many cars as possible.

"Dominator" is the first "Burnout" not to be developed by British studio Criterion, an indication that EA may be milking the franchise.

As usual, the goal is to drive as fast as possible, and you rack up points by forcing your opponents to crash, driving into oncoming traffic or pulling off other dangerous maneuvers.

You get huge points for boosting your engine while drifting around curves, which can cause you to skid thousands of feet.

"Dominator" freely mixes and matches features from previous "Burnout" titles, and some players will be disappointed by the absence of some of their favorite modes (such as online play).

It's enjoyable enough, but feels like a holding action until "Burnout 5" is ready to go.

Two and a half stars.