Review: 'MotorStorm' Looks Amazing, but Goes Nowhere

Still wondering just how powerful that pricey PlayStation 3 is? The off-road racing video game "MotorStorm" is a mud-caked showcase of the system's excellent graphics.

This T-rated, $59.99 title approaches the CGI in movies at times. The first time I viewed the game on my high-definition television was one of those "wow" moments as a gamer.

From the photorealistic environments to the impeccable details — like the grit and grime that slowly builds up on the motorcycles, trucks and other vehicles — "MotorStorm" is truly a marvel of the latest in video-game graphics.

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My initial few hours of racing were a disaster because I was so enthralled with my surroundings that I wasn't paying much attention to actual driving.

The vehicles become crumpled heaps of dirty scrap metal after crashes, and the track conditions gradually worsen with muddy ruts that glisten in the sunlight. Clouds of dust and clumps of dirt will sometimes obscure your view.

There's a price to pay for this hyper-realism: sluggish load times between different tracks and when choosing vehicles.

The racing itself is simple: you have controls to accelerate, brake and steer. Pressing the "x" button provides a short speed boost that'll send you hurtling forward at nearly uncontrollable velocities.

That's especially useful after driving off a cliff or smashing into a boulder, which I did quite often until I adjusted to the very sensitive controls. The game will magically give you a new vehicle to resume the race from the crash site, and the boost is a quick way to get back in the race.

As good as it looks, "MotorStorm," feels incomplete.

Like the tracks you'll compete on, the game is a mix of exhilarating soaring jumps and frustrating mud-bogged crashes.

The racing is pretty simple once you memorize the limited selection of tracks.

There's no option to save movie clips of your best — or worst — races, the tracks themselves aren't too different from one another, and there's no sort of performance shop, for example, where you can customize your vehicle with better parts.

"MotorStorm" also has an interesting premise that's never explored.

You play as a contestant in the "MotorStorm Festival" in Monument Valley, Ariz.

This mix of Burning Man and motor oil kept me wondering: Who are all these people dancing in the desert? What's with the giant carnival rides on the horizon?

There's no way to know. The vehicles and their anonymous, nameless drivers are all we're supposed to care about.

"MotorStorm" is a visual knockout that I still can't stop staring at with awe. But look deeper and you might see what this game really is: a series of mindless races with no real point.

Two and a half stars out of four.