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Motorstorm: Pacific Rift

The good news is the strengths of Motorstorm remain the strengths of Pacific Rift. Graphically, this is one of the most advanced racing games on any system - imagine ploughing through the jungle of Uncharted: Drake's Fortune on a turbo-charged, dirt bike and you should get the idea. It looks great in stills, but the thing that constantly impresses is the detail when in motion; the way in which you can see the different parts of the vehicle moving to adjust to the terrain; the animation of the riders, the realistic interaction with objects and obstacles on the track.

Your opponents, meanwhile, are every bit as aggressive as you might remember if not more so. Evolution has reworked the AI systems so that each competitor will work constantly to pick the best routes and attack nearby riders or drivers. You can guarantee that no attempt at a race will be quite like the last. The handling is as responsive and exciting as ever, with an almost tangible sense of the connection between tyre and terrain that keeps you constantly on edge. And route selection remains of paramount importance. Even within this one track I can find a host of branching side-routes and little short-cuts. Maybe 16 tracks isn't a lot by today's standards, but it's going to take a while before you can say you've mastered each and every one.

The second demo track highlights another key new feature: split-screen racing for offline multiplayer action. Up to four players will be able to race, and judging by a two-player race on the mountain track in the demo there shouldn't be too much degradation in frame-rate, though at the cost of a little background detail. Online racing was a strength of the first Motorstorm, and it should be even more so here. It's planned that 16 players should be able to compete in any race.

Of course, Motorstorm: Pacific Rift faces stiffer competition than its predecessor, with the likes of THQ's Baja: Edge of Control and Black Rock's Pure following a similar line of off-road action. This time, too, it hasn't the advantage of being the one great game in the PS3's launch line-up. All the same, I have high hopes for this one. A better Motorstorm? Can it be true? Be still my beating heart.

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