MotorStorm Apocalypse’s multiplayer servers will be shutting down tomorrow, and while the closure of a seven-year-old PlayStation 3 game might not be stop-the-presses news, it’s a chance to remember a relic of arcade racing and the previus console generation.
Paul Rustchynsky was the director of the Motorstorm series, later joining Codemasters after Evolution Studios was closed in 2016. He also directed this year’s car combat game Onrush for Codemasters, but was laid off earlier this month following disappointing sales.
Multiplayer servers for the original Motorstorm (2007) and Motorstorm: Pacific Rift (2008) were closed at the beginning of 2012, so this is the end of support for the whole series. The first Motorstorm was a very enjoyable ride, and Pacific Rift was one of the first games I reviewed a decade ago. It delivered in the two core departments a racer has to nail: driving excitement and great visuals. Motorstorm also folded in an enjoyable meta story about it being a kind of outlaw festival in exotic locales. But the series was purely an event-to-event racer, not an open-world game.
Midnight Club: Street Racing had introduced open world environments to console racers at the turn of the century, and Electronic Arts’ Need for Speed series went in that direction with Underground 2 in 2004, and the universally beloved Burnout Paradise launched in 2008. But straight-up course-to-course arcade driving games still had strong enough appeal at the time that a console exclusive like Motorstorm could be favorably reviewed, become a hit and get two sequels greenlit.
But since Apocalypse, open worlds have become a baseline expectation of the arcade racer, thanks largely to Playground Games’ handling of the Forza Horizon series that debuted in 2012 (and is coming back for a third sequel in October). Since then, particularly on this console generation, kart racers and licensed motorsports simulations are the big names without open-world components.
The last racer from Evolution Studios, the Motorstorm developer, was also not an open-world game. When DriveClub launched in 2014, some reviewers called it a throwback to old console racers, and not in a good way. That, plus a beleaguered launch that saw severe problems with the online modes, made Evolution’s closure in 2016 no surprise. Many of the Evolution alumni then joined Codemasters, along with Rustchynsky, but they couldn’t recapture the magic that makes Motorstorm so fondly remembered.