Motorstorm Apocalypse: you can’t play online

, | Game diaries

That’s me in the corner of the screenshot. That’s a sad, empty, starting grid in the rest of the screenshot.

Jerry put it well Monday on Penny-Arcade: “Even as a satirist, there’s no savor in the [PlayStation Network] story anymore.” There’s nothing new to say. The PlayStation Network has been offline for almost three weeks. The jokes have been made, the questions were raised, answered, then the answers were questioned. If you look hard enough, there’s probably still some fascinating coverage. If you don’t, there’s a lot of anger. Anger at the hackers that took down Sony’s multiplayer service, anger at Sony’s mishandling of the situation (perceived and otherwise), anger at each other for being too angry or not angry enough. So I don’t have any gag headline for you (“more like PlayStation NOTwork!”), it’s just a sad situation. Not pathetic-sad, just regular sad. It’s not Motorstorm’s fault, it’s just the hand they were dealt. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter, because the best shot this game had for holding my attention isn’t available to me. Everyone loses.

After the break, I give the multiplayer my best shot anyway

Knowing the PlayStation Network was already offline when Motorstorm came out, I bought a second controller when I picked it up specifically so I could give multiplayer my best shot (fun trivia: additional controllers do NOT come with additional charging cables). My roommate Ed watched sympathetically as I got increasingly frustrated with the single player, yet was still a good sport and volunteered for some splitscreen multiplayer. I’ve since apologized to him.

The races aren’t anything special. Just the same courses and (small) handful of game types available in the single player, except now there are two of us for the AI to shove into walls. It’s not any worse than running the courses yourself in time attack or the campaign mode, but it’s not going to keep you coming back. Well, it’s a little worse. Splitscreen still doesn’t do anyone any favors. I logged a lot of hours playing GoldenEye on a 27″ television back before HDTVs were even close to a consumer reality. So why, thirteen years later, am I playing on a 46″ screen in high definition and still squinting and scooting my chair closer to see what’s going on?

The real shame is the parts of the game I literally can’t play. A full two thirds of the available vehicles for multiplayer need to be unlocked by advancing a player rank I can’t affect in single player or local multiplayer. I don’t even know if they’re that different, maybe they’re just alternate body styles that handle identically, but I’m upset that I can’t know without playing online. There are also a series of perks a la Blur, which is to say a la Call of Duty, but again, only unlockable and useable in online multiplayer. From browsing the menus, little pad-locked icons everywhere I look, I’m guessing it’s not a very deep customization system, but anything would help. In fact, those unlocks might’ve been the perfect thing to keep me invested in the single player campaign as well, had they been applied across the board. Knowing I was making some progress that actually helped me instead of just moving me to the next race would’ve been a simple but effective hook. I don’t need a complicated upgrade system to start feeling the tug to just play one more race. One more and I’ll unlock some extra boost, or another motorcycle, or anything at all really. I’m not hard to please.

But no, that incentive isn’t present at all in the single player campaign, and the urge to keep coming back after that campaign is complete (or abandoned) is all locked up in an online system I can’t play. Your situation might be different. You might be reading this next month, or in 2017, when Sony’s servers are back online. I can’t tell you if it’s going to be great, or if the multiplayer will turn out to be broken in ways that have nothing to do with the servers. I can’t show you awesome screenshots of the glowing tires I just unlocked for the third monster truck. So I’m sorry to you that I can’t tell you more, and I’m sorry to Motorstorm that I can’t give it a fair shake, but so far my efforts to hack into the PlayStation Network and re-activate it myself have been fruitless (and your password is totally lame).

Tomorrow I wrap things up as I cross the finish line, but not in a good way.
(Click here for the previous Motorstorm Apocalypse entry.)

Wholly Schmidt wrestles PDFs into submission as the print industry collapses around him by day, and moves furniture to play Rock Band by night. He can’t tell you his real name, because he has almost all of his friends fooled into thinking he’s a grown-up.