“Fantastic. Simply Fantastic.”
Milkstone Studios has managed to hit upon that je ne sais quoi that can make a racing game so addictive. MotorHEAT is a fantastic hybrid of adrenaline-fueled speed and simplistic gameplay that hooks you for the long (and fast) haul.
The gameplay is simple and straight-forward: You are in a start-of-the-art car, and you can drive really fast. You drive at irresponsible speeds, wildly swerving through traffic, and the longer you can keep it up, the better score you get. A ‘boost’ bar serves to make things even more ludicrous, and your boost bar can be recharged by narrowly missing a collision with another vehicle.
Points are scored based on your current multiplier, which slowly increases the longer you avoid a collision, and points-earning can be augmented by a variety of power-ups that spawn randomly – from the simple ‘bonus points’ or ‘bonus multiplier’ to the nearly-game-breaking temporary invincibility (hint: since collision detection is disabled under invincibility, you actually want to AIM for cars while holding down the boost button). The gameplay starts off hectic, and as you start to swerve past and around the walls of cars, it becomes a desperate bid to move fast enough to finish the ‘level’ – the length of a lap – before the clock runs to zero. Your ranking, always displayed in the bottom-left corner, is an automatically-updated connection to global leaderboards, telling you how far behind the next-best in the world.
With all of the ways that points and levels and scores are tallied, the game certainly encourages intense and reckless speeding, although I actually found the gameplay rather zen-like after a while. No matter the visibility (which changes each level to include different times of day, as well as weather), you will always be able to make out those deadly brakelights or tantalizing power-ups, and that simple game mechanic never changes. Milkstone Studios has found that perfect concoction of ‘easy to enjoy, fun to play, but difficult to master’, although I might be cursing them later as I try to desperately claw past the 100,000,000-score supergiants already on the leaderboard.
Despite the game mechanics being relatively simple, meat was certainly added to the bones to ensure gamers got their money’s worth. The game includes superficial car customization, which, while primarily for your own amusement, is reflected on your leaderboard runs, and the game includes a full set of badges/awards, seamlessly integrated into the gameplay in the same way a full retail title would. Speaking of full retail titles…well, see if you can catch the reference to one in the badges. Much like the game it alludes to, you’ll be working on that one for a while. And early adopters will appreciate one badge in particular – complete a run in the top 5% of the global leaderboard. The fewer players on the leaderboard, the easier that one should be.
Overall, I can’t really recommend MotorHEAT enough. The game is a well polished example of the sort of game XBLIG needs more of, and if you pick it up soon enough, you’ll have a sweet chance at earning some awesome prizes in the Milkstone Studios Contest they currently have running. I haven’t felt so enamoured with high speed collisions since I first played Burnout Paradise. My wish list for this one is short: with awards, online leaderboards, and customization, Milkstone really tried to stack the game with everything, but why don’t we have a splitscreen co-op mode?
Game Score 9.5/10
Download a demo here.
Watch the trailer here.