The name is Motorstorm:Apocalypse
Here's the premise: the MotorStorm outfit, having done dust-bowls and jungles, has packed bags and shipped out, their destination an anonymous and fictional West Coast city that's in throes of a natural catastrophe – and what better place to kick-start another MotorStorm festival? Set over a three day period, MotorStorm Apocalypse's backdrop is rapidly disintegrating. On the first day it'll be all tower blocks and freeways, but come the festival's climax it'll be a mounting pile of rubble – and the final race will be a mad dash for the MotorStorm freight ship as the city consumes itself.
If that all sounds vaguely familiar then you're not alone. Disney and Black Rock's Split/Second was a recent and largely successful attempt to take destructive driving to the next level, and alongside Bizarre's brilliant Blur it's signified something of a small trend as the racing genre tries to come up with an answer for its decline in popularity.
"We spoke to the guys in the States about it, we spoke to people in Japan – but the answer's kind of obvious," says MotorStorm Apocalypse's game director Matt Southern. "There's a sense that other genres are over-delivering, particularly the cinematic kind of experience – the Uncharted 2s and the Modern Warfares of the world – they're not just good, they're mind-blowingly awesome. We see a lot of racers that are good or great – and we've been fairly lucky with high review scores and decent sales – but then you're seeing shooters doing 10 million plus. People want to be really excited – and in the last 12-18 months you've seen a few guys realise the same thing."
A hands-on with a single track in single-player bears this out. It's initially overwhelming – on top of the usual business of seeing to the opposition - never the easiest of tasks when your sportscars going toe-to-toe with monster trucks and big rig - there's the wealth of environmental hazards to take into hand. The handling is a little nervous - but you would be too if you had this much chaos descending upon you, and it lends a responsiveness that's necessary when avoiding the many hazards.
It's impressive stuff, and Evolution seems to have learnt valuable lessons from stablemates Naughty Dog (some of whom are helping out with MotorStorm Apocalypse's storyboarding) and Guerrilla. Like the latter it's also taken on the importance of variety, and while we're only witness to the race through high-rises in this early look, the sprawl of the city is going to be fully exploited with parks and the suburbs set to feature.
There is, of course, life beyond MotorStorm Apocalypse's campaign. "The end of the world is really just the beginning," jibes Southern before detailing a multiplayer mode that is, unsurprisingly, taking Modern Warfare's formula as inspiration. Blur proved that it's an approach that works, so expect a familiar system of perks and levelling to form the foundation. "The way that Modern Warfare made online, the progressive thing of rewards and even if you weren't a hardcore gamer you could still get a lot out of it, that was a big influence," Matt tells us.
But remember, MotorStorm Apocalypse is about giving more than expected, and that's seems as true of the multiplayer component as it is elsewhere. "When I first played Modern Warfare I thought it was one of the most generous games I'd ever played," Matt enthuses. "It was this constant delivery of cool sh*t, and when it came to us asking what's going to excite people about a racing game it's the same kind of thing. We want to make promises on the game and then over-deliver on them. Easy to say but hard to do, and that's the challenge we've set."
So MotorStorm Apocalypse is giving more than its fair share of options. There's four-player splitscreen – not spectacular in itself, but certainly more exciting than normal when you factor in the ability for those four players to join in with 12 others online. Modes can be created from scratch with a simple language system being used to define game rules. It sounds smart, but it's still under wraps.