By Shane Bettenhausen 01/09/2007 This Mud-caked racer would have easily stolen the spotlight from its PS3 launch-day racing rivals... had it actually been available on day one as originally intended. Instead, new PS3 owners had to make do with a tantalizing downloadable demo that offered a brief taste of MotorStorm's raucous off-road thrills. Sure, that was a clever tease, but now we'll have to wait until March before truly joyriding across the craggy peaks of Monument Valley. And although we've all had plenty of time to master the subtleties of that demo, we're still filled with questions about the final game. Luckily, Evolution Studios Producer Simon Benson has the answers we're seeking.

Since the entire game takes place in Monument Valley, Utah, can we expect to see any diversity among MotorStorm's locations? Do they even have any type of weather out there?

Simon Benson: [Laughs] They sure do have weather out there--we had to cancel one reference trip due to the amounts of snow! Seriously, though, each stage in MotorStorm has an incredibly strong sense of individual identity. Some stages are placed on the tops of mesas and give a thrilling sense of vertigo; others are right in the mud-filled basins and valleys. The surfaces in MotorStorm are all distinct so that some are largely different types of rock formation; others are far less solid and can be deformed. We wanted to move away from the old visually driven idea of "this stage is snowy, this one is in a town" and show that variety really comes from the look and the feel of the stage.

Also, MotorStorm is a festival out in Monument Valley, and each stage has degrees of "human influence" in terms of man-made structures and human presence. This allows for even more diversity.

Racing with so many different vehicle types (trucks, dune buggies, ATVs, dirt bikes, etc.) means that everyone has a different ideal racing line. Are some crafts better suited for specific tracks, or is it an even playing field?

SB: Each stage has stacks of different routes, shortcuts, and surface types that constantly pose advantages and disadvantages to each vehicle class. This is one of the ways we've created a nice sense of difficulty progression--we can pose really cool challenges. So, we might say, "You're on the Raingod Mesa track, but you're in a rally car and everyone else is on a bike, so they have a surface advantage and you have a risky speed advantage--now figure out how to win."

We heard that the game's minor delay stems from tweaks being made to the online mode. Can you tell us what kind of game types, downloadable content, and options we'll be seeing there?

SB: We've got hugely ambitious plans for online. Although we can't really be specific right now, we want to ultimately offer the player all of the options and additional content that they'd need to completely customize the online experience, to encourage the growth of clans, and to allow MotorStorm to live online way beyond the box.

There also seems to be a little confusion on this point, so can you explain how MotorStorm utilizes the PS3's Sixaxis motioncontrol mechanism?

SB: Our philosophy has been to offer three types of steering control. One will be just using the D-pad, another will involve the D-pad and analog stick, and the last will use the PS3 motion control. It really is all about tailoring to personal tastes--we don't want one method to be better than another, just different. So we put all our efforts into fully tuning the Sixaxis wireless controller as a steering method rather than diluting our effort across many functions.

After checking out the demo and this batch of screenshots, we're convinced that MotorStorm is a graphical beast. Now convince us that the gameplay will match those impressive visuals.

SB: The last six games we made weren't all released in North America, so not a lot of you guys know about them, but they always received massive praise for their graphics and rendering technology on the PS2. This was always going to be a focus for us on next gen, but in terms of gameplay, we could also start to look more at damage, at vehicle-to-vehicle interaction, and at systems such as boost. Sure, the pressure was there to create balanced, indepth gameplay to match the visual beauty, but it felt more like a really cool challenge to the design team rather than a daunting exercise.

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