Evolution’s MotorStorm is one of the pre-rendered PS3 videos that was shown during Sony’s infamous 2005 E3 presentation. The showing of the video single-handily put it as well other games (ahh yes, Killzone 2) under the microscope for quite some time as gamers were wondering how close it would come to looking like the E3 video. The bad news is that it’s not the same but the good news is the fact it looks pretty d** good. The other good news is how fun it is to play. Read on for the real dirt.First and foremost, MotorStorm’s graphics justify it as a must-buy for any PlayStation 3 gamer. From my perspective, it’s really on the top plateau visually for current PS3 titles and this includes some decent looking titles such as Resistance: Fall of Man and Oblivion. From the opening cutscene of Monument Valley to the races themselves, the environments jump out at you and just flat-out look impressive on a widescreen HDTV. The vehicles are also pretty impressive looking but look even better when they crash since they break apart in multiple pieces in splendid slow motion. The crash scenes are guaranteed to make you chuckle, especially if you eat it in on a motorcycle or an ATV since your rider learns the rules of gravity in rather spectacular fashion. It’s rag doll physics at its best – not too floppy but just enough to make you wince. The crashing is really a testament to how well the PS3 can handle multiple objects on the screen at one time. Start with a large environment, throw in a ton of cars, hit boost and watch the car parts fly when you slam into a mountain side with no slowdown in sight! The game runs as smooth as silk.Looks are fine and dandy but how does it drive? Actually, quite fine my friend. I’m not a big driving game fan myself but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to give MotorStorm a spin since there was quite a bit of hype behind the game (see E3 comments above) and after putting it through its paces, it has been a mild surprise on easy it is to get into the racing action. The first thing you’ll notice is how well the controls work when pushing the cars to the limit. It is easy to have the accelerator floored and still be able to maintain a high level of control by mastering the handbrake. This is with the standard control scheme and not the Sixaxis, which was a bit too frustrating for this off-roader to use. You might think this sounds too user-friendly but it fits due to the performance level of the computer-controlled and real-life online opponents. Everyone is vying for an advantageous position when racing and they’ll try to cut you off or actually hit your vehicle to get ahead so the excellent controls provide a nice solid baseline that allows you to spend more time concentrating on trying to outmaneuver your opponents. The motorcycles and ATV drivers take this to the next level by actually having the ability to punch riders of other similar vehicles. This is off-road racing warfare at its finest.An interesting item to note is how simple the actual racing is. There are no power-ups or hidden bonuses so the only edge is the limited boost feature, which everyone has access to. The boost is actually pretty fun to use since it has a finite range so it can overheat and literally blow-up your vehicle if it is used to its maximum level. All this amounts to a level playing field, where everything boils down to your driving skills, knowledge of the course and strategic use of the boost feature to outrace your opponents. This simplicity makes the game really easy to jump in and play. Now only if the race levels were as easy in the single-player game. Unfortunately, they’re not.The single-player gameplay is set up with racing tickets, where you have to finish in one of the top three positions to advance to the next race within each ticket. At first, it is a bit daunting but once you get a few races under your belt, it’s not that difficult to place within the top three. But again, I could see gamers who aren’t into racing experiencing a bit of frustration with this set-up, especially when you consider how easy it is to get into this game. There is also a point system based on where you place in the races, which unlocks unique vehicles. The other ding is the limited number of courses, which get regurgitated through different vehicles and skill levels. Fortunately, the sheer fun of racing and the excellent graphics help to mask this deficiency. There is certain to be new maps via downloadable content on the PlayStation Network Store. Nothing has been formally announced yet from Sony but the popularity of this game, especially in Europe should seal the deal for new maps.Online multiplayer action is a blast but its presentation is still rough around the edges. The races themselves are pretty straightforward with no apparent lag in the multiple sessions that I played. The competition is very intense so prepare for sweaty palms, especially as you try to prevent from crashing, which almost guarantees you’ll finish back of the pack. My biggest beef is the barebones offering with the online play with the most obvious deficiency being the lack of matchmaking, which is sort of ridiculous since placing first is what the game is all about. Stat-tracking consists of only wins and losses and that’s it. So if you do not win a race, then you can chalk up another one in the loss column. How fair is that when you compete against gamers, who have a lot more racing experience? If there is not going to be matchmaking, at least show the skill level of the competition similar to Crimson Skies. Besides adding matchmaking, the stat-tracking needs to be expanded to include second and third place finishes. There could also be perfect races (i.e. no crashes), forced crashes (against opponents), death by overboost, just to name a few of the more obvious achievements.My other gripe with the online play is when you join a game you do not know if there is a current race happening until you’re in the game lobby itself so you end up just sitting there waiting for it to end. How about showing the estimated time left for the end of the race and if we have to sit there, why not have a spectator mode view? The multiplayer presentation is definitely half-baked and really needs some fundamental changes to make the experience complete.Despite the deficiencies in the small number of tracks and the multiplayer setup, MotorStorm is still a gaming treat both in its graphics and fun gameplay. The deficiencies will hopefully be addressed with downloadable content and future patches. These issues would bring down most games but since MotorStorm is easy to pick up and play, and is so much fun; they are a bit easier to ignore. This really shows how the developers made sure MotorStorm looked great and played the same.