In terms of the vehicles, Evolution has termed the selection process as "Choose Your Weapon" given that the racing is just as much about blatting things around as being first past the post. In all, there are seven types to choose from (Bikes, ATVs, Buggies, Rally, Racing Trucks, Mud Pluggers, Big Rig), and five versions within each, giving room for retro choices among those.
As you might expect Bikes are nimble and fast, but very vulnerable ("You'll need nerves of steel to choose the bike against big trucks"), ATVs "love the mud", Buggies are "light but very affected by the surface and really bounce around", Rally vehicles offer "great slide, but low chassis, so you have to be careful about the surface", while Racing Trucks are "pretty good at everything, fairly sturdy and stable", Mud Pluggers presumably do mud well too, and Big Rigs are "big and bullish". But Smith was quick to point out that "none are slow - this isn't about driving a milk float".
The whole premise of all this racing is that you're part of "the greatest show on Earth," which is to say some kind of three day festival set loosely in Monument Valley ("Mother Nature's Playground"), but Smith insisted "we're not worried about reality - we're worried about gameplay. We want to deliver a really intense experience. It gives us a huge amount of variety for the racing - though it looks like a desert, there is lots of variety: rocks, gravel, dust, mud, and sand."
"You all pile down at a day's notice and wreck the place, and we're using that as a theme for the game. The track surroundings, music, etc, will reflect that festival vibe," he says, with the ultimate aim of the game to become the Motor Sport champion in the game's career mode.
But single player is expected to be only half the story, with 16 player online being touted as a key feature. "It'll be total chaos, all those vehicles on that sort of track will be top fun," Smith grins. Downloadable content is also set to feature, with vehicles, tracks, liveries, race types all said to be available at some stage.
Users will also be able to customise their soundtrack, but in a cunning new way that Evolution is calling 'Live-Fi', whereby some nifty DSP post processing techniques apply an ambiance to your songs that make it "really sound like you're there [in a desert race]". And while we're talking tech, the HDR techniques used make the game "look more like a movie than a game" while. "tone mapping gives us depth between light and dark"
Other stuff? There's almost too much to cram into one article. Scanning through our notes there's stuff about proper AI that battle against each other and not just you, hingable parts on every vehicle, fully animated characters with advanced ragdolling, the slo-mo 'Smash Cam' that shows wheels and parts squirreling off in exquisite detail, driver taunts to let you give your opponents the middle finger and more stuff that wasn't possible to note down in time.
Asked if he was disappointed that the game wasn't part of Sony's press conference, he explained away the absence by claiming that "we're making huge progress every single day. We went in just two days from a point where we weren't happy to being where we are now. We think we'll surpass the footage, it was an incredible visualisation, but we're delivering an incredible interactive experience and we really think we'll go beyond it."
At this point we could say "take that doubters", but having played the demo for a few laps around the track, there's still far too little on show to give anyone even a vague idea of how it will turn out. If you just sidled up to the stand and didn't know anything about the game, you could just as easily dismiss it as another desert racer in the vein of ATV and wander off unenthused. Visually it's getting there but there's nothing to suggest just yet that it'll be incredible, and with just a short three lap race to enjoy, there's precious little evidence of the persistent track deformation having the kind of effect on gameplay that Smith went to great lengths to discuss. In fact, stripped of rumble from the new PS3 pad, it feels...like it's missing that quantifiable feedback we've come to take for granted. One possible idea yet to be implemented is to utilise the tilt controls to "barge drivers off the track", which sounds fab, but it's totally unconfirmed.
With the title confirmed for PS3 launch, we won't have that long to wait to find out how good Motor Storm is, but if Smith's claims are even halfway true it stands a good chance of being one of the more interesting titles out on day one on November 17th.