You know we're really getting somewhere when next-gen consoles start to use their computational horsepower for more than eye candy. MotorStorm, while extremely easy on the eyes, uses complex in-game physics to make sure that every dusty, off-road lap is different from the next. Debris from wrecked vehicles and trashed scenery clutter the track, creating deadly new obstacles. Racers leave deep ruts in the mud with every pass, making the mire all the more treacherous. Beneath all the mayhem is a startlingly nuanced and balanced simulation. Big rigs share the track with agile motocross bikes, and in spite of the wild variance, both have an equal shot at the gold.

And yet there's still an absence of variety amid all these drivable dirt-churners and constantly morphing trails. The only way to play MotorStorm is to vie for first place. Genre-defining racers like Burnout 3 gave players the chance to compete to create the most massive pile-ups, and score by taking out opponents. By pinning all its aspirations to the checkered flag, MotorStorm feels like it still has one foot stuck in the last generation.

Beyond the game: Online races add substantial replay value to the game. Right now, the wait time between joining a match and the green light can be interminable. Already, Sony has updated the game to make finding friends easier. Hopefully more patches will further streamline the process.

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Worth playing for: Monument Valley is gorgeous this time of year. Racing the game's eight photo-real tracks feels like taking an off-road tour of the dramatic desert destination.

Frustration sets in when: The vehicle-selection screen takes way too long to load, making cycling through rides tedious.

Final judgment: A thrilling off-road experience that leaves little to the imagination.

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