As the people of Japan struggle to deal with the devastation caused by the world’s fifth-largest earthquake in recorded history — which in turn sparked a massive tsunami — Sony Japan closed six of its factories across the ravaged region and pledged 300 million Japanese yen to aid recovery efforts. With tragic events still unfolding in the flooded coastal areas of Miyagi and Fukushimaon, Sony quickly decided to delay the launch of the third PlayStation 3 iteration of its MotorStorm racing series, MotorStorm: Apocalypse (MotorStorm 3 in Japan), namely because it features hugely catastrophic events during key parts of each race.
When news of the tsunami broke, I was actually playing MotorStorm: Apocalypse for PSU’s upcoming review, racing around an apocalyptic urban area called The City. Over my shoulder, my wife called me and asked whether I’d heard about the earthquake. I hadn’t, so I paused the game and watched Sky News with her in shock as the tsunami battered the port city of Sendai. I was quite taken aback — not only by the sheer devastation of the event, but also by the fact that I had been racing across a level called ‘Waves Of Mutilation’ that takes place during a vicious tsunami.
Featured in the Pro stage of the main Festival Campaign, ‘Waves Of Mutilation’ is a brutal four-lap race that unleashes intense devastation on the environment as you zoom around the track. In the level, you compete against other drivers through a tsunami as powerful waves cause ships, cars, and buildings to buckle under impact. When I finally returned to the game hours later, I played through the rest of this level with my jaw on the floor and a lump in my throat. MotorStorm: Apocalypse has been in development for a long time, so neither developer Evolution Studios nor publisher Sony Computer Entertainment could ever have imagined in their wildest nightmares that a level they created would mimic this real world disaster so closely, but its timing is quite surreal. Though I only watched events in Japan unfold from afar, I found this particular race to be extremely hard-hitting and emotionally draining.
This isn’t the first time I’ve played a video game that displays a tragedy where human life was lost. Usually, though, it’s a war game like Call Of Duty where the battle takes place in the distant past, significantly softening its impact. With MotorStorm: Apocalypse, however, these events are still very raw. With the Japan disaster coming totally out of the blue, and the fact that Sony’s racer features such powerful imagery that we’ve all seen on the news in the last few days, its impact is particularly potent. The race, which was intended to be fictional, became all too real.
With recovery efforts still ongoing in the aftermath of the real-world tsunami, Sony sensitively decided to delay the release of MotorStorm: Apocalypse in Japan. The company must now decide whether to delay launches of the game in other regions; the launch dates are presently pegged as March 16, 2011 in Europe and April 12, 2011 in North America. In Europe, Sony has already shipped out Apocalypse discs to retail outlets, so copies of the game are undoubtedly floating around.
Sony has set up a Disaster Relief Fund to help the communities affected by the Tsunami. “In times like these, we are reminded of how important and fragile we are and of the positive impact we can have — both as individuals and, collectively, as a company — to assist those in need,” said Howard Stringer, Chairman, CEO and President of Sony Corporation. “We will continue to make the utmost effort to help the swift recovery of the affected communities in the region.”
Thousands have lost their lives in what Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan called Japan’s worst crisis since World War II. We here at PSU strongly encourage you to donate whatever you can to assist the people of Japan in this turbulent time. The Red Cross is accepting donations via its website, as are other organizations like GlobalGiving, Save The Children Federation, and International Medical Corps. A full list of charities can be found at Charity Navigator.