ModNation Racers Review for PS3 by Gaetano Prestia
At first glance, ModNation Racers looks like just another kart racer, bathed in glorious HD colours that bounce off your TV screen through your Playstation 3. It’s really so much more than that. While the likes of the Mario Kart franchise will continue to own the kart racing game genre, we’ve seen a few to additions that give Mario and his friends a good race for their money. Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing offered a challenging and attractive kart racing experience across most platforms, and now with ModNation Racers from United Front Games, we get a title that implements strong customization elements with solid racing controls and great visuals.
ModNation Racers is the second title in Sony’s "Play, Create, Share" lineup, after the brilliant little gem, LittleBigPlanet. In ModNation you create your own “Mod” racer using a wide-range of different customization options. This game is all about creating your own unique environments and characters, something LittleBigPlanet also did quite superbly. You’ll also be able to create your own sleek little karts and challenging racetracks, of which can be uploaded online and shared with your buddies over the PSN.
The creation tools are designed with simplicity in mind, making changing things around very easy. The aim was clearly to make this title as accessible as possible, while also providing enough options and variations to please gamers suited to sim games with more complex customization options. You’ll be able to choose from a range of default designs included in the game, or create your own using different colour patterns and designs. There are hundreds of eye types and mouths to mess around with, meaning the options are almost endless when it comes to deciding how your mod racer should actually look, especially when you factor in the amount of different clothing items available to you.
The ease in which you can create your own shapes and logos using the symbols included is fantastic, and it may very well be hours before you actually play your first race. Nothing has been held back in the customization stakes, and you’ve got plenty to work around with, whether it be creating your own little punk Mod, drawing up your own winding and action-packed racetrack, or designing your own pimped out kart.
The track design system is very impressive, giving you four different themes to choose from in alpine, desert, seaside or jungle. Laying road is as simple as driving around the land in whatever direction you like using the left thumb stick, while the right thumb stick controls elevation, meaning you can create your own hilly track with ease. There’s also a great auto-populate feature where the game fills your track with hazards, like sheep, buildings and people. You can place these all yourself, but it can be a little time consuming and the game normally does a pretty good job for you. It might take a little bit of the customization aspect out of it, but the game does it with the same level of craziness as you probably would, so it’s worth using to save yourself some time and to get you racing a lot faster.
It’s difficult to fully explain the depth at which the creation aspect of ModNation Racers is at, as it really does need to be experienced to be believed. It seems to lack that level of complexity that LittleBigPlanet had in that it is a game that allows almost anyone to create an awesome looking racetrack and kart. You’ll find that you’re creating complex and challenging racetracks with complete ease, and yet your creation looks like something that could very well have been included on the game disc.
There is a very enjoyable career mode, where you can bring in your created Mod and kart to play through the story of Tag, a hilarious story about revenge that makes no real sense but is an absolute pleasure to play through. The fact that you can incorporate your created Mod and kart into the career mode is fantastic and particularly hilarious when you’ve got a wacky creation in a semi-serious cutscene.
The career mode has 28 included tracks, each with plenty of variety and challenge. Each track has a simple objective to progress, which normally consists of finishing in the top three. There are secondary objectives that earn you special rewards, mostly made up of new items and designs for your Mod and karts. A fantastic objective challenges you to attack one of the “elite racers” designed by the United Front Games team. If you do, you’ll be challenged to a grudge match after the race. If you can beat the racer, you’ll win that character.
Once you do finally start racing, you’ll probably find ModNation Racers to be one of the best kart racers out there. It controls arguably with more sense of weight than Mario Kart, giving it a sense of realism and a perfect level of challenge. Drifting is an extremely important part of racing, as it earns you both points and fills up your boost meter. The boost is a necessity in any racer these days, but you can also use the power from the meter to create a protective shield around your Mod, which is integral to success considering how explosive some of the weapons can be.
The weapon system expands on what we’re used to from Mario Kart, implementing an upgrading system that gives you more control over a race. Weapons or power-ups are earned by racing through pods spread out across the tracks. Collecting a pod while holding onto another item will upgrade it, and each item can be upgraded a maximum of three times. The only downside of this is that there are only four items in total to collect. The action can get quite complex, especially if you work your way up to a level three missile weapon.
If you fancy yourself against human opponents, you have the option to either play four-player split-screen, or head online to play against friends in a great online mode. Races earn you XP that help you build up your in-game rep, with each race allowing up to 12 players.
The cool thing to do nowadays with online multiplayer is to include an interactive lobby, which is what ModNation has in the form of ModSpot. Here you can check out the best racers and their karts, as well as drive up to other racers in the lobby and challenge them to a lap.
Load times can be excruciatingly long at times, especially with the larger, more complicated tracks. It definitely takes away some of the game’s free-flowing feel that is present in the single-player, which is a real shame. You also can’t reset during a lap challenge, even if you know you’re about to fail it. Then there’s the occasional drop in framerate, namely during cutscenes in the career mode, but it’s hardly something that affects the overall experience. The Final Verdict
The Final Verdict Just like LittleBigPlanet, ModNation Racers does a fantastic job in offering a charming, entertaining and engaging experience. The number of different creative options available to you is quite superb, and once you do finally start racing, you’ll find ModNation to be a very enjoyable kart racer. The online mode is great, but load-times do a good job of slowing down the experience as a whole. However, none of the game’s minor issues stop it from being a fantastic experience.
Gameplay 8.5 ModNation Racers offers a fun and addictive experience, with plenty of customization options and a great online mode.
Graphics 8.5 Great, bright colours and plenty of detailed designs. The game looks great in motion.
Sound 7.5 Cool sound effects and funny commentating.
Value 9.0 Plenty to mess around with and create. You can potentially be creating tracks, karts and racers for hours before you even get into a race.
Overall 8.7 A score between 8.5 and 8.9 represents a game that offers great value for money and has great gameplay but has some noteworthy issues on any of the four fronts.