ModNation Racers is a Playstation exclusive looking to do for kart racers what LittleBigPlanet did for platformers. With numerous customisations available from driver and car designs to constructing tracks, all of which can be shared online. There’s plenty on offer from ModNation Racers but is it king of the mods or just another kart game?
Much like LittleBigPlanet, ModNation Racers has a main story mode, with a narrative running through all the races, you assuming the role of Tag a
street wise kid with bad attitude boy racer looking to avenge his crew chief’s defeat at the hand’s of Espresso (who owns a pet monkey?!) and win the ModNation Racers Championship. The career serves the same purpose as LBP’s in that it’s a means to teach you how to play the game and to unlock items to use in your edits. The storyline is cheesy stuff trying to tie in some humor in the style of a contemporary animated movie, if you’re a fan of that movies from Dreamworks, Sony Pictures and Pixar etc… then the jokes will appeal to you, as for me aside from the Conservative Motors adverts, I found the humor grating. Fortunately the career length is decent for a kart game and features some excellent track designs with long sweeping corners set in some interesting environments.
So how is the actual racing? Pretty good with drifting the usual method of power up, in MR it charges up a boot bar which you can then either use to get a speed boost, power a shield or perform a sideswipe attack. The use of shield is most intriguing as players have the ability to use it whenever although avoiding attacks can prove very tricky, i did however find myself starting to get used to it over time. As for the weapons themselves, they are picked up in the usual fashion of passing through power ups and receiving a random weapon. But they have 3 different levels of power and can be leveled up by picking up more power ups, so the longer you hold on to that weapon the more powerful it becomes but there is the risk you’ll fall behind before you an power it up fully. It’s a good trade off although it does mean there are a lot of over powered weapons just like blue shells in Mario Kart during a race leading to a lot of last lap frustrations which are no fault of your own.
The speed of the game can feel a bit sluggish too with the game sometimes struggling to achieve the 30fps its intended to perform at, it never drop significantly but it is noticable. The karts have terrible turning circles too, that is most apparent at low speeds for example the start of races when trying to pass through the pack and particularly when you become stuck on scenery. It’s frustrating when you can’t turn quickly and need to reverse when stuck on the wall, even though you’re at an angle.
The main appeal of ModNation Racers is that you can create and share online with the PSN community and you can even remix each other’s designs (with the original creator still getting credit). The customaisable options for the characters and karts is staggering with everything down to sticker layers and colourings of individual parts, shame then that during a race it can be hard to notice all the details on your opponents. Track editing is fantastic, if you simply don’t want to spend the time but a great idea for a layout the auto populate is an ingenious idea saving you time and allowing you to go and race instead of arranging some trees to look nice.
Unfortunately this creativity appears to have come at a cost, in the form of load times. Despite the initial install each race can take over a minute to load and even the main menu needs to load after you start the game and press start. It always feels like you’re waiting for something to load in MR and when you’re watching a percentage count up in 5% increments it gets very tedious. This effectively ruins any chance of MR being a pick up and play game and can only be worse if you have 3 friends over for split screen racing and all you want to do is get straight into a race.
ModNation Racers is a fantastic creation platform, which is incredibly detailed yet easy to use if you just want to make a quick creation. Unfortunately the main meat and potatoes – the racing – is just not as fun as it ought to be along with long load times making progression slow (at least race restarts are quick). It’s also lacking a certain level of charm that LittleBigPlanet has in abundance, there’s no cool soundtrack or neat visual style, even the characters are not as charming as Sackboy. There’s no doubt MR will have a strong future with new content being created by the community for months to come so if you can get some enjoyment out of the racing then it is worth a look, it’s safe to say if there is a sequel it will be worth keeping an eye on as there is a great game hidden in ModNation Racers.
*Played career mode until completion and made several drivers, karts and tracks. All online racing and sharing modes were unavailable at the time of review.
This review is based on a retail copy of the PS3 version of ModNation Racers provided by SCEE.
Written by: Trev
- Contributing Editor