ModNation Racers PlayStation 3
Published by: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Developed by: United Front Games
Take a Mario Kart style racing game and combine it with a generous suite of customisation options, the like of which hasn’t been seen in a game since LittleBigPlanet, and you’ll have a good idea of what ModNation Racers is all about. The customisation options are definitely the highlight of the game. Karts, characters and circuits can all be created from scratch and with the customisation tools being extremely easy to get to grips with, the only limits are your imagination. As always you’ll see some truly impressive creations online. I’ve seen superb character models such as Mario, Inspector Gadget, Spider-man, Power Rangers and even a Playmobil Fireman. There are tracks such as the Mario Raceway and vehicles such as the Flintstone car. Of course some of these creations may eventually be pulled due to legal issues but it does show that, with patience and a modicum of talent, the possibilities are virtually limitless.
Whilst you’ll be spending a good chunk of your time at the Creation Station, where you get to design your vehicles, characters and tracks, you’re going to eventually want to hit the road and see what the racing is all about. You can take part in online races, split-screen races, single-player races and a career mode. Online races allow you to join or create casual or XP earning races (which improve your online racer). You can even play online with split-screen races allowing two players on the same console to enjoy an online race. The career mode sees you playing through five different tours with each tour consisting of up to eight races. Things start off easy but by the third tour you have to be on top form in order to win your races. In each race you can earn up to five tokens and there are a variety of achievements for you to accomplish. These could be finishing first and ending up with 4000 airtime points, for example. In some races it will be enough to finish third in order to progress and in others you’ll have to win. The career mode is enjoyable on the whole, although there are no memorable AI personalities to race against in truth, but I suspect most will get long term value from the game by participating in the online races.
As a Kart racing game, ModNation Racers manages to hit the spot. The AI drivers put up quite a good challenge and it’s great to see that they make use of the numerous shortcuts that are present on each of the tracks. The AI also makes solid use of the weapons and power ups that are available and just like in the Mario Kart games, as soon as you’re in the lead you become a target for the full wrath of your opposition. There are traps that you can trigger on some of the tracks and you do have access to a boost ability with the boost meter being filled for doing things like drifting, earning airtime, doing 360’s whilst mid-air and so forth. You do have a shield in ModNation Racers but this is something you have to use sparingly because it uses the aforementioned boost meter to power it. On the whole ModNation Racers manages to capture the nip and tuck feel of races in Mario Kart and just like in those games, you can never be sure of winning a race until you’re on the finishing line.
During races you’ll have the opportunity to collect tokens and these tokens can be used to purchase additional parts to you give more customisation options. You can spend your tokens at the Shop Station. You can’t simply purchase the items you want however. Instead you can choose to spend one, two or five tokens and you’ll purchase a random item or items with your token or tokens. This lucky dip method is slightly irritating in all honesty but at least it encourages you to keep collecting the tokens until you manage to collect as many additional customisation parts as you want. Of course in this age of encouraging you to part with more than just the asking price of the game, you can also choose to visit the PlayStation Store to purchase items if you choose.
The biggest complaint most will have with ModNation Racers is the duration of the load times. You endure load times prior to and after races and they’re disappointingly quite lengthy given the fact that you have to install a few gigabytes to your console’s hard drive prior to playing the game. When you factor in the load times you have to endure to load up the track editor and other sections of the game, you’ll come to the conclusion that you’re spending too much of your time with the game simply waiting around rather than enjoying yourself and that’s disappointing. It’s also rather disappointing that you’re not allowed to reconfigure the controls. I personally don’t like having to use the R2 button to accelerate. As a trigger the L2 and R2 buttons don’t have enough travel and aren’t that comfortable to use for long periods. I would have preferred to be able to reconfigure the controls and have chosen a control scheme that was more comfortable for me.
ModNation Racers is arguably the finest looking Kart racing game to date which is no surprise really given that the others are on systems which aren’t HD capable. However, the game doesn’t look as good as it could have, mostly because of the decision to go with a cartoon style for the characters and vehicles. Whilst this means you aren’t getting realistic looking characters or vehicles, it does mean that your customised creations don’t look out of place with those already present in the game. The game does feature some realistic looking textures and you’ll be able to have your kart looking as though it was made of wood or leather if you so wish. We’ve already mentioned the lengthy load times, which are a little disappointing but at least the frame rate holds up well and for the most part ModNation racers offers a smooth racing experience.
Whilst it’s great to see that ModNation Racers is subtitled, it’s a shame that you can’t enable subtitles prior to starting the game. You’ll miss a decent chunk of dialogue before being able to turn on the subtitles and that’s really disappointing. With the subtitles enabled, you’ll be able to enjoy the tutorial messages, the sniping of the two presenters, Biff and Gary, and the surly comments from the head of your pit crew. Aside from missing the dialogue at the start of the game then, ModNation Racers is actually a decent experience for deaf gamers.
If you’re looking for a Mario Kart style racer with a high degree of customisation then ModNation Racers will not disappoint. The quality of the races and the combat you’ll experience in those races is pretty much what you would expect for a game in this genre but it’s the amount of customisation you can make which helps to make the game stand out. Not being able to enable the subtitles prior to starting the game and some lengthy load times help to put a dent in the experience but all things considered this is an enjoyable kart racing game and one of the more enjoyable racers on the PlayStation 3 at this time.