When you first hear about ModNation Racers you may think it sounds rather like Mario Kart meets Little Big Planet. For the most part that can be considered a rightful description. When you play ModNation Racers however, you will be quickly assured that it is only really a mash up of concepts. The fact is that developer United Front Games has offered up enough originality in ModNation Racers to make the similarities with Nintendo’s Kart Racer excusable.
Indeed it is evident that United Front was highly inspired by what other developers had done before them, most notably the concept of play, create and share that Media Molecule created for Little Big Planet. When you take those concepts and apply them to karts and track building however, you begin to uncover something that has never been offered up to the consumer in this way before.
The customization elements are so user friendly that it is actually a joy to put karts, mods and tracks together. While many gamers are put off by the difficulty level of creation in Little Big Planet, many will be happy to know that it takes little to no effort to create something completely unique in ModNation Racers. This is a blessing; because after all we are dealing with a racer here, so evidently we want to be able to tune our karts and then be on the move in no time at all to keep the pace going.
Keeping the pace going is something ModNation Racers has no problem with. Between races you will still be in control of your Kart, placed in what’s called the Circular Plaza. From here you can practice some new moves, do some stunts, initiate an online race or visit the creation station. If you are playing ModNation Racers online, the Circular Plaza will have a selection of user controlled racers zooming around with you. There are big screens in the Plaza which show network statistics; such as, the top ranked kart, track and mod designs. All of this combined gives the game a whole lot of life outside of the racing itself, as it makes the ModNation community feel very active.
The Creation Station is where the magic happens. Here you can customize the look of your Mod (your Modnation Avatar), which is very similar to how you would customize a Sackboy. You can choose from a range of skins, face parts, clothes, stickers, props and voices to ensure that your Mod is truly unique and to your own licking. Also in The Creation Station is the Kart editor, which is easily the most satisfying creation element. You will find yourself editing your Kart the most out of everything else, after all it’s what wins the races right?
You can apply a variety of bodies, paint jobs, parts and accessories to your kart; making you feel as if you are playing the Nickelodeon version of Pimp My Ride. A third section in the Creation Station allows you to create your own tracks, which is pretty much as simple as you want it to be. If you do not wish to get too in depth with track creation; then you can simply draw out the road of your track, and let the game build the rest of the track for you. If you wish to spend more time with your track, then you can place trees, add item pickups and craft the perfect stunt jump. Other sections of The Creation Station allow you to share your work, or unlock new items via a token machine. Tokens can be collected during career races and used in these special machine’s that spew out randomly selected new items, which can be used for your creations.
You can compete in races either online, split-screen or solo via the career mode. The races themselves are brilliant whether you play with friends or opt to compete in the career mode. Modnation Racers is all about speed and drifting; the tracks are designed to ensure that you use your drifting skill to slide around bends, and gain enough speed to wave your competition goodbye. Collecting the many items scattered throughout the tracks will give you some weapons to use, if you need help turning the tide of the race all together.
Some of the weapons include missiles, sonic booms, and bolts of electricity. Rivals are also capable of utilizing these items too, therefore finding yourself in the number one position is not as simple as avoiding a crash. As you lead the race and become a target, expect many frustrating moments in which you are close to winning but are blasted away from victory at the last minute. It becomes essential to gain as much drift, airtime and trick points as you can. Gaining points will fill up a boost meter which you can use to boost or throw up a shield to block yourself from any harm. This only lasts a few seconds, and must be timed right to be effective.
Playing the career mode is where the real addiction of ModNation Racers kicks in. It features a very light hearted and slapstick storyline, focusing specifically on your Mod. Most races will see you initiate a rivalry with a certain other Mod racer, and with each career race you have three special objectives to complete to unlock bonus items. Objectives usually consist of taking down your rival, pulling off some tricky stunts and coming 1st in the race. Only a damn good racer could complete all three objectives in one go, so you will find yourself repeating races over and over to complete every objective. Clearing all the objectives then leads to a special grudge race between you and the rival in that specific race. Win this and you will be rewarded very gracefully.
The downside of ModNation Racers is the games optimization. From the huge mandatory install the first time you load up the game, to the irritably long loading times. ModNation Racers will have you screaming for a patch in little to no time. It is not normal for a game which requires an install to have such long loading times. So hopefully United Front will issue a patch to help with the optimization sometime down the line.
Aside from those few negative points, ModNation Racers is well worth a purchase if you are looking to pick up a racing game that doesn’t take itself too seriously. There is something for everyone in ModNation Racers. Racing fans who enjoy tuning cars will find the kart customization satisfying, though the only gripe is that adding new parts doesn’t exactly effect the kart’s performance. Which is not a bad thing given the style of game, and this allows for casual racing fans to be easily satisfied by the experience too.
Given the amount of fun there is to be had within the ModNation community, you can bet that ModNation Racers has some very long lasting appeal. The whole play, create and share concept is in no danger of getting stale either; meaning they’ll always be something new to experience in the game, even after finishing the career mode. The originality seen in ModNation Racers adds an experience to the Playstation 3’s library that cannot be found anywhere else, and for that reason it is not to be overlooked.