ModNation Racers Review

ModNation Racers (Only available on PS3 & PSP)
ESRB Rating: E
Number of Players: 1 to 12
Genre: Racing
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: United Front Games
Release Date: May 25th, 2010

PSN – Online Multiplayer

Parent Talk: The ESRB has rated ModNation Racers with an E [for Everyone], with additional comments including Cartoon Violence and Comic Mischief.  This boils down to ModNation Racers being the perfect game for youngsters, as well as those legally old enough to buy a beer.  There’s nothing that I think should be deemed offensive.  The tech specs are simple enough even for the most uneducated technology fans out there.  HDTV enthusiasts would be pleased to know there’s native 720p support, which upscales to 1080, and both DTS and Dolby Digital audio.

Are you a LittleBigPlanet?  How about a Mario Kart fanatic?  Do you love the freedom of creating your own game content and sharing it with the world?  If you’ve answered yes to anything here, stop reading and go buy ModNation Racers.  It’s the best racing game currently available on the PlayStation 3, even including Gran Turismo.  It does what so many others fail to: inject charm and creativity into almost every facet.  From gameplay to graphics, ModNation Racers is the real deal.  After about ten minutes, you too could be convinced Mario Kart has some very serious competition.

The Great:

Play, Create, Share.  Remember those words?  It’s the phrase Sony used to market LittleBigPlanet post-announcement, and it fit well.  After all, you created levels, played through them and shared them with the PSN community.  A robust online mode allowed players to easily select the most popular levels, the most commented, etc.  In short, LBP changed our expectations of how players shaped a console game’s world.  Now imagine all of that wrapped around a kart racer, and you have yourself one hell of a wicked videogame.

Want to create ECTO-1, while dressed as Link, racing in the sky?  All of this is possible, and believe me when I say, SO much more.  The most popular tracks are some of the most creative I’ve ever seen in a racing game, and ModNation has only been available for a week.  Imagine what may pop up in a few months, or even a year?  This new concept Sony has begun to monopolize on consoles is where the future lies.  You are creating the best games of tomorrow, and it all starts right here, right now.

The Good:

+ Racing.  What good is a racing game without great play mechanics?  It’s not.  Hence Mario Kart’s stranglehold of the kart-racing genre.  Its core gameplay is refined to a degree that almost no one can match.  That is, until today.  With ModNation Racers, Sony stripped all the gimmicks and said, “Let’s make a fun kart racer, first and foremost.”  They’ve succeeded in spades.  The traditional formula is largely unchanged from Super Mario Kart.  You race around a creative track and grab item boxes along the way for a random weapon.  Use said weapons to hinder players in front of you, while advancing to first place and taking the checkered flag.  Add a few boost panels on the path, some pitfalls here and there, and you know exactly what to expect.  The game is so fun that we don’t mind how “me too-esque” it is.

+ Drift baby, drift!  ModNation creatively separates itself from Mario Kart with a new drift system.  It isn’t whatsoever typical.  It actually felt natural to use drift in a game for first time.  To zip around a corner; simply press and hold X to enter a drift, then swing the analog stick in the direction you want the momentum to carry the kart.  That’s it.

Drifting increases your boost meter, which, *ding*, allows you to boost!  But, it also affords a force field activation, which is extremely useful when some so and so tries to throw a rocket up your rear-end.  Unlike Mario Kart, there isn’t one overly powerful weapon, and with the inclusion of the shield, player skill is the most important element.  I’ve yet to think a race was unbalanced.

+ Weapon upgrades.  One of the best features is upgrading the lovely weapons.  Sure you can grab one and fire right away, but it maxes out after two more item box pick-ups.  A perfect example is rocket.  Collect one, and you must manually aim, but two more allows for a deadly showering upon your opponents.  The same holds true for all the other weapons.

+ …a time to share…  It’s clear that United Front Games built ModNation as a nation.  You’re immediately dropped into the universe’s hub that’s already connected online.  There you meet players zipping about.  Not everyone is there, but enough new players are to get you started.  This a great way to say hi to fellow noobs.  The hub also emphasizes the latest top-ranked tracks, avatars and more.  It’s simple, but works surprisingly well.  Within the first few hours I was happily building my own kart, customizing an avatar, and creating a track.  Though after realizing I had no skill at it, I moved over to the share outpost and went crazy.  It has a Spider-Man avatar, even an Avatar avatar.  We’re encouraged to share everything, and anything that looks enticing is a mere few button presses away.

+ Build me a…whatever you want.  Of all the features, the track creation mode is my favourite.  If you wanted to create a LBP level, serious time and devotion was necessary.  Remember the physics!  Here, that doesn’t exist.  You just drive and the track forms behind you.  Move the leveller lower, and the track digs up the land.  Want the track to veer into the sky?  Adjust the leveller as such.  Within ten minutes I created a track that looked somewhat professional, and I’m honestly not joking. Talk about impressive!  You can go crazy with details, or let the AI take care of the little nitty gritty like adding foliage.  The fact is, there’s choice here, which not many other games offer.

+ Now that’s what I call a commentary!  Two commentators keep a smile on your face during the single player career mode.  This is what I was talking about earlier with charm.  ModNation Racers may not feature mascots, but it employs unique style and soul thanks to the constant witty jokes, mild insults and more.

+ One sharp-looking game.  I wasn’t sure what to think upon first booting up.  This is a kart racer after all.  Boy do I feel like a fool now.  From reflective water to spectacular special effects, ModNation is saturated with subtleties that almost always impress.  Sure it slides towards the kiddie side, but who cares when everything looks so well-put-together.

+ Splitscreen, it actually features splitscreen!  COE’s Ahmed is extremely vocal about multiplayer-heavy games that don’t feature splitscreen.  He just can’t seem to leave the 90s behind.  Poor boy.  Well today’s his lucky day.  There’s not just splitscreen, but four-player support!  Imagine how happy he is.  For the other five billion of you, the online multiplayer is superb.

The Bad:

– Tough AI, or feeling like a crappy player, you decide.  I may just suck, but the AI is little too aggressive.  Early on in career mode, races are fairly trouble-free, but it doesn’t take long for the computer to become incredibly cheap.  That said, I’m willing to bet any five year old could kick my butt, so what do I know?

The Ugly:

Are we there yet?  There’s one glaring fault that I can’t overlook, the ridiculous loading.  No matter what you do, you’ll wait.  From the hub to the creation center alone is about 40 seconds.  Want to race?  That’s another minute.  How about leaving a race to re-enter the hub?  Oops, another 35 seconds.  Get the idea?  I know they say good things come to those who wait, but honestly, did ModNation have to go so out of its way to prove that?

The Lowdown:

ModNation Racers is one of best kart racers I’ve ever played.  I go so far as to say that Mario Kart better watch out.  There’s nothing like this on the market right now, and won’t be for some time.  This is the future of kart racing games, and not buying MNR because of long load times is absurd.  Hands-down it’s a must-own title for the PlayStation 3.  You’re likely to play this one for ages to come.  In fact, you may even Cherish it.


5 thoughts on “ModNation Racers Review”

  1. Great review as usual, man!

    I have to admit, I’ve been a bit skeptical about the game’s controls…but from the way you’ve described things, that new drift system sounds innovative. No doubts about it.

    Definitely supporting this game. Need to try it out today with friends via splitscreen. If you want to beat the best, you have to be the best…and that’s what ModNation is trying to do when it comes to Mario Kart comparison.

    That weapon system sounds good, but remember that it’s not new. Diddy Kong Racing came up with that concept of upgrading first. Still though, if they’re fun to use then that’s all that matters.

    Another thing that worries me is the generic feel of the karts. Yes, you can create your designs from scratch…but if most of them feel similar to each other in terms of controls, speed, etc…then what’s the use?

  2. You have some options with tweaking your carts to make them better. You can add parts to the karts that improve their stability and acceleration, etc. These are featured in the advanced settings, but since that’s where I’ve spent all my time, so should you.

    This game does a lot of things differently than Mario Kart, and I think that’s what makes it special. They didn’t just copy everything MK does and add upon it. They actually set out to make a great kart racer and they’ve done just that. I’m kind of glad that the karts don’t work exactly like MK, know what I mean? I was also happy that the weapons were upgradable, and that they introduced this drift system.

    Taken all together, it’s a really fun kart racer that your friends should really enjoy. About the only thing that’s wrong with the game is the extremely long loading times, but I think the title deserves a lot of credit for what it does right…which is just about everything else.

  3. I agree with the review exept that for me the loading times are too much of an issue. I can’t stand it. It’s a shame because the rest is SO GOOD. I’ll take this game back soon. Maybe I’m not patient enough but I get frustrated just sitting there… waiting….and waiting and w……ell, you get the point lol

    1. That’s why I said this was the ugly. I can see how it can make or break the game for people. I was just so impressed by everything else that I felt compelled to give the game the final verdict I did. I totally understand where you’re coming from though.

      Now just wait until E3. You’re going to try games that aren’t coming out for at least 6 months to a year so be sure to have a little patience ;)

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