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Kimberley Ellis
26 May, 2010

ModNation Racers Review

PS3 Review | Move over Mario, there's a new kart in town.
With the vast number of leaked announcements prior to E3 2009, ModNation Racers became one of the conference's biggest surprises. While some people rolled their eyes at the announcement of ModNation Racers, they were of naively placing the title in the box of just another kart racing title, but like Media Molecule's LittleBigPlanet, United Front Games had grand plans for this game - it would break the rules of the genre by not tying the title into a pre-existing franchise, by not shoving the Mario's and Sonic's of the gaming world into go-karts, forcing them to do battle in a new arena while trying to retain elements of the original titles from which these iconic gaming characters were spawned. Like a breath of fresh air, ModNation Racers has descended onto the PlayStation 3 and accomplished just that and more by giving players a living, breathing racing world to inhabit.


The possibilities for ModNation Racers' online community are sky high.

The possibilities for ModNation Racers' online community are sky high.
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When it comes to describing ModNation Racers, Sony's marketing motto of "Play, Create, Share" is quite an apt term to epitomise everything which is great about this game. Because at its core, ModNation Racers is about playing, creating and sharing - but that's only part of the reason why it's so great. The first thing you'll notice about the game is that it oozes so much personality it would make Tony Stark look like the most boring man at the party. From the simple yet considerable kart/environmental designs to the bright colours and cutesy bobble-headed characters (known in the game as Mods), you'll feel as if you've just walked into the playroom, tipped out the contents of your toy box and started to use your toys to craft your very own universe. This therein is where the charm of ModNations Racers lies. Upon loading up the game, one of the things you'll first notice is that it completely does away with a menu screen. Instead players will find themselves warped into a hub called the Mod Spot. From the Mod Spot, players are able to drive up to various buildings to access race events, peruse the many customisable features of the game or just chat with other racers via voice or text options.

Quick races allow players to quickly choose from a number of preset options which will allow them to tailer races to suit their style in the shortest amount of time, while the online and split screen modes will provide players with an avenue for dabbling in the multiplayer side of things, while the career gate will take you to the ModNation Racing Championship (MRC) - the single-player component of the title which lets you progress from being a kart racing novice, through to the elite driving tours where you'll tackle such highly regarded races such as the Italian Stallion Espresso - a fine example of just some of the tongue-in-cheek humour which is peppered throughout the title.

What is unique about the title is that it's greatest selling point lies not within its racing gameplay, but within its creation tools and the wider online community. A fact which PALGN can attest to as we spent hours of play time tinkering with our karts and tracks before we even got into the racing. The Creation Station is the hub for which all of the title's creative options lie. It is here that you can craft your custom karts and racers using unlockable parts which you have gathered throughout participating in the single-player component of the game. Whether it's a slick new set of wheels or a kart made entirely of cardboard, these parts only provide you with an aesthetic edge over your opponents, serving as mere bragging rights in the community hub before you let your racing skills do the talking. Merely a week into the title's shelf life, you'll see first hand that the game's creation features run deep as you'll find yourself racing against Mods lovingly crafted after characters such as Darth Vader, Mario and Spiderman, while seeing famous vehicles from popular culture such as the General Lee, Mystery Machine and The A-Team van grace the race track.

The features become deeper still with players not only getting online and sharing their creations, but rating others creations, sharing advice and even modifying the work of others (for which the game uses the term remixing) in order to expand on someone else's ideas.

However, the real creative asset is the track creator. This allows gamers to create their own race tracks which vary from impressive copies of real-life circuits to crazy courses which will have you jumping through rings of fire and getting some serious air time. Even if you are the most uncreative person on the planet, the game makes creating a race track so easy and effortless as steam rolling bits of asphalt all over the place and auto populating the level with weapons pods, trees, water levels and weather conditions. While those who prefer a more hands on approach to designing can still perform all of these tweaks to their creations quite simply through the use of their PlayStation 3 controller.


Creation is where much of the title's fun lies.

Creation is where much of the title's fun lies.
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With all of these tools at player's fingertips, there is a great potential for a thriving ModNation Racers community to exist online for those that wish to flex their creative muscles, while at the same time being a place to provide gamers with fresh content for those that just wish to race on a unique track rather than tinker.

As fun as this all sounds, there's only one place a kart racing game really matters and that's on the racing circuit. Here, ModNation Racers stays close to the Mario Kart formula, making it quite difficult to separate the two titles. As with Mario Kart, the philosophy behind ModNation's racing is made up of a number of elements: drifting, speed, shortcuts and an arsenal of weaponry to prevent other players from getting the upper hand.

ModNation has tweaked the drift mechanic found in Mario Kart, with players given greater control over their drift. As with Mario Kart, players are rewarded with an increase in their boost gauge the longer they drift, only racers are able to store their boost for a more opportune moment later on in the race - similarly to that of the Burnout franchise - rather than being forced to use it as they earn it.

That's not where the Mario Kart similarities end, as ModNation's weapon system also mirrors that of Nintendo's karting classic. Players are able to knock out their opponents by collecting weapons pods which have been peppered in numerous locations across the race track, allowing players to slow down their fellow racers with zany projectiles such as a blue pulse beam which stops your kart or missiles - which if successful will blow your kart right off the track.

In the weapons department, you'll find that ModNation's arsenal is severely limited compared to Mario Kart's offerings, with only four weapon modifications available. For those that greatly focus of the combat aspect of kart racing, these options are most definitely slim pickings.

What the game does to combat this issue is interesting, and provides players with a great reward if they can pull it off. Unlike many other karting titles, ModNation's allows players to pick up multiple weaponry, where they will be rewarded for holding on to their power-up rather than just squandering it at the first opportunity. If you collect another weapon pod with a power-up already loaded on your kart, your weapon will be upgraded rather than replaced with the new power-up. So that poxy rocket which required you to literally be up an opponent's rear end now had kart-seeking capabilities, allowing for the weapon to be more successfully utilised. Yes, the lackluster number of weapons options is a sticking point, but this weapon's mechanic is quite a clever one and will give racers a distinct tactical advantage for those that can reap its benefits.

To counteract the weaponry on offer, each kart also comes equipped with a shield that can be deployed at will (although it does contain a limited number of uses) with the circle button. If triggered at the right time, the shield can ultimately become the difference between finishing first or last in a race, adding a twist to the final stages of any race.


If the weapons don't get you, the track's traps will.

If the weapons don't get you, the track's traps will.
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As good as it is, ModNation Racers is not without its quibbles and quirks, the most notable being the lengthy loading times which may be off putting for some and the frame rate drop which can occur at times. Though for a game with many online capabilities, these quibbles are quite minor as the game features a robust server which can handle numerous amounts of players with minimal server disconnections.

As LittleBigPlanet did before it, ModNation Racers has deservedly been attached to Sony’s marketing moniker of "Play, Create, Share." Although being only the second title to don the phrase, ModNation Racers epitomises the meaning behind the mantra as it unlocks the shackles of the kart racer formula and injects a healthy dose of fun and creativity into the kart racing scene.
The Score
ModNation Racers frees gamers from the shackles of the kart racer formula and injects a healthy dose of fun and creativity into the kart racing scene.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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03 Jun, 2009 With the first images released for the game.
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27 Comments
3 years ago
I'm surprised that after all the positive comments they've only given an 8.5....
3 years ago
^The load times are bad enough to take it away from a 9, imho.

That's honestly the only thing holding it back for me. Everything about it is fantastically realised; it's just the freaking load times..gah.

That being said, 8.5 is still a pretty high score and is by no means a flop.
3 years ago
I wish this had come out on the 360... I would have snapped it up!
3 years ago
jameseybuddy wrote
I wish this had come out on the 360... I would have snapped it up!
its a Sony owned studio.
3 years ago
This is why I don't read reviews, you've gone and convinced me I need to play this, and I'm not one to wait for it to be a bargain.

Well done. icon_think.gif
3 years ago
mikezilla2 wrote
its a Sony owned studio.
Yes and no. The PS3 version was made by United Front Games who are not owned by Sony. The PSP version, however, was made by a Sony studio. Maybe Sony will buy them out like it did with Media Molecule (makers of LittleBigPlanet).

Great game. Lots of fun especially vs a friend in split-screen.
3 years ago
Quote
Move over Mario, there's a new kart in town.
Only played the beta but I would take Mario Kart over this any day.


I'm not that creative and don't have the patience to make my own things (with the exception on Timesplitters 3) so I would very likely spend little to no time making my own tracks.


I will buy this game one day but that will be quite a long way away.
3 years ago
Gamesta wrote
I'm not that creative and don't have the patience to make my own things (with the exception on Timesplitters 3) so I would very likely spend little to no time making my own tracks.
I'm much the same, but course creation is so quick and easy that I'm changing. Give it a go.

Anyone else have trouble finding an Online match?
3 years ago
I've been tooling around with the game all week and I haven't had an issue with finding an online match.

Although, I have been playing it at all hours of the night so I'm probably playing when most people are on. icon_think.gif
3 years ago
Tetsuwan wrote
Gamesta wrote
I'm not that creative and don't have the patience to make my own things (with the exception on Timesplitters 3) so I would very likely spend little to no time making my own tracks.
I'm much the same, but course creation is so quick and easy that I'm changing. Give it a go.

Anyone else have trouble finding an Online match?
I will definitely give it a go eventually but there's tons of other games I am FAR more interested in than MNR.
3 years ago
Check out my Torres and Gerrard mods.. Liverpool 10/11 kits
3 years ago
Nice review Kimberley!
This is another PS3 title that I'm sitting on the fence on. The load times are enough to put me off, but then I read negative comments about the AI rubberbanding, 'blue turtle shell' syndrome and relatively shallow driving mechanics. Are you able to comment on the latter three?
3 years ago
Cyph wrote
Nice review Kimberley!
This is another PS3 title that I'm sitting on the fence on. The load times are enough to put me off, but then I read negative comments about the AI rubberbanding, 'blue turtle shell' syndrome and relatively shallow driving mechanics. Are you able to comment on the latter three?
I can comment. Abit further into it after my first lot of impressions, so will comment abit more for you.

The load times really are not that bad. I don't find the AI rubberbanding much at all and as for the driving mechanic's, they are not shallow really. I find the driving is challenging, its more about skill, taking short cuts and using the track to your advantage more than just using the power up's. Overall its more challenging than Mario Kart (doesn't have the same charm though) and its more about skill driving.

Then add the awesome customization and its a really fun racer. I say give it a go.
3 years ago
Hmm... everything has a right price icon_wink.gif Thanks Andy for fielding my questions.
3 years ago
I'm rapt that so many are now getting on board, great review Kimberley!
If you guys haven't already, add me to PSN (id: Pete-Err) as I'll surely be spending a fair bit of time in MNR.

I'm finding the creation tools here far more accessible than LBP too, which requires almost a full design brief and technical knowhow (switches, etc) to get the most out of its levels. This is much more friendly to the pick up and play artist, and I've managed to get out some pretty damn spiffy looking creations too (if I do say so myself!).

Looking forward to seeing you guys track side, and also checking out what you've managed to mock up in-game!
3 years ago
i figured its much easier to play as shown by the tech demo but what would you say is the hardest building feature ?
3 years ago
The absolute hardest?

Probably the advanced tools in the track creator. Trying to get water levels right while still having tunnels in your track, and developing meaningful and accurate jumps (though these aren't really that hard to do).

It's not so much that it's hard though as it will take some experience to get the tracks perfect and learn the sheer volume of tools at your disposal. Like correctly banking your turns for optimum drifting or changing the width of courses to give a better sense of speed (narrowing), etc.

I guess it's easy to make a good track, but much harder to make a really great one (though no where near as hard as making a good LBP level).
3 years ago
Here, take a look at these track editing demonstrations for a better idea of the fine-tuning and level of detail you can get stuck into in the track creator:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWVDnDyjwIY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmOb22Z-W_E

It's pretty full on.

What I'm personally hanging out for is to see what the inFamous devs have done with their track from the Artist Spotlight. That one looked brilliant.
3 years ago
I can handle bad load times. I finished Sonic The Hedgehog 2006.

I was already excited for this, and now i'm even more excited! I love player generated content.
3 years ago
Damn, after watching some video of this and playing a lot of Mario kart DS recently, I have a strange urge to get this.
3 years ago
Waka wrote
I can handle bad load times. I finished Sonic The Hedgehog 2006.
Replace Sonic with F.E.A.R. on PS3.
3 years ago
I'd content to sit through longer load times if the quality at the end of the loading screen is exceptional.

It is here...so no complaints!!!
3 years ago
^I guess I might just be spoilt by my PC or something. I admit though, the game is epic. I'm yet to make a track. I need to make a track soon, and I'll make it really hard, because it's almost tradition for Denny to make really frustratingly difficult levels in games.
3 years ago
[quote="Gamesta"
I'm not that creative and don't have the patience to make my own things (with the exception on Timesplitters 3)[/quote]

icon_eek.gif Holy crap man - you made Timesplitters 3!!! Well done icon_wink.gif
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| More
  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  20/5/2010 (Confirmed)
Publisher:
  Sony Computer Entertainment
Genre:
  Racing
Year Made:
  2009
Players:
  2

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