ModNation Racers Review
- Posted May 15th, 2010 at 16:54 EDT by Steven Williamson
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Every kart racer from this point forth needs a track editor, enough said.
- The intoxicating, chaotic kart racing formula
- The incredibly deep track editing tools
- Taking the race online
- Pimping our avatar and kart for no other reason than to look good
- Not having enough options to tweak the performance of our kart
- Long loading times, particularly in career mode
If you’ve played LittleBigPlanet you’ll instantly feel a home with ModNation Racers. Not only does the humour and colourful design mimic the customisable platform game, but your avatar in ModNation Racers is pretty much a SackBoy clone, a blank canvas on which you can sticker, layer, colour and accessorise to personalise and customise before sending him whizzing off around courses to compete in chaotic Mario Kart-style races.
However, being artistically creative with your avatar doesn’t affect your skills on the track at all. Just like the kart customisation tool in ModNation Racers, pimping your character is probably going to appeal to the type of person who enjoys dressing up their avatar in PlayStation Home and buying stuff for their pad, or someone who spent hours on Nintendo Wii trying to create a Mii that looks identical to Hitler, rather than those people who just want to get on with the racing.
Nevertheless, avatar and kart customisation is very deep and accessible thanks to the excellent tutorials. You can randomly generate a character, spend a few minutes creating one, or spend hours really delving into the tool-set to create works of art. You can create intricate patterns by layering, and with skill and time the only limits imposed on you are those by your own imagination, or lack of. Already there have been dozens of impressive avatars created in the beta phase that look like famous people, so there's obviously fun to be had out of what others may deem to be a pointless process.
These customisation tools are here if you want them and if that’s what floats your boat you can’t fail to be impressed by how simple they are to use, yet how incredibly in-depth they are. But quite frankly, this stuff is really just a side dish. It complements ModNation Racer’s main course quite nicely, but you’re just as likely to leave it on the side as you are to indulge in it. The good news is that the serious kart racers out there, those who will spend ridiculous amounts of time trying to shave seconds off their lap records, are also catered for extremely well.
ModNation Racers uses a genre-standard blueprint. You’ll be speed boosting down straights, drifting around hairpin bends and picking up power-ups and launching them at competitors, but the meat of this latest kart racer lies in its hefty online, community and customisation features. ModNation Racers is no Super Mario Kart, the accolade of being the best kart racing game is probably going to remain with Nintendo for many years to come, but it does lays down a new benchmark for the genre in terms of this new feature set.
With that in mind, it’s fair to say that the weakest aspect of ModNation Racers is when you play it offline, yet still the 28 tracks and the lengthy career mode offers variety and challenge - that’s despite none of the pre-built tracks really having the same sort of appeal and magic as the likes of Moo Moo Farm or the iconic Rainbow Road had in Super Mario Kart. Quite simply, they're just not as creative or innovative aesthetically speaking, yet the actual track layouts still provide plenty of thrills and spills.
The creativity in the career mode comes mainly from the cast of characters and the storyline that runs adjacent to it. This has been jazzed up LittleBigPlanet style with colourful and quirky presenters that make wise cracks, some funny and some quite irritating, and do a decent job at building up the history and culture of the Mod Racing Championships (MRC.) You start off as a rookie and enter the Mod Racing Tournament and as you win races you unlock rewards and gain access to more challenging tracks, taking on elite racers from each course that you visit.
Despite there being some enjoyable and well-designed tracks to race around, working your way through career mode can feel like a bit of a drag due to the long load times between courses and the irritating jabber of the presenters. The bonus challenges and unlockables are therefore a welcome inclusion. You might be tasked with firing a weapon a certain number of times, for example, or pulling off as many stunts as ... (continued on next page) ----