ModNation Racers is PlayStation’s answer to Mario Kart, though it enhances the familiar kart racing formula by giving players an insane amount of customisation options, including the ability to create tracks from scratch and share them with the community.
It’s a blueprint that worked wonders in the last game of the series, with user-generated content becoming central to the experience and giving players immense replay value beyond the obligatory single player campaign. In many ways, ModNation Racers: Road Trip is no different, boasting an incredible amount of options for players to use their skill and imagination to conjure up some unique creations.
The advantage that Road Tip has over the previous game is PS Vita’s touchscreen, which makes swiping through the game’s hub and pimping karts, designing characters and sculpting tracks as simple as it possibly could be, even though the art of creation is still as complicated and in-depth as players want to make it.
In the Kart studio, players can spray paint their rides with every imaginable colour and accessorise with a massive range of items, from spoilers and engines to steering wheels and seats. The same applies in the mod studio, where players can make a character from scratch, changing every aspect of their being, from the length of their nose to the width between their eyes. A massive wardrobe of clothes and accessories are also available for those who enjoy playing dress-up.
The most impressive customisation options can be found in the Track Editor mode. Players begin by choosing from seven backdrops, including a jungle, desert scene and an alpine setting. Though you can auto-populate a part or all of the track, it’s much more fun to tinker around with the huge amount of props available to alter track layouts, add race-affecting items, or just make backgrounds look impressive.
Thanks to PS Vita’s touchscreen, modding is simple. Players can use gestures such as pinching to change an object, or draw the layout of the track with their finger. Touchscreen implementation extends to sculpting a track with the tip of the fingers, or push, pulling and rotating it to move objects. It’s an impressive tool-set that allows players to change every single aspect of the course, from the style of road to the positioning of weapon pods, and PS Vita’s touchscreen plays a major part in making modding accessible and simple to use.
At the Share Station, these creations can then be published, downloaded and even gifted to players via PS Vita’s ‘NEAR’ feature. There’s a great system too for finding all the best creations, with a filter to check for the highest rated ones, or perhaps track down the course that offers the most XP gain. One of the most innovative features though are Travel points. When players first check into the Travel section it recognises their location. Bring PS Vita with on the move and check in again at another location and players can earn points. Earn a set amount of points and it unlocks even more customisation options.
Indeed, the running theme throughout ModNation Racers is customisation and rewarding players for their actions. Through the career mode players are constantly furnished with unlockables and given points for actions on the tracks. The career mode is split into increasingly difficult tours where players are tasked with beating the chasing pack and getting enough points over the duration of a tour to top the leaderboard and unlock the next section.
Races are fast-paced and a lot of fun, with each track boasting a number of variables that determine how well players do on the circuit. Drifting and drafting fills up the boost metre for a crucial thrust just when players might need it, while side-swiping an opponent off the course is instantly gratifying. Weapon pods once again make an appearance and are strategically-placed around the circuit. The big decision is whether players will unleash a weapon immediately or hold onto it and make it up to three times more powerful by collecting more pods of the same colour. It’s a feature that works really well and adds a new layer of depth onto the standard kart racing formula.
The array of weapons is impressive too and allows players to execute a variety of offensive and defensive moves. Whether you’re freezing an opponent with an icy blast, shooting them off course with a fiery missile, or emitting a sonic pulse and smashing them out the way, it’s always satisfying pushing to the front of the pack and leaving opponents spinning out of control from a well-timed attack.
Though races are fast-paced and exciting, with the default courses extremely well designed, we have experienced bouts of frame rate issues, particularly when multiple players are firing weapons at the same time. It’s not a game breaker by any means, but it can very off-putting if you’re at a crucial point in the race. What’s more unforgivable though, is the lack of online multiplayer.
Every competitive kart racing game should have an online multiplayer component. The fact that ModNation Racers: Road Trip doesn’t, yet the previous game on PSP did, makes its omission even more puzzling. The developer tries to make up for it somewhat with the option to be able to race against other player’s ghosts, but it’s still incredibly disappointing that we can’t take our created karts online and race against others.
Nonetheless, when ModNation Racers: Road Trip runs smoothly it’s a joy to play and its career mode is incredibly rewarding with tons of unlockables up for grabs. The customisation options too are unrivalled and PS Vita’s touchscreen really works well to help players have the smoothest possible creation experience. Still, it loses points for frame rate issues and no online multiplayer.
-The Final Word-
Putting the disappointment about lack of online multiplayer aside, ModNation Racers: Road Trip's customisation is unparalleled and the action on the tracks fast-paced and exciting