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ModNation Racers review

AT A GLANCE
  • Wacky (in a good way) races
  • Intuitive track editing
  • Sound racing mechanics
  • Frustrating objectives
  • Annoyingly artificial rubber banding
  • Might experience 'developer's block'

After years of having to deal with petulant games journalists, vocal forum members and an increasingly fussy buying public, we’re not surprised that more and more developers are turning to us and saying “Fine! You don’t like what we’ve done? Why don’t you do it yourself, then?” After all, if we are given the responsibility of creating the game, we’re going to make ours absolutely perfect, right?

This is where we put our hands up and say “no”. We’re staring at our little blank, naked kart racer with a head like a boiled egg and we’ve got ‘developer’s block’. We’ve got a blank canvas, endless opportunities and we don’t know what to do. It doesn’t help that ModNation Racers’ brief beta trial showed how clever you could be if your mind worked quick enough; Kratos, Kermit the Frog, Spider-Man, Captain America, a Killzone soldier, Mario, Sonic. If you’ve thought of it, chances are somebody has already made it.

Even if you haven’t, you’ll kick yourself for not thinking of it first. In the end we created our version of The Stig (easy, already been done better), Chun Li (took ages, looked crap, already been done) and internet meme Techno Viking (but only because we started with the beard). Equally bereft of innovative ideas, we also managed to cobble together a kart that sported last years’ Brawn F1 livery, a rusted, ‘rat look’ muscle car and, er, a camouflaged school bus. MNR’s potential stretches far further than the creator’s imagination…

In case you haven’t worked it out already, MNR is a Do It Yourself arcade kart racing game in the vein of LittleBigPlanet. From your Modspot (read: hub) you’ll be able to access the Career Mode, which serves as a tutorial, inspiration and method to unlock pieces for the other part of MNR – the Creation Station. It’s here where you create drivers, karts and, more importantly, tracks to use for yourself or share with the online world. Modspot will also be the place to start multi-player races, ogle some of the clever creations other people have made and be teased with premium content so you can pay money for new shoes and moustaches. It sounds like a lot to take in but don’t worry – the editing tools are the most accessible and intuitive to date.

Unlike LBP, which can rely heavily on a gamers’ knowledge of intricate mechanics and physics, MNR is – at its most basic level – is easy as drawing a loop. While LBP might require countless elements before you have manufactured an entertaining and barely functional level, MNR excels because creating a functional raceway is idiot proof. If you can make a track with a slot-cars kit, you can make a race-worthy circuit in MNR. With the added bonus of not having to hunt around for a missing corner piece or needing to replace metal brushes.

ModNation Racers isn’t the first memorable racing game with the ability to create your own content; we’ve been making circuits since the ancient 4D Sports Driving or V-Rally 2 on PSone. Let us not forget the successful (and much more recent) TrackMania either. But ModNation is in a different league. Again, key to its accomplishment is the trouble-free implementation. Complex components like jumps, overpasses, short-cuts and terrain changes are as simple as painting the track with a virtual brush. All the calculations go on behind the scenes while you’re free to plan your dream track, craft it, and then upload it for the world to judge. We can’t wait to see what happens once the more ingenious and creative gamers are let loose with the tools.

Considering how sophisticated and potentially complicated the make-your-own sections could’ve been, it’s surprising that the career mode races are the most frustrating part. MNR feels typical as far as kart racing goes (big drifts and bigger jumps with weapon-based pickups). The selection of rockets, lightning bolts and speed boosts will be familiar to anyone who has ever played a karting game. Sadly, things were sullied slightly; we experienced some annoyingly artificial rubber banding (where slower racers get speed boosts to make events more competitive).

It keeps things tight, but also means that no matter how well you drive, a win can be unfairly snatched at any moment. When you take into account the objectives you need to meet in your average race (score 10000 drift points, find and knock down ten concealed objects, attack a specific opponent in front of the grandstands and finish first) to unlock new parts, it can be irritating to repeat races. Particularly if you scored the drift points, got the bad guy, knocked over ten objects and then failed all of them because you came second. All we wanted was a bloody aerial shaped like a fishing rod for our cardboard car: is that too much to ask?

Even if MNR was ‘just’ a racing game, the annoyances would be minor. But ModNation Racers is far more than a kart game – it’s the new friendly face of DIY gaming. The creation tools are accessible and the editing mechanics comfortably familiar – more so than any other ‘make your own’ style game on PS3. It even caters to classic, often overlooked, split-screen racing alongside conventional 12-player online play. It’s the only kart racer you’ll ever need, and although not the best racing experience out there, it’s certainly the most fun. And if you don’t enjoy what’s on offer, you’ve only yourself to blame…

May 5, 2010

More Info

Release date: May 25 2010 - PS3, PSP (US)
May 21 2010 - PS3, PSP (UK)
Available Platforms: PS3, PSP
Genre: Racing
Published by: SCEA
Developed by: United Front Games, SCE Studios San Diego
ESRB Rating:
Everyone: Cartoon Violence, Comic Mischief
PEGI Rating:
3+

22 comments

  • ThundaGawd - January 1, 2011 10:10 a.m.

    I recently got this game, it's O.K. in my opinion, The load times between every race piss me off, especially when i'm playing splitscreen with friends. I find it's just better to dust off my Wii and play some mariokart with a bunch of friends than raging against the loading times between races.
  • PiscesIscariot - June 2, 2010 4:19 a.m.

    This game is so stressful. Even more so then MW2... I hate it
  • hardcore_gamer1990 - May 26, 2010 11:44 a.m.

    I couldn't get enough of the demo... It's only my GCSEs stopping me from going to buy it right now. If I did get it, I would fail them all...
  • jacob_kreed - May 26, 2010 6:46 a.m.

    Excellent Game, very Funny. Its Mario Kart...the only issue is this , the loading times....but I will be honest the stuff people have mad...in such a short space of time, excellent....
  • GodofPS314 - May 15, 2010 7:59 p.m.

    Yeah rubber-banding is not all that bad, I would rather have competetion rather than a blow out. Anyway, this and Littlebigplanet2= Jizz in my pants
  • sleepy92ismypsn - May 8, 2010 12:24 a.m.

    what?! no super review? this is pretty early the game isnt even out for another 2 and a half weeks and i cant wait.
  • QWERTYCommander - May 6, 2010 2:58 a.m.

    I liked Trackmania, except for the fact that the online was extremely complicated (NO ONE wants to configure their NAT just to play their created level online, Nadeo. NO FUCKING ONE.) I will probably get this. CAPTCHA: the dumpies That's what I get when I eat a sandwich from the store.
  • SimOniS - May 6, 2010 2:50 a.m.

    is it better than ? Mario Kart Wii ? SASASR ? etc
  • EnragedTortoise1 - May 6, 2010 1:57 a.m.

    @TheHolyHandGrenade: 2-player online splitscreen, 4-player offline. Already preordered this, nice to see some encouragement.
  • Pocotron - May 5, 2010 9:07 p.m.

    Forgive the double post, but (and I'm not trying to sound like a disgruntled fanboy) but why did this get a 9 and LittleBigPlanet get a 10? Its just a question now, so when I get a straight answer, I'll go fanboy crazy and rip your nuts off then. KTHXBYE!
  • Pocotron - May 5, 2010 9:04 p.m.

    This game looks really good. Well. Uh, I guess thats all I have to say about that.
  • TheHolyHandGrenade - May 5, 2010 8:46 p.m.

    Wait, so can you play splitscreen online?
  • crumbdunky - May 5, 2010 8:30 p.m.

    enjoyed messing about with the creation tools at my mates when he was in the beta and thought the racing was really good too-didn't have much trouble with rubber banding-at least not to MK degrees! Always up for another game to play WITH the littlun so this looks excellent as the PS3 stays on some real top, varied form.
  • Conman93 - May 5, 2010 8:04 p.m.

    I can see myself spending days on this. Im glad the creation is simpler than lbp. I find lbp's create mode really complicated and I have yet to build a level :( Great Review. Will surely get this
  • Tetchmonster - May 5, 2010 7:25 p.m.

    Everything i read about this makes me want it more and more! My house is addicted to mario kart so shall be interesting to see if this really can live up to the high standards set, but given the reviews and videos it could well do!
  • Moondoggie1157 - May 5, 2010 6:12 p.m.

    LBP is up there as one of my favourites, but at first MNR didn't look as good... After reading this, I am really excited. My only problem with the article is that "developers block" shouldn't be a con. Although, I guess I can see why it was written, giving MNR a 10 would have caused a bit of bullshit... I guess there had to be some cons.
  • Wolverine08 - May 5, 2010 6:10 p.m.

    YES. GOOD SCORE, SO I'LL PICK THIS UP AT SOME POINT
  • tomthespesh - May 5, 2010 4:54 p.m.

    @OnyxOblivion Same I need to get me a better job then I may purchase a PS3 as it has some decent games now. Unless by a completely implausable and unlikely twist of fate something like MNR, LBP and 3D dot game heroes come out on 360. I can dream can't I?
  • OnyxOblivion - May 5, 2010 4:40 p.m.

    *insert angry 360 owner statement here* Nah. It took a few years, but the PS3 has really come a long way, especially last year and this year. A ton of solid titles in recent months. Now...to get a job, and then get a PS3.

Showing 1-20 of 22 comments

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