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