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ModNation Racers – The PS3 Attitude Review

Submitted by on Tuesday, 8 June 20108 Comments

When a game like ModNation Racers comes along, it is tempting just to write ‘go buy it’ and be done.

But that wouldn’t create much suspense and cause you to read the full review now, would it?

So, sit back and relax as we completely justify why every PS3 owner should have this game in their BluRay drive right now. Don’t worry, there will be moments of objectivity contained within…

ModNation Racers is a karting game. By that, we mean it follows the exact same rules as every other kart racing title we’ve seen. You get to race karts. You get to pick up weapons and use them against your competitors. You’re trying to win.

In that respect, ModNation Racers is certainly one of the very best karting games we’ve ever played. As slick and easy to control as anything you’ve ever seen with an Italian plumber at the helm, this is racing at its most fun and throwaway best.

Like other games in this genre, you can drift around corners – Tokyo-style – and doing so will help you to fill up your boost-meter. Whilst you’re in the air (and trust us, you will be in the air an awful lot) you can do tricks and spins that will also give your boost-meter a healthy kick in the positive direction. Your final chance to fill up the boost comes from successful attacks on your fellow karters.

All this latent boost has to go somewhere, and in ModNation Racers you can use it in one of two ways. The first is obvious – a turbo boost that sees you hurtling down the track at breakneck speeds. You may also use your boost to pull up a shield around you and your vehicle, helping to protect you against the nefarious hordes who are trying to chase you down and open up a six-pack of whup-ass on you.

ModNation Racers is a barrel of laughs...

The pickups in ModNation Racers offer a great deal of variety, and grabbing additional ‘pods’ will power-up your current weapon across three levels of awesomeness. For example, you may pick up a pod that gives you a speed boost. Picking up a second gives you a longer, stronger boost. The third, however, delivers a time-warping wormhole that’ll push you back up the field and into the heart of the action.

Other top-end weapons include a powerful sonic boom that travels down the track, an electrical storm that can take out multiple enemies at once and a rocket ‘swarm’ that would worry a Sherman tank, let alone a tiny kart.

In addition to these power-ups, there are also a raft of traps, gates and switches you can drive over or shoot (if you have some juice in your boost-meter) that will open up new short-cuts or throw your opponents off guard. Nothing quite says ‘stay off my rear’ like launching an explosive barrel at someone.

The controls are effortless and feel completely spot on, with the larger triggers being used for the accelerator and brake, and the right-side buttons operating the drift, turbo boost and weapons. There are some extra controls that allow you to taunt your opponents and perform special functions, but you could get away with just focusing on the driving and you won’t lose any benefits.

If all ModNation Racers offered was a great single-player, split-screen and online multiplayer kart racing game, it would still win our hearts over with the excellent – nay, faultless controls, brilliant graphics, great sound and awesome power-ups.

However, and as everyone knows by now, ModNation Racers really shines through thanks to the continuation of Sony’s Play, Create, Share mantra.

You won't get the hump with ModNation's creation tools...

When starting ModNation Racers you are delivered to the ModSpot, a small-ish lobby area that is reasonably akin to driving around PlayStation Home. Within the ModSpot you’ll find the Race Station, a Creation Station, a Top Mods, Top Karts and Top Tracks area that shows the most downloaded creations, a Coming Attractions area where you can view upcoming DLC and a Hot Lap that allows you to try to earn the best times on a track. There is also a News Update screen and the very best player in the world even has a statue in their honour for all to see.

The Race Station is where you’ll kick off Online races, Split-Screen battles and the Career, which is the single-player ‘story Mode’. There is also a Quick Race option to throw you straight into the action.

The Creation Station is where you can go and create or remix Mods (drivers), Karts and Tracks. You’ll also be able to shop from the Creation Station (either with real money by purchasing DLC, or with points you earn in Career Mode) and there is a sharing point so you can upload your creations or download others.

Creating Mods, Karts and Tracks is a breeze in ModNation Racers. The most complex of these three tools is the track editor, but even those tools are easy to grasp. Once you have driven out the road by using the same controls as you would use to drive a kart (only this time with no drifting), you can simply have the game auto-complete your track and you’re done.

If you want to get clever, every aspect of the track and its surroundings is customisable, allowing those of you with some time on your hands to tweak everything until it is perfect. As well as the main track, creating short-cuts, jumps and other cool additions is easy. ModNation Racers includes a full suite of tutorials for each of the three key creation areas, and every tutorial is delivered via video so you can see examples of what is possible.

The community tools are also complete within ModNation Racers, with the ability to text chat, voice chat and use gestures within any area of the game. You can open up full details of any competitor waiting in the ModSpot or the online racing lobby. From there you can view, rate and download any of their creations directly.

Any game where you can jump over cows rates high on our awesome-meter...

Now for the objectivity.

There are two areas where ModNation Racers falls down from being utterly perfect, and we suspect that both of these can be fixed by way of a patch or two.

The first is the load times. There is no doubt about it – despite a reasonable initial mandatory HDD install, the load times between races are fairly troublesome. Starting the game actually requires a short tea break before you can get going, and the load times between competitions mean you might end up twice your original size as you inevitably resort to mmaking and eating small snacks between races.

For a game that has a mandatory HDD install, we must say that the load times are fairly disappointing.

The second issue is the difficulty level as you progress in the single-player career mode. Whilst this review does take the view that games can be way too easy these days, and that anyone who complains ought to go play Shinobi a few times to realise what a hardcore gamer used to have to put up with, it can be difficult to unlock all the available characters and props in ModNation Racers thanks to some aggressive AI racers. Coupled with the fact that the shield does require some great timing to be effective, you may end up throwing the previously mentioned snacks against the wall.

At least that way you’ll be the same weight as when you bought the game, right?

We love the fact that you can’t just complete everything in one sitting, and that you might have to race a track a dozen times before you achieve all the side-tasks that the game asks of you in order to unlock a new character, but some of you may find this a little too hard to swallow.

Both of these negatives can be fixed post-release, so it is certainly not the end of the road (bad pun intended). What is true is that these issues do not detract from the sheer brilliance of ModNation Racers. Outside of these two admittedly minor problems, what stands before you is almost the perfect video game.

Great fun, easy to get in to, endlessly playable and permanently evolving, ModNation Racers is an absolute must-have game for every PS3 owner.

With the promise of some outstanding DLC to come, and the constant influx of new Mods, Karts and Tracks from the PlayStation 3 owning community, ModNation Racers is everything you could wish for.

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