ModNation Racers review
Sing the Modnation anthem with me, guys!
Littlebigplanet... in go karts.
Modnation Racers is a game that gives the player a lot of room to be creative in a kart racing setting, allowing them to modify and create racers, karts and tracks, as well as allow them to race with solid execution behind the racing physics and the like. There are some problems here and there, but the final result... at first, the final result was above average with some killer problems keeping it from greatness, but now, with a patch or two (we're on Version 1.04 at the time this review was written), Modnation Racers is a good game worth purchasing and playing.
Climb your way through the Modnation Racing leaderboards!
There is a story, but it's some filler about a racer named Tag going from the bottom of the crapheap to the top of the Modnation Racing Curcuit in order to make a lot of money for his mom's paint shop. Along the way, he runs into some complications with his uncle and his business, Conservative Motors, who are about boring looking cars for corporate gains. Sounds a bit like hippy propaganda, especially since Tag's mom's paint shop produces a bunch of bright colors that almost resemble a bad acid trip. But regardless, the story just serves as filler so that there's a purpose behind racing through the circuit, THOUGH in the way it's executed, it's still good, with some funny bits here and there, though it's mostly from the commentators, Gary and Biff, in the sense that Biff always belittles Gary. So in essence, the story ain't half bad.
Modify for success.
First and foremost, Modnation Racers is about being creative! You can create your own racers, karts and even tracks! The beginning sets are enough for some basic creations, but as you proceed in the career mode, you'll be able to use a LOT of tools to make the most creative thing you can! Of course, you could be like everyone else and create racers and cars based off of licenses like Mario, Sonic, Speed Racer and Batman, or you could recreate yourself, or, hell, you could create whatever fits within the restrictions, with the restrictions being your imagination and whatever you have unlocked! No doubt, you'll be spending hours because the creation aspect is so simple and easy, and with lots of little pieces, you'll eventually lose yourself, and countless hours will pass before you finally decide “yes – THAT is what I want”.
It's even worse when designing tracks, because there are so many things you could do here. Oh, you could be unoriginal and recreate Mario Kart and Diddy Kong Racing tracks, or you could actually put some of those creative juices to work and create a truly unique track! There's a lot to consider when creating, and I've just scraped the surface – you, the potential buyer, will be the one out of us two who digs deep enough to create the world's best track...
3. 2. 1. Go!
Here's where you get to show off your kart and self - on the actual circuit!
As per usual in the kart racing subgenre, you're given weapons to either speed up heaps, or to decimate your foes. You can upgrade your weapons by going through the item boxes while carrying an item, but here's where I start to have a problem. The first upgrade, I'll live with, because it just aims at the person who's one position ahead of you, but the second goes for everyone in front of you. This is so easily abused by the AI, especially what I like to call "the blue supersonic cheating missile of death", because that's pretty much what it is - it zips past you, and keeps on going for a while until everyone in front is hit. The other weapons at their highest are also cheap, but at least you can shield yourself from them briefly if your reflexes are good. With the supersonic missile, you have to have a lot of shield left, and often, it's followed up by different missiles or lightning, and your shield power is probably all dried up by then, so you're screwed. You get hit, and then you'll probably go from first to fourth if you're lucky, and last if the game is enough of a cheater. This gets to be increasingly full of crap as you progress through the circuit as the AI gets to be more difficult, and coupled with the challenges you get later on, goddamn, this gets pretty annoying...
Most of your time offline will be spent racing on tracks designed by United Front. Don't worry about there being any bad tracks, because United Front at least knew what they were doing while designing these tracks, each with their own little things that make them worth racing on, like all the twists and turns, as well as the positioning of traps and crap. They do get pretty dull after the tenth time racing on them in a row (oh trust me, it'll happen because of some lame “last minute win” on the AI's end), but then again, if you were to eat a whole quiche, you'd be like “nah mate, that stuff's starting to make me feel unwell” when you're offered any more in a short period of time.
What'll make you race a course more than once – other than cheap crappy rubber band AI – would have to be the challenges you'll need to do to unlock more parts for the creating aspect of the game. Each track has one you'll be able to do with a little skill and perseverance, which is finishing third, second or first. Then you got some that require you to get a lot of points via drifting, hit a certain racer (often at a certain part of the track), or don't get hit (oh boy, that one's impossible unless you got heaps of power for your shield – at least they take place on tracks where boosting would be suicide, so don't worry too much). Oh, and you have to come first. That's the topping of the poopoo sandwich depending on your perspective, because a fair amount of these challenges inconvenience that, forcing you last or something, especially if you screw up. Ooh yeah, this game is pretty unforgiving, but for all the wrong reasons.
Complete the challenges for a track, and you'll be challenged to a grudge match. You'll have to beat them, either to the finish line or get the highest score. Just racing isn't too tricky, through they can be pretty damn fast when they want to be. The points match is just a twit if you aren't too good with drifts and aerial tricks on specific tracks, and you can't crash into your opponent here, so that's a double doozy. Your reward for winning is their body.. oh no, not in the way you're thinking of, buddy; I meant that for character creation, and their kart's body for kart creation.
Alright, let's head online, and good god, this is way better than offline. Seriously, if you're judging this game just on offline, you'd be pretty stupid, because there's also the online to consider. That's like judging Halo just on single player (that said, people NEED to keep single player in mind when reviewing Halo.. dammit, games should be reviewed as a whole, not just the best feature) – you're going to look like a fool! Anyway, the online is pretty sweet. You can either challenge people to an XP race to increase XP, or a friendly race. You race on random tracks – either user created or United Front created – and the aim is to finish, preferably first.
Wow, what a way to take the good portions of offline play and keep the bad parts away! Online racing is fun as hell. Being able to be in their faces (I know most racers don't have microphones, but still) while showing off your creativity, and hell, one part that was considered annoying offline is not so bad online, because it doesn't seem nearly as random, seeing lots of missiles and sonic booms, because you're against other people!
Now, I could go on about how the load times are long as hell and how the framerate takes a nosedive every ten seconds, but with various patches, I'd sound like an outdated record! The load times are tolerably long and the framerate, for the most part, is consistently natural. As for the actual look of the game, it looks pretty damn kid friendly, like nothing's going wrong, and “what could possibly go wrong” going through the minds of every character in the game. Every character model has the same sort of frame, but honestly, when it's used to create a million characters, it's nothing to hold against the game, and the tracks have some pretty slick textures going for them, as well as some nice colors. It's actually quite a pleasing game to look at.
Even though the story is basically filler, the voice acting is good. I would've appreciated it if Tag had some voice acting (are the Tony Hawk games the only ones that can give created characters voice acting in story modes?), because everyone else seems to convey the right emotions for each situation... well, not really dramatic or anything, but it's there, and it doesn't have anything that would suck, so whatever. As for the soundtrack, it sounds more like elevator music than racing music. Each track is just as boring as the last, and, well, crap pretty much. What's next, we have to create the music?
Modrific or crap?
Modnation Racers is a pretty fine game. The offline gameplay is good enough, if frustrating when you're going for 100%. The online gameplay saves offline's ass by taking the best bits of offline and making a bad bit not quite as bad because it's not based on luck! With all the creative tools at your disposal, you'll be sucked into this game for a long while... until people stop creating stuff and/or the servers shut down, but until then, this is definitely something all PS3 owners should at least try out.
Feels like filler, and it is kind of generic, but the execution is pretty good, so it's not all bad.
The high amount of customization at your disposal is just unreal, and you'll be spending quite some time with this. The racing is executed quite well, allowing for a lot of fun in just driving and firing weapons at opposing racers. There is an unfortunate inbalance in the weapons, though, and some of the challenges and grudge matches... just no.
Easy enough to get the hang of, and drifting is very easy to do.
Very friendly and yet looks fantastic. There are lots to see and they all look different and good. The only problem is the framerate, which sometimes takes a nosedive, but with all the patches, it's just once a blue moon.
The voice acting is good enough, but the music is pretty bland.
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