Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platforms: PS3 | PSP
If LittleBigPlanet’s Sackboy hooked-up with Princess Peach in the back of a Mario Kart go-kart, then their illegitimate spawn would be ModNation Racers. That one sentence pretty much summarises this PlayStation 3 and PSP exclusive.
Say it with me everybody: “User-Generated Content” – it’s all the rage at the moment. Everybody’s doing it! It’s like the crack of this generation’s console cycle, and it is one of the cornerstones to ModNation Racers. The good news is that it works brilliantly. You’re free to customise the hell out of your Mod (the little bloke driving your car), the cars themselves and the tracks. Customising the Mods and cars is very easy and surprisingly robust. Through providing a ton of stickers, layering options, colours, materials and props, there really isn’t anything you can’t create. Browsing the uploaded creations is all it takes to see just how powerful the tools at your disposal are. People have created Mods that look exactly like Chibi versions of Iron Man, Mario, Master Chief, Link and even Marvin the Martian. For those less inclined to spend hours customising everything, the game has a handy Randomise button that will spit out a unique Mod or car in seconds.
Creating a track is as simple as driving a massive steam-roller that poops out road behind it. In a matter of seconds you can have a brand new course ready for use. Naturally, the more time you spend on it the more detailed the track gets, but the fact that it takes seconds to generate something is great.
Of course, all the god-like customisation tools would be worth diddly-squat if the actual game was rubbish. And this is where things get somewhat polarised. The racing in ModNation Racers is deceptively tactical; however it is always at its best when played with human opponents. The online racing capabilities are thoroughly integrated into the game from the onset. If you’re not on the PlayStation Network then the majority of this game will be lost on you. There is no menu system; players are dropped straight into an online hub populated by various other players from all over the world. You’re free to drive around to sign-up for online races, or just bypass the online shenanigans and head straight into a single player career mode. Note, however, you do not have to be online to play ModNation Racers.
Sadly, the AI controlled opponents leave much to be desired. In true kart-racing tradition there are various weapon power-ups scattered throughout the tracks. It’s remarkable, but you can be coming first for the entire race, and just before you cross the finish line you’ll be hit with a weapon that makes you drop a few places. And this won’t be a sporadic occurrence; it’ll happen in every race you undertake. Sure there are ways around it, like saving your accumulated booster fuel to power you shield instead, but the predictability of the whole thing makes the single-player a little dull. Another problem is the loading time. The game loads constantly and takes forever to do so. Fortunately there is a supposed update in the pipelines to fix this.