Written by Micah Messer
What do you get when you mix together Mario Kart and LittleBigPlanet? LittleMarioBigKart…Planet? Wrong! You get Modnation Racers— a game that attempts to blend the sweet, sweet kart racing goodness of Mario Kart with the deep customization aspects of LBP, a task in which it ultimately succeeds. The result, is a product that anybody can pick up and have fun with, and hardcore fans of kart racing will completely fall in love with.
Presentation wise, Modnation Racers is very good. The game looks great as you drift around turns or fly through the air, weapons look and sound devastatingly powerful, and the tracks are a delight to look at. Interface is also great and the online multiplayer component of the game is very well implemented, but I’ll get into that a little more in a bit. Also, the soundtrack is comprised of some fun, up beat tunes that fit the mood of the game quite well.
Usually at this point I start to talk about the story of a game, however, there isn’t much of one to speak of in Modnation. This isn’t a huge surprise, because honestly, nobody plays kart racers for their riveting stories. There is a campaign mode, and it is loosely held together by a story line that was obviously an afterthought, with the main focus of it being humour. However, the characters and jokes never got more than a chuckle out of me, and most of the time, they were kind of obnoxious. Although, with the story not even being a fraction of what this game is all about, these are minor complaints.
So what is this game all about? Well, kart racing of course!
If you’ve ever played Mario Kart, or anything like it, then you get the basic idea of kart racing. You race against competitors and pick up power-ups and weapons along the way. There are boost pads, ramps, jumps, and lots of things to blow shit up. Modnation Racers has all of the base mechanics of kart racing that you’re used to, but it puts it’s own little twist on all of them. For instance, there are always weapons to pick up in a kart racer, but in Modnation Racers, if you pick up a weapon and hold onto it until you reach another weapon, then you get rank 2 of whatever you’re carrying. So, if rank 1 missile fires a straight shot projectile in the direction you’re facing, then rank 3 will fire a barrage of heat-seeking missiles that will devastate anything in their path.
That’s level 3 lightning… Pretty cool huh?
The biggest thing that sets this game apart from other kart racers in gameplay is the boost bar— this is Modnation Racers’ bread and butter. Everything you do from drifting, getting air time, shooting an opponent, it all gives you points that fill up a boost bar on the side of your screen. This bar has many uses, for example, it can be used to sideswipe opponents, to put up a shield to block an incoming attack, and of course, to boost! The things that you can pull off with a full boost bar are pretty incredible. Like boosting up next to someone, sideswiping them and then putting up a shield to block the incoming projectile that they soon-after fire at you for passing them. All of this makes for a much deeper, more satisfying kart racing experience than what we’re used to.
Yeeaaahh… The guy behind me didn’t put up his shield .
Alright, now that I’ve talked about the Mario Kart part of this game, time to get into the Little Big Planet of Modnation Racers. There are three pillars of creation in Modnation Racers, karts, Mods AKA player characters, and tracks. There are extensive creation tools for each of them, with the most impressive one being the track editor, but you should be able to make just about anything you want with any of the editors. All of the changes you can make to your Mod and his kart are all aesthetic only, but it’s still good fun to make a goofy looking guy and a bad ass kart. You can also make your own custom stickers and use layering techniques to get the perfect look.
Like I said, the track editor is by far the most powerful of the three. You can make any kind of track that you want, and it’s incredibly easy. You can literally just drive the pavement in the course that you want the road to be and just connect it back to the start line. The track editor also has loads of customizations and tweaks that you can do manually, or you can have the game just auto-populate it to put in things like weapons placements and boost pads. In other words, the track editor is as simple or as complex as you want it to be. You can make a decent track in 5 minutes using auto-populate, or you can spend an hour+ fine tuning everything to make the perfect track. You can make the turns bank up, make ramps, make a spiral tower that the track follows, you can do just about anything you want.
Behold, my creation! Looks just like me.
You can publish everything you create to be downloaded from the community, and just as they can download your creations, you can download theirs. Mods, karts, tracks, anything that the community publishes, you can download them onto your profile and use them. User generated content is a fantastic addition to any game, as it essentially adds an endless stream of content to players, and it’s very well implemented here. I published a track called IPGR Circuit; you can download and play it whenever you want to. It’s a short, fun track, but it’s nothing compared to some of the stuff I’ve seen other publishers make. This game has a very dedicated, active community that will continue to pump out loads of cool shit. Multiplayer is a huge part of this game and you can do it with both split-screen support and online support. Racing online is super easy and a lot of fun. You can quickly get into an online race with the push of a button.
Modnation Racers blends all of it’s elements together perfectly to make an entertaining package that can be enjoyed by anyone. This game revitalizes the genre. It handles very well, it looks great, it implements multiplayer perfectly and it’s loads of fun.
Overall Score: 84
Kart racers are a lot fun, but they aren’t pinnacles of gaming. That being said, this is a super fun, innovative racer with an active community that’s always pumping out awesome new content. It’s enjoyable from start to finish, and it’s a solid addition for any PS3 owner looking for a game to play with their friends, or just to trigger their creative spark.
Genre Score (Kart Racing): 98
A kart racing fan’s dream come true. Currently one of the best looking, best controlling, deepest, most customizable kart racing experiences you can find to date. Other kart racers should strive to match the level of content and innovation this game has brought to the genre.