ModNation Racers takes everything that is good about Nintendo's Mario Kart franchise and rids itself of the bad. It then put the remains into a bowl and mixes in one-third LittleBigPlanet and two-thirds fun. This is a kart racer done the Play, Create, Share way, a genre Sony's single-handedly brought to the forefront of the industry. This is LittleBigPlanet made easy, and it's utterly brilliant.
Playing as Mods, you're able to create a cartoon version of practically any character and their respective kart using ModNation Racer's unbelievably simplistic, yet incredibly deep, creation tools. That's not the only key creation component though — ModNation Racers allows you to build your own race tracks with one of the most intuitive custom track builders we've ever seen. You race to create. Genius? Yes.
If ModNation Racers was simply the sum of its creation components we'd be wholeheartedly recommending it, but the fact that it includes a fantastic single player campaign, some brilliant online functionality and split-screen racing is the real icing on the cake. This is the real deal, and you'd be a fool to miss out on it. Our game clock sits at 18 hours and we expect we may surpass the 100 hours mark playing ModNation Racers. It's that good.
ModNation Racers makes us smile. It's just fun. There's no pretense, no need to pick apart the game's individual mechanics and components; it's just straight-up smiles all the way. You can't help but enjoy yourself playing ModNation Racers — the presentation is bright and eye-catching, the racing is simple yet deep, and the creation modes provide the tools any player will need to really go in-depth and develop something amazing. Therefore, it does something LittleBigPlanet couldn't — it gives everyone results they can be proud of. While ModNation Racers doesn't go quite as deep as Media Molecule's title, it does ensure that every player will have something to show for themselves.
It's odd to praise the single player component of a heavily online-focused racer, but ModNation Racers isn't like any other game. This campaign packs a complete narrative with comical, well-written, and well-voiced characters that will actually get you invested in the game's 'kid off the streets turns racing superstar' storyline. It's whimsical and cute, and it's enhanced by some great packaged tracks which provide inspiration for the game's Create mode. Not only that but the single player is packed with sub-achievements, tokens and other such objectives, that will have you repeatedly playing tracks to unlock every last sticker and object available. And, naturally, unlocking said objects will have you rushing to the game's Create mode in order to use them in your own creations.
As a kart racer, ModNation Racers is pretty standard-fare. You can drift, fire objects, jump, spin and boost. The key, however, is that ModNation Racers feels particularly great. There's a slight learning curve to the controls and mechanics, but once you nail them the game's uncompromisingly fun. There's tons of depth to the mechanics too. Much of this depth revolves around ModNation Racer's boost bar, which is used in numerous different ways. The boost bar is filled by meeting various racing requirements — drifting, drafting, attacking, etc. Naturally it allows you to hit the L1 button to boost forwards, but it is also used to shield against enemy attacks and to sideswipe adjacent vehicles. The shield is activated by the Circle button and drains the boost meter pretty quickly. It is essentially what stops ModNation Racers from turning into Mario Kart — you have an escape from the dreaded blue shells here as you can shield against them.
Of course, that brings up the concept of risk and reward — do you boost to get a distance advantage over your opponents, or do you hold onto the boost in case the enemy decides to launch a rocket at your rear? Your choice. The sideswipe mechanic furthers this risk and reward — you can use a whole quarter of your boost bar to essentially spin an opponent out, but that leaves you vulnerable when they inevitably take their revenge. Despite all this depth, ModNation Racers is still a very pick up and play experience similar to Mario Kart. The difference, however, is that when you get experienced players pitted together, races are going to be very interesting. That's because ModNation Racers places some of its emphasis on skill rather than luck.
We could type multiple paragraphs on ModNation Racers' Create tools, but it's probably just worth us telling you it's great and letting you explore it for yourself. The whole "Create Station" — a sub-section of ModNation Racer's gameworld hub, the ModSpot — gives you access to the three key areas you need to create objects within the game. You can create Mods, Karts and tracks. Anything created can be uploaded to ModNation Racers' servers and downloaded by other players. There's an in-depth stat-tracking and rating component that allows you to keep track of all your creations, and the very best will appear as statues within the online ModSpot hub world. Creation can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be, with the key emphasis being on getting results. Anyone can make anything in ModNation Racers and, unlike LittleBigPlanet, United Front Games have made sure that players finish what they start. That means a degree of depth is sacrificed, but it's the right decision. You're still able to practically create anything your imagination will allow — it's just that it's now quicker and easier to get those initial results.
ModNation Racers has custom soundtrack support, which we assume will occupy listeners' ears some twenty-hours into the game, but what's packaged on the disc is beautifully fitting. The soundtrack actually reminds of Jet Set Radio. Pseudo-cool, laid-back synth-pop hits the soundwaves — right up our alley. It suits ModNation Racer's aesthetic down to the ground.
Don't worry — ModNation Racers loads at least 100 times quicker than it did in the beta. It's still noticeable though. Tracks can take anywhere from 10 - 30 seconds to load, and while players with a bit of patience will become accustomed to the loading, it's a shame this couldn't have been reduced a tad more. Still, in some ways it's magic it works as fast as it does, especially when you consider the game is essentially reconstructing completely unique tracks that players have created themselves during said short loading screen.
With some homing missiles and sonic wave bombs, ModNation Racers doesn't really possess the best arsenal of weaponry power-ups. In fact, they're pretty boring. We're keep our fingers crossed that United Front Games release more power ups as DLC.
ModNation Racers is unequivocally fun, and that really is its underlying strength. The limitless possibilities complement the game's simplistic nature, forming a package that's both snappy enough for five minute romps, yet deep enough to keep you hooked for entire afternoons. The crux though, is that ModNation Racers will keep your lips locked in a smile no matter how long you play it. Unmissable.