Review: ModNation Racers

LittleBigPlanet brought the ‘Play, Create, Share’ genre into existence in 2007, and now in 2010 a new game titled ModNation Racers enters the genre, bringing a whole new level of creativity to PlayStation 3.

Like the genre, there are three main things that can be done in ModNation Racers: race, create, and share. You’ll race tracks, create tracks, racers, and karts, and share them all online for you and the PlayStation Network community to experience. It’s one big mod of a game – thus the title.

Before I get into the creation, I want to talk a bit about the game’s story mode and general racing features. First off – yes, it does have a story mode. It’s pretty humorous, as well, which is great for those who aren’t feeling creative and would rather just play single-player mode on their own. It centers around a ModNation Racing Cup that the main character Tag is competing in. Covering the cup are two anchormen named Biff and Gary, whom of which Biff constantly mocks Gary, degrades him, or brags about how much more handsome he is than him. It’s an admirable relationship that they have.

There are cut scenes, tons of witty/funny moments, and moderately memorable characters. The campaign provides you with tutorials along the way so you’re fully able to become a master of the track.

Speaking of the track, racing in ModNation Racers is a lot different than racing in any other game. As it’s kart racing, everything’s smaller (chibi if I might say) and faster. Players can pick up weapons, activate triggers, and draft (that’s draft, not drift) their way in front of their opponents. Drafting is probably the most entertaining part of racing. When you get a track that involves plenty of turns and curves, you’ll find yourself drafting even when it’s unnecessary. For those wondering, drafting is the same thing as drifting – except this game pulls it off a lot better than any other racer. It makes it feel more right, natural even, than it would it other games. Players can take the race online with up to twelve players on one track at once, play offline against the computer, or play local multiplayer with up to four friends on a split-screen.

When players pick up weapons, they can use those weapons against their opponents to get a quick gain in the race or hold on to them and upgrade them the next time they pick up another weapon. This way, they’ll deal more damage when they use them. Players will pick up a lot of boost items along the way, as well. They can use these to their advantage in one of two ways – speed up ahead or protect their ass by putting up a shield. Trust me, most of the time, the shield is usually your best bet – especially when you hear that rocket coming in from behind you.

The thing about the game that’s probably my biggest concern is the slow loading times. The game takes exactly 2 minutes 6 seconds to bring me from my XMB into the ModSpot – which is the central hub for everything ModNation in the game. On top of that, to go from the ModSpot to a race takes an extra 41 seconds. That’s heavy loading, for sure, especially in a world where nobody has patience anymore (including myself). Fortunately, through, loading is the worst of the game’s problems, as there aren’t really much more.

ModNation Racers‘ pride and glory is creation mode. This mode allows you to custom create racing karts, vinyl-style characters (or mods, as they’re called in-game), and custom tracks that you know the ins and outs of to get a leg up on your friends when you finally share it online.

In my personal opinion, I believe the mod creation is the game’s best feature. You can really create anything with it. I’ve seen people make Spider-Man, Elmo, Sora from Kingdom Hearts, Iron Man, and Clank from Ratchet & Clank. I really don’t believe there is a limit to who you can create and that continues to prove true with the constant flow of impressive new creations I’m seeing. It’s probably one of the best character creators I’ve ever seen in a game.

Honest opinion: they should base PlayStation Home around this character creator. However, that’s besides the point.

The track creator, on the other hand, while very robust, isn’t as impressive as the mod creator. There aren’t many themes you can pick from to start building your track on. As a matter of fact, there are only four. That means you’re going to see a lot of similarity in all the tracks you download – maybe not in the actual track design, but in the vistas they’re based on. I’m hoping Sony and United Front add in some extra themes via downloadable content, and by “some” extra, I mean twelve.

There is a limit to how much track you can lay down, meaning you won’t be able to create some super huge, marathon race track. While I’m not the type to do that, I’d like to see some sort of unlimited option available, or maybe allowing the expansion of the theme a bit to fit larger tracks.

Other than that, the track creator is spot on. It allows you to create roads, bridges, and scenarios impossible to race in real life. For the lazy ones like myself, it provides an auto-populate option to use after creating your track to randomly fill it with buildings, trees, road boosts, traps, and other objects that will make your track as pretty as a pageant girl and as devastating as a bulldozer. Of course, if you prefer to populate the track yourself, that option is always open.

Kart creation is my least favorite of the creation options. They’re definitely fun to create and there are a lot of options to use when creating them, but karts have the lowest level of uniqueness in comparison to mods and tracks. Each kart has an underlying body, but there are only about forty-nine bodies you can choose from. That means the outer layer of your kart will always bear some similarity to someone else’s kart if they’ve chosen the same body. Of course, there are plenty of modifications and accessories you can add to differentiate your body from those of others, and I can only imagine that with downloadable content, they’ll continually add more and more.

Of course, what brings ModNation Racers all together is the ability to share your creations online, discover new tracks and mods, meet new friends, and race against the community. You can download any mod, track, and kart that a player publishes online and there are several familiar faces (as mentioned earlier) that you’ll want to download and race as. With everything based around the community, you can bet your ass that just as LittleBigPlanet, you’ll never get bored with innovative new tracks coming as free downloads every day.

ModNation Racers is a title worthy of its name. It clearly invokes creation and modification while bringing fun, entertaining racing to the table. A worthy entry into the ‘Play, Create, Share’ genre, it allows players to express their creativity in three different forms and share for others to enjoy. Four-player split-screen is just one more feature that makes this game unique, since it’s unfortunately so rare nowadays. Playing this with some friends at a recent get together a few days ago, I know for a fact it’ll fulfill the desire for entertainment at any gathering. It’s classic kart racing times a thousand, but only the price of a standard PlayStation 3 title to experience.


ModNation Racers was reviewed on a Sony PlayStation 3. The game’s story mode was played to completion and several hours were spent in the creation mode. ModNation Racers launches for PlayStation 3 in North America on May 25, 2010 and in Europe on March 21, 2010 for an MSRP of $59.99.

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