ModNation Racers was first announced nearly a year ago at E3 2009 during Sony’s game-packed press conference. The main focus of the demonstration was to show the crowd just how simple it is to create a full-featured track in the game. Within only minutes a professional level track with obstacles, decor and a sunset was created. Now, just a year later, the game is finally hitting shelves across the globe. The question is, has United Front Games managed to create a fun and customizable kart racing game, or has the ambition of the new developer fallen flat?
ModNation Racers drops you right into the ModSpot which serves as a 3-dimensional lobby and main menu. The ModSpot is where you not only meet other racers online, but you can also drive to the Creation Station and design your own user-created content or drive to the Race Station and jump into an online race. For those who don’t like the idea of driving where you want to go, all of the different areas are also accessible from the start menu, so all of the game’s content is right at your fingertips. One very interesting thing to note about the ModSpot is that users who excel at creating content are glorified in the lobby with their own 3D statue each week as well as a leaderboard. The users who create the most popular characters and vehicles get their own special place in the lobby where everyone can see. This in and of itself creates a high level of reward for those who choose to spend a lot of time using their creativity to create custom content.
The single-player campaign in ModNation Racers follows the light-hearted story of a young man named Tag, who has gone from a professional graffiti artist to an amateur racer looking to become the winner of the ModNation Racing Championship. Alongside a cast of interesting characters including 2 commentators who don’t get along and the reigning world champion Espresso, the campaign provides a high level of entertainment. While the story is nothing to write home about, the humorous dialogue and the funny interactions during cutscenes provide a noteworthy single-player experience. The game’s campaign spreads across dozens of areas ranging from coastal areas to deep jungles and each race encompasses a fair amount of challenge. The entire campaign takes about 5-hours to beat, but hundreds of unlockables pave way for dozens of hours of re-playability.
Multiplayer in ModNation Racers is both varied and very rewarding. The game features split-screen, casual racing as well as competitive racing for experience points. The split-screen has several options to let you choose your style of play including number of laps, race speed and even the number of AI characters. On the other hand, the online multiplayer gives you the option to play for fun or play competitively. If you choose to play competitively, you are pitted against other players in a standard 3-lap race on one of the tracks created by the developer. The races are exhilarating and after a race each racer is rewarded with XP for doing stunts, going fast, engaging in combat and of course winning. Each multiplayer game has its own lobby where you can chat with other players, check out their profiles and if you don’t like the selected map you can vote to veto. One thing to note is the game even supports online split-screen so the sheer amount of game modes is surprising.
The racing controls well and is full of options in United Front Games’ ModNation Racers. As you’d expect, there are a handful of weapons which can be collected while racing but the twist is that each of the handful of weapons can all be upgraded as high as level 3. Essentially, after picking up a weapon you have the choice to either use it in its current form or collect more weapons from the track to upgrade the weapon to level 2 or 3. By choosing to upgrade you run the risk that other racers will blow you up and you’ll lose your weapon, but upgraded weapons yield much more spectacular results. It is also possible to race without weapons in ModNation Racers so those who don’t fancy the weapon system do have a way to enjoy the game without them.
ModNation Racers also features an amazing drift system which never gets old. Speeding around a track sideways has never been so fun, and the best part is that drifting rewards you with points which can be used for a variety of strategic options. These points can be used to boost the car, create a shield or even sideswipe other players off of the road. To top that off, you can even use the points to interact with obstacles on the track. Several of the developer-created tracks and any user-created tracks which support it include interactive objects that once hit can create traps for unsuspecting racers or benefits for you. For example, when driving toward a ramp you can choose to shoot an interactive object which drops boulders or anything else you can think of behind you and take out opponents. Speaking of ramps, you can also drive off ramps and perform spins midair to accumulate points in a similar fashion to drifting, so there’s more than one way to earn these incredibly vital points.