Modnation for the win!
Modnation Racers is the latest in a series of games that Sony calls "Play. Create. Share" that originally started with Little Big Planet. Where LBP allowed the user to make their own platforming levels and upload them for other users to play and rate, Modnation Racers lets the user make their own racing tracks, but also takes it a step further with a deep Character and Kart creator.
The actual racing portion of Modnation Racers plays exactly like you would expect a Kart Racer to play. You drift around corners by holding the X button, which builds boost that you can then use to go faster. You have weapons to fire at your competitors to keep them back and the first person over the finish line wins, but the Developers, United Front Games, change things up a bit and give their own spin on a few of those Kart racing cliches.
The weapons build power as you keep picking them up. For example, if you pick up the lightning bolt and use it straight away you will shoot out a little bolt that you need to aim towards someone in front of you, but if you keep it and grab two more weapon pods, you will end up with a bolt that shoots out and takes out everyone else on the track. It's a neat idea that really works well.
Another thing that work well is the different uses for boost. Not only can you use it to make your kart go faster for a moment, but you can also use it for such things as bumping competitors off the track and shooting switches that open gates for shortcuts. It's something i have never seen done in a Kart racer before and it's one of the most ingenious things i've seen because you really need to strategise and think about when you should use the boost and what you should use it for.
The game has a few different modes. You have a career mode with five different "Tours", similar to Mario Karts "Cups", with a selection of different tracks for each. The game can get absurdly difficult in those final races, with the AI being extremely obnoxious and providing an enjoyable challenge. The Career Mode has a really thin story that doesn't really amount to anything, and there are two announcers that try to be funny but most of the lines fell flat for me, honestly though, the story doesn't matter in a Kart racing game, so why the Developers felt like they needed one i'll never know. The game also has Split-Screen, Single Player and Online modes.
The Online is where the real challenge is, working like a lot of Online games lately and having Levels that you reach by building XP by playing races. The better you place, the more XP you gain. It's something that a lot of shooters use, but it's something new to Racing games that does work well for the most part. I've played a fair few matches so far and have experienced very little lag, which is great to say seeing as i live in Australia and all.
Of course, this game isn't just about racing and winning, the real meat is in the Creation tools. Starting with Karts, you choose from a selection of body types and then choose your colour. You can go deeper than that though, adding stickers and accessories, but also changing things like the wheels, ride height, seat, engine and even the steering wheel. It gets pretty crazy with the level of customisation available.
The same can be said for the Mods, your created Characters. Starting with just a blank canvas body, you can literally create any character your imagination allows. I have only made boring looking dudes, but some other people who have far more time on their hands than myself have created Mod versions of such characters from Sonic and Mario to Spiderman and Iron-Man, with my favourite so far being the White Power Ranger. The tools are very deep and there are already a tonne of User Created Mods to download.
The greatest fun i've had by far though is in the Track Creator. It's so simple yet so intuitive that it's amazing fun to just lay down track and use all the different tools to mess around and see what you can end up with. You start with a Track Laying Machine and you basically just drive it around to make your track, it's insanely easy that anyone can do it and do it very well. Then you can lay trees, buildings and animals along the side of the track and you can also sculpt the entire landscape up and down if you so wish. The editor of course allows you to add the weapon pods, shortcuts and anything else you need to add that are necessities for a Kart Racer.
The graphics are nice for the most part, but there are some texture issues that really only pop up during the story mode when you're looking at your Mods up close. Mouths, eyes and anything else that is stuck to your character can look very jaggy, but like i said, it's only in those story scenes that you can really see those issues. Load times can be quite long too, up to a minute sometimes, but i think that this might be an issue relating to the game being constantly online. From the moment it boots to the moment you turn off your system, it is connected to the internet letting you know about the best mods, tracks and karts available at that time. It's a huge deal, so having some longer loading times is bearable if it ends up making the experience more streamlined.
Modnation Racers is a great game that expands on the usual Kart Racing formula by adding so much customisation and online interaction and it really is worth your time and money. Technical issues be damned! Highly Recommended.