Giant Bomb Review

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ModNation Racers Review

4
  • PS3

Creative users have already made ModNation Racers a ridiculous kart-racing good time.


 The number of tracks you can create and race is almost limitless.
Even if it were just a plain old Mario Kart-style kart racer, ModNation Racers would still be pretty fun. But it's the robust set of content-creation tools, and all the absurdity they enable, that make the game really memorable. ModNation provides a good mix of madcap weapon-based racing action with actual depth, and the sort of gleeful large-scale copyright infringement that only user-generated content can provide. As long as Sony's legal department doesn't get involved, this game will let you race as many tracks using as many characters and karts as you can download or create yourself.

There's nothing too surprising about the core kart-racin' formula here. You drift around curves, kicking up sparks as you go, and pick up weapons from little power-up boxes scattered around the track. Those weapons mostly fit into archetypal red shell-style categories, but you can power each weapon up by picking up extra boxes before you use it to change its properties and make it more devastating. The best thing about the racing system is the boost meter. You build it up slowly by doing anything the game considers a trick--powersliding, drafting, midair 360s, and so on--and then cash it in to... go faster. Crazy, right?

 Old Snake loves kart racing!
But that's not all the boost meter is useful for. You can also use it to create an energy shield around your kart, which is crucial when you're about to get hit with something you can't avoid, like a homing missile. You can also cash in a chunk of the meter to physically kart-check a driver on either side of you. So there's a fast-paced risk/reward system at work here that encourages you to do tricks as often as possible to keep your boost meter high, and then makes you intelligently decide whether you want to use the meter offensively to get ahead, or save it up to save your butt when you're under attack.

ModNation has your standard run of racing modes: career, quick race, and online multiplayer races that you can play as simple pick-up races or as "XP" races that will level up your persistent online dude. There are enough pre-made tracks included with the game to keep you busy for a while, and every career race has a number of pretty demanding challenges attached to it--stuff like "rack up 140,000 drift points" or "take out three opponents with a level 3 weapon"--that make them worth replaying, especially since each challenge unlocks plenty of trinkets like new clothing and accessories, track parts, not to mention entire new karts, when you meet them.

 The game does a good job of integrating your creations into the action.
If you never took ModNation Racers online, you'd mostly miss the point, though. The game's default vinyl-figure-looking characters and tracks don't have a ton of personality to them. They get the job done, but in a genre where character heavyweights like Mario and Sonic hold sway, these nameless dudes don't really cut it. That's why ModNation demands that you hit the Internet and see all the truly ludicrous, random tracks, karts, and drivers (called mods) that the community has cooked up. The creation tools for all categories offer as much complexity as you want to make use of, and the more time you want to put in, the better the results you'll get. There's next to no learning curve with these tools, though; if you want to just try your hand at making a new mod, it's easy enough to make a cool-looking dude even if you don't want to shape primitives into facial features or tweak the scale and orientation of the eyes. The track editor is similarly easy to use; you can lay down track with an interface that's almost as easy as driving on it, and the game will auto-populate your course with props if you don't want to set them all by hand.

In full disclosure, I really couldn't care less about making my own stuff in a game like this. But that doesn't matter, because plenty of creative people are already out there, cranking out tons of neat stuff to download. Would you like to race with Vault Boy driving the car from Monopoly on a pretty good recreation of Ghost Valley 1 from the original Super Mario Kart? How about Space Ghost at the wheel of Optimus Prime? Old Snake in the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine? The van from The A-Team? A track that will hook you up with the 1080-spin trophy almost instantly? All that stuff is already available for quick download in the game, only a day or two after it hit shelves. Heck, there's already a Giant Bomb-themed mod available, and can a Lucha-kart be far behind? Why am I not giving this game five stars again?

 Just look at all that fair use!
Mainly because ModNation Racers has some unfortunate technical issues holding it back at the moment. For whatever reason, the load times range from barely tolerable to atrocious. It can take what seems like forever to get into an actual career race, and even accessing the game's main menu--which you navigate by driving around in it--makes you stare at a slowly moving loading percentage. (That's extra baffling since you can also access all of the same functionality from a traditional pop-up menu once you're in this lobby area.) The game's performance can also hitch up here and there, and I got disconnected from the online servers off and on, but those things mostly only happened in that lobby area. It would have been nice to toggle that off and just do everything from a standard menu, but hopefully these things will be ironed out as the online support matures.

My only fear about ModNation Racers is that copyright will soon prevail and Sony will go in and remove a lot of the craziness from the game's online network. The framework for a raucous multiplayer experience is in place here, and as long as the community's wacky laissez-faire attitude toward user-created content is allowed to persist, ModNation Racers will be an amusing kart-racing sandbox to drive around in.     Brad Shoemaker on Google+
59 Comments
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Posted by Ubertron987

looks good
Posted by Ace829

So many racing games.

Posted by Rhaknar

" My only fear about ModNation Racers is that copyright will soon prevail and Sony will go in and remove a lot of the craziness from the game's online network."
 
and here lies my fear of buying this game, the only reason i would ever care to play it would be for those crazy created famous characters and tracks, when that starts going (and it will), the game itself loses most of it's appeal (to me)

Posted by gunslingerNZ

Yeah this game will live or die by the strictness of copyright enforcement. I just wish the copyright holders would realise that this actually enhances rather than degrades their properties and would stop standing on their rights so heavily.
 
Still Modnation Racers looks like a surprisingly cool game but probably one I'll rent at some point rather than purchase.

Posted by WillyLo
@Rhaknar:  I am worried about that too, but though LBP had it happen in the beginning, now a days that stuff doesn't really cause an issue on it. You can find tons of fan made stuff on it and they're not being removed. So I really hope that, that happens for Modnation!
Posted by zombie2011

I've already spent enough this month on video games so this is an easy pass for me.

Edited by Scrumdidlyumptious

I am so getting this after my exams are over. By then all the loading times will have been fixed, and the servers a lot more stable, and from what I've seen of it, that will make this a 5 star game for me =) Going from what happened to LBP, there will probably be isolated cases of copyright moderating that will be reported on and then cause a huge ruckus and outrage, but it will ease off afterwards.

Posted by Sil3n7

Dope.

Posted by teekomeeko

I dunno, with Little Big Planet being the way it is - as in full of copyrighted stuff by the user community - I'd say Sony was able to find a way to do that without being sued over it (unlike other things lately, amirite?). I think this will be perfectly fine when it comes to being protected against litigation and I'll definitely pick it up this summer after I get some college junk outta the way.

Posted by CaptainFish

That loading looked fierce, otherwise it looks like the single best kart racing game out there. That flying camel level showed that this game has amazing content being made for it, that will be a blast to play.

Posted by RandomInternetUser

Good review, Brad!  Definitely going on my list of games to buy when I get a PS3.

Posted by buzz_killington

The best moment in the Quick Look was when Brad and Vinny said there's no way they'd find a Giant Bomb logo only a day after the game is out... but surely there it was!

Posted by 234r2we232

 The release of this game coincides with the closest I've been to actually wanting a PS3.

Posted by Biddy

Yeah, hopefully copyright stuff won't catch this gem.

Edited by Willy105

Just as I feared, copyright and lack of good production values is what held this game from being the best thing ever made. 
 
I still think this game is awesome.

Posted by MisterMouse

Good review. looking forward to this game!

Posted by Brunchies

Looks fun but if copyright gets involved the game won't be as memorable.

Posted by lolak47

I think the Mario and halo stuff will be removed

Posted by Spoonman671

" You build it up slowly by doing anything the game considers a trick--powersliding, drafting, midair 180s, and so on."
 
360s maybe?  A 180 would send you down the track headed in the wrong direction.  Normally I wouldn't bother correcting this, but you said it in the Bombcast, the quicklook and in the review.  A man can only take so much.

Posted by lolak47

 " You build it up slowly by doing anything the game considers a trick--powersliding, drafting, midair 180s, and so on."  
 
you also get alot of points from hitting dudes with weapons...

Edited by Wacomole

I really liked all the construction tools in the beta and put a lot of time into them.  It has just about the best track editor I've ever seen. But when it came to actually racing...  didn't like the experience much.
There's was a lot of waiting around.  Even with a 10Mb Cable connection, the load times were excruciating.  Waiting for cutscenes to load, waiting for the hub to load, waiting for enough people to join a lobby, waiting for the race to load, Inevitably coming last in the race and then waiting for the hub to load up again etc.
Pretty shocked to find the load time hasn't really improved that much in the final build.

Posted by K9
@Spoonman671 said:
" " You build it up slowly by doing anything the game considers a trick--powersliding, drafting, midair 180s, and so on."  360s maybe?  A 180 would send you down the track headed in the wrong direction.  Normally I wouldn't bother correcting this, but you said it in the Bombcast, the quicklook and in the review.  A man can only take so much. "
No, he actually meant 180s. You have to realize that Brad was automatically pulling brads by doing a 180 on the ground and losing. It's just that doing a midair 180 in an attempt to pull another brad kept saving him from losing the race.
Posted by TheHT
@Brunchies said:
" Looks fun but if copyright gets involved the game won't be as memorable. "
God, I hope that doesn't happen.
Posted by Lambert

If every game gets 4 stars, then what is the point of the scores?

Edited by TwoOneFive

edit; 
i think i underestimated the frustration of long load times.  
 
this game, with cleaned up technical issues, is totally a 5/5 game though. its really awesome and they did a FANTASTIC job making the track creation extremely easy to do. 

Posted by Kombat

The online stuff all seems bound to be muzzled sooner rather than later.  Even if they wanted to, I really don't think Sony can keep up something like this for long without attracting some seriously negative outside attention.  Between this and the other Mario Kart-esque racing game releasing this week, I'm more inclined to Blur.  I doubt I'll find myself buying either of them.

Posted by armaan8014

someone needs to make a York Morgan

Posted by Scrumdidlyumptious
@Lambert: Every game gets 4 stars because there are a lot of good games.
Posted by Valames

I wish Ashley Simpson would write a song about this game, because I L.O.V.E. the shit out of it!

Posted by lockwoodx

Brad is insane and totally sold out... The loading times for this game make it less than PS1 quality. Giantbomb has failed me once again. I use to like this site when it gave honest reviews.

Edited by ChickenPants

Once they patch the load times this will totally be a 5-star game for me
Great review.

Posted by drowsap

  another reason to dust off my PS3

Posted by Homeslice
@Buzzkill said:
" Brad is insane and totally sold out... The loading times for this game make it less than PS1 quality. Giantbomb has failed me once again. I use to like this site when it gave honest reviews. "
You're ridiculous.
 
And Brad continues to cement himself as one of the finest writers covering video games today. As a writer/editor professionally, I always enjoy seeing great style and attention to detail.
Posted by Hourai
@Buzzkill:  

Posted by get2sammyb
@Buzzkill said:
" Brad is insane and totally sold out... The loading times for this game make it less than PS1 quality. Giantbomb has failed me once again. I use to like this site when it gave honest reviews. "
I absolutely 100% disagree. The loading times are a little frustrating at times, but they do not take away any of the core fun, and UFG have already pledged a patch.
 
Agree with the review - I absolutely adore this game. Personal game of the year for me. Love the racing and creation. Big fan of it.
Posted by MJHAYLETT

They are working on a patch for the load times I believe? When such a patch is coming I do not know. Fun game though.

Edited by Binman88

Pre-ordered this on the back of your quicklook and enthusiasm for the game. I'm not too worried about Sony pulling the Copyrighted material. It's an unavoidable inevitability, and kinda sucks, but I'd much rather see people releasing sets of unique character, car and track creations anyway.
 
Edit:
 
@Spoonman671 said:

" " You build it up slowly by doing anything the game considers a trick--powersliding, drafting, midair 180s, and so on."  360s maybe?  A 180 would send you down the track headed in the wrong direction.  Normally I wouldn't bother correcting this, but you said it in the Bombcast, the quicklook and in the review.  A man can only take so much. "

Yeah, I meant to point this out on the quicklook yesterday. Get your degrees in check Brad.
Posted by NotorietyH

I picked this up last weekend and I'm loving it. It even took my attention away from Red Dead. It's a surprisingly deep game. The way the boost meter is used and the fact that you lose weapons if you're hit makes it a lot more tactical than you'd think on first impressions.

Posted by darkjester74
@TheHT said:
" @Brunchies said:
" Looks fun but if copyright gets involved the game won't be as memorable. "
God, I hope that doesn't happen. "
I don't see how anyone who creates a game that supports user-created content would not immediately expect to see this sort of stuff.  If for whatever reason you cant tolerate that from the community why put the feature in in the first place?
Posted by Xander

I wouldn't mind having this game, but I am worried about the copyright clampdown. 

Posted by MachoFantastico

Wasn't sure after playing the demo, but the quick look and the review have helped me decide to purchase the game.  
 
Just hope Sony don't get all scared of the copyright stuff and remove it all. 

Posted by Nasar7

Played the demo last night, it seemed off somehow. I also didn't appreciate storing up that green power only to be teleported straight into harm's way or into a wall because it doesn't follow the curve of the road.

Posted by mewarmo990

This LittleBigPlanet + Mario Kart mashup alone is almost reason enough for me to buy a PS3.
 
But Sony clamping down on copyright infringement is a very valid concern. I might be wrong here since I don't own the game, LBP's custom content based on copyrighted materials is all licensed and you have to pay for it. I don't think it'll make the game any less fun, but for a game stressing "moddability" it would be somewhat of a downer.

Posted by Earthborn
@Lambert said:
" If every game gets 4 stars, then what is the point of the scores? "
So you're saying they should give a dishonest score to a game just because lots of games have the same score?
Posted by Keeng
@get2sammyb said:
" @Buzzkill said:
" Brad is insane and totally sold out... The loading times for this game make it less than PS1 quality. Giantbomb has failed me once again. I use to like this site when it gave honest reviews. "
I absolutely 100% disagree. The loading times are a little frustrating at times, but they do not take away any of the core fun, and UFG have already pledged a patch.  Agree with the review - I absolutely adore this game. Personal game of the year for me. Love the racing and creation. Big fan of it. "
The load times are definitely longer than what most people might consider "comfortable" but they're not game-breakingly bad. The longest you'll ever see is between 40-50 seconds. The important part about that is the game tends to load up a bunch of stuff during the wait. You'll wait 35 seconds to get into the creation mode, but once you get there, it doesn't pause to load anymore. What's a 35-second wait if you're about to spend 35 minutes building a mod and a kart? It might take 30 seconds to get into and out of a race, but then you're racing for 5 minutes. 
Edited by n8
@Lambert said:

" If every game gets 4 stars, then what is the point of the scores? "

Galaxy 2 just got a 5 sir.
 
As far as the review MEHS.. Mod Nation Racers  will never be purchased by me until they fix the load times..  and I mean FIX it (not just improve slightly)..  at this point I'd still rather play Mario Kart Wii, where the load times are basically non-existant and the framerate is flawless
Edited by dvorak

Edit: Nevermind.

Posted by KinjiroSSD
@Earthborn said:
" @Lambert said:
" If every game gets 4 stars, then what is the point of the scores? "
So you're saying they should give a dishonest score to a game just because lots of games have the same score? "
Or 1/2 stars. a 10 point scale isn't crazy town.
Posted by MAST
@Buzzkill said:
" Brad is insane and totally sold out... The loading times for this game make it less than PS1 quality. Giantbomb has failed me once again. I use to like this site when it gave honest reviews. "
Oh man! You're so right! You should show them your displeasure by leaving Giantbomb, deleting your account, and never returning! 
 
C'mon... Do it.
Posted by FunExplosions

My next purchase after Red Dead's been played to death and back. Hopefully those load times will be a little better by then.

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