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ModNation Racers

22:3729/05/2010Posted by Chris MorellNo Comments

Described by many as the LittleBigPlanet of the racing genre, United Front’s ModNation Racers features an extensive customisation system where players can design, edit and share their tracks, characters and vehicles. Borrowing heavily from the likes of Mario Kart with an emphasis on creativity and immediate thrills, the game promises a vast online community with which to do battle, but is the game hot on the heels of its inspirational forbearers or does it crash and burn before reaching the finish line?

In the ModNation world, you take on the role of newcomer, Tag as he ascends the ranks of the championship in an attempt to achieve glory. The story is more involved than you might expect, featuring a number of characters that serve to push the narrative forward. Most entertaining are the sports announcers, who keep things interesting via their constant jibes due to a shared animosity towards each other. The cutscenes probably aren’t as hilarious as intended but it’s hard not to crack a smile now and then, which is more than we’ve come to expect from racers as a whole. The game is decidedly tongue-in-cheek and is all the better for it.

The main hub is known as the Modspot; a place where you can drive around at your leisure, admire the latest community content, choose whether to kit out your ride and racer or burn rubber with a friend via splitscreen. All the major bases are covered here and it’s a breeze touring from one part of the Modspot to the next, so it’s certainly forgivable that the frame-rate can chug at times – a problem that almost never rears its head in the heat of an actual race.

Creation Station allows for customisation that is as robust and involving as you might hope, especially as it’s been touted as the game’s main selling point. Items can be unlocked through the in-game store and by winning career races, in turn adding to the already sizeable collection. If you can think it, you can probably design it, especially if you’ve managed to get a fair way into the game. Skins of gaming legends such as Mario, Link and Solid Snake can be recreated once you come to grips with the advanced toolkit and mini versions of Spider-Man, Mickey Mouse and Sephiroth are just a few examples of what can be downloaded at your leisure. Vehicle customisation entails even more editing; bodies, engines, steering wheels and seats are but a few examples of what can be played with in the Creation Station and all are open to a multitude of palette changes via the colour wheel. Materials can also be tinkered with, allowing for a metallic sheen or rubber texture to be added, offering just that little extra personality to your individual design.

The campaign itself is incredibly linear and eventually begins to make some questionable demands, such as requiring you to come third – or even first – in order to progress at all. Until this condition is met, it’s impossible to see the rest of the single-player game, making for some truly frustrating moments where a single mistake will call for a prompt restart. Other than that, the proceedings are very much a case of been-there, done-that with boost pads, occasional shortcuts and ramps littered about the stages in a manner we’ve seen in nearly every other kart racer to date.

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