Modnation Racers is simply put, a mashup of Mario Kart and LittleBigPlanet with HD graphics done in a nice art style. The creation aspect of the game will astonish and amaze you in the incredible amount of creative power they give players. What separates this game from LBP in creation is that it does a great job of also making it very easy for anyone to create tracks, cars and mods while not sacrificing power that the serious creators require.
LBP provided such incredible tools for creation, and while LBP did allow you to make more than just one type of level like MNR does with race tracks, it was hard work trying to figure out how to make it all work well. Yes, they were all 2D platformers generally, but the level design could play in many different ways. Modnation is always a track with a beginning and an end and some corners. Of course, LBP2 will take it to a whole new level with full game creation and other views than just 2.5D but that’s for later and possibly MNR2 to compete with feature wise.
But while MNR doesn’t quite offer equally powerful level customisation as LBP does, where it excels is in its mod creation tools which allows you to make characters which actually look like who they’re supposed to. In LBP, any costumes either made or bought were Sackboys dressed up as the intended character. While that suited that game, I love how you can find realistic looking mods for almost any character you can think of.
To be clear then, the customisation aspect of this game is absolutely incredible. What you can make and find online will astound you. With that said, this is a kart racing game, and without good driving mechanics, tracks, weapons and online play, the customisation isn’t really enough to save it.
While I don’t think the controls are perfect, and while I’m not a huge fan of all of the weapons and the shielding system, I think the gameplay is solid and while not up to mario kart level, it’s still very good especially for a system with very few other titles of note, if any at all in this genre.
I haven’t yet played all of the tracks but from the half or so I have played, I think they’re pretty fun and well designed. It was always going to be tough to compete with Mario Kart in track design but they’ve done well regardless.
Online play is great. There are multiple modes which include XP races which limit you to the default tracks and standard rules and custom races which let you host a race with your own track or another track you’ve downloaded. You can also join in split-screen mode but unfortunately, like mario kart wii, you can’t get XP from these modes or import your character from another PS3 profile into the game as a guest character like you can in LBP. This is disappointing but overall not a huge problem.
The biggest issue I have with the game is the absolutely punishing difficulty of the offline career mode. I thought this about inFamous too. Even on easy mode in that game it was annoyingly difficult. The career mode in this game will make you feel awful at times and even when you drive an almost perfect race with great drifting and slipstreaming skills, and using the weapons in the best way you can, it’s still a struggle to get into the top 3 and especially to win races. Yes, mario kart Wii was infuriating at 150cc and mirror mode levels at times, but even so, I got it done eventually. In this, I honestly don’t feel that I could be doing a lot better in my racing style and ability. There are some areas where I could improve but I don’t think it would be enough to make me able to win comfortably.
Overall I do recommend the game to kart racing fans. I consider myself good at these type of games generally. I’ve been able to dominate on Mario Kart Wii online in the past but this feels much more hardcore. Winning online here will take a lot of practise to give yourself a chance to really do well. This game will attract a more hardcore audience despite its family appeal and colourful art style simply because of the console it’s on. You won’t get the same number of casual players to beat for easy points like you would on the Wii.
Go and get this game, marvel at the creation aspect, and if you’re like me, hope that they patch the difficulty along with the long load times soon.