Modnation Racers Road Trip Review

No need for racing puns here, ModNation is just crap!

Of all of Sonys exclusives the Modnation series is pretty high up on the” who gives a shit” list. That’s not to say the series is bad in any way, it’s just so unimaginative and plain in many regards that it’s difficult not to dislike it. The completely underwhelming response I received from my fellow gamers when I first showed off the PS3 version of the game speaks volumes. “Soulless” was one of many phrases tossed about to describe what I was showing. It's hard to disagree with that statement and Modnation Racer Road Trip does nothing to rectify the problems with this unpopular franchise.

Thankfully the PS3 version redeemed itself in some ways with a fantastic track editor which even my peers, whom turned their noses up at the games campaign, became enthralled with. Top it all off with the ability to go head to head with friends online and offline and the game wasn’t half bad.

Unfortunately (and inexplicably) the Playstation Vita “ModMation Racers Road trip” is some what a disaster of a game. Not only is the creation system broken in many ways, the developers have seen fit to excluded online multiplayer altogether. When you consider both the PS3 and PSP versions supported online multiplayer the lack of it here is inexcusable.

The track creator works fine if your looking to create very basic (and I mean VERY basic) tracks. Tracing the layout along the touch screen works well and the “drive to create track” returns too making the whole process fun and simple. Auto populating the track with objects is the best way to get the track filled with weapon pickups, traps and boost pads. Placing them accurately yourself demands use of touch controls and is, to put bluntly, totally broken.

No word of a lie, tapping to place a jump ramp had the game at one point placing it somewhere metres off the track despite me having zoomed the camera right into the exact spot I wanted the ramp to be. Attempting to rotate this ramp once finally positioned somewhere close to where I originally wanted it was just impossible. The ramp flew half way up the track, fell through the terrain, hell it did everything but rotate a few degrees left which was all i wanted. There is no reason why the original creation tools and controles arn't in this game. It is incompotance on the part of the developer, no question about it.

Now if none of the above has put you off you may be happy to know the actual gameplay isn’t too bad. Yes the steering is ultra sensitive, but if you have played ModNation on PS3 you’re used to this. Furthermore the game, for the most part, runs smoothly. There is slowdown on occasion, particularly when the screen is cluttered with karts, but its never game breaking.

New weapons have been introduced as well as favourites from the previous games kept. Weapon pickups are few and far between on the track, a change made presumably in response to the criticism of the PS3 version that races were too chaotic. It’s nice to not be constantly hit with rockets the moment first place is claimed however find yourself in last and be prepared to use boost to catch up not weapons as the AI are very good at collecting them before you can.

The main focus of the single player is a career mode consisting of five sets of five races plus a bonus stage. Difficulty ramps up pretty quick but thankfully any race can be restarted, you don’t have to restart the entire set of races if you screw up. Doing well enough in the tournament will unlock the next set (all of which will be new tracks). I think this is mode most players will choose to play. It can be beaten in an afternoon though there are challenges to complete on each track such as earn a certain amount of draft points or take out a certain number of opponents. 

The game looks good on occasion and rather plain on another.  It looks a lot more washed out than the PS3 version and the track design isn't as good. There are no memorable characters in the game and the story element seen in previous game is nowhere to be seen. The menus require touch controls to swipe through which is bad enough but when you consider that there is no way to go directly to the mode you want without swiping through all the ones you don’t the problem is made worse. Add to this a small pause to load each new mode menu and you have an infuriatingly incompetent system here. On top off all this the loading screed are long... really long which, when you consider the game is cartridge based, is inexcusable.

Final comments

San Diego Studio has utterly failed at bringing a decent kart racer to the VITA which may explain why the series is (I assume) being dropped in favour of the recently leaked “LittleBigPlanet Karting”. The £35 price tag may be an insult but the same thing can be said for so are many of the VITAs launch titles. It’s hard to have any positive comments to sign off on when it’s easier to recommend the PSPs version of this franchise over the VITAs.


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