If it feels like there have been a lot of weapon-based racing games lately, then you're not alone. Between Split/Second, Blur and Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing, arcade racers are back in full force. Even with all of the recent competition, Sony's ModNation Racers still manages to stand out from the pack. It does this with its one special ingredient -- a near infinite amount of tracks, cars and comical drivers. ModNation Racers is not without a few problems, but with so much user-created content you may find it hard to go back to anybody else's racing game.
ModNation Racers is not a particularly original or creative concept, it's essentially aping dozens (if not hundreds) of racing games before it. The gameplay is pure Super Mario Kart; from the weapons you throw to the crazy drifting you'll need to master to beat the competition. The game is cute and offers a series of over-the-top race courses that are full of annoying obstacles and hidden short cuts. Outside of high definition graphics and the complete lack of Nintendo characters, ModNation Racers might as well call itself Super Mario Karts.
The conceit is that this Mario Kart-clone allows its users to design and share vehicles, playable characters and even race tracks. Because using the in-game editor tools is so painless and easy, you'll be overwhelmed with all kinds of user-created content. Of course, even this concept isn't very original. Racing games have been including track editors since the days of the NES, if not before. While games like Burnout, Need For Speed and Project Gotham Racing have done away with customization, there are more than enough racers to incorporate these modes into the gameplay.
The reason all this works so well is because of how well the developers have managed to tie it together. Never before has it been so easy to make a fun track, upload it to the world and then race on it with compete strangers. ModNation Racers allows you to quickly jump into brand new levels almost every time, which means that you could conceivably play the game every day and constantly race brand new courses. It all comes together in a way I haven't seen before. This may not be the world's most original racing game, but it's definitely first to get all of the user-content potential right.
So let's back up a little and explain what ModNation Racers actually is. What we have here is a fast-paced kart racing game. It's the kind of arcade racer where you pick up special items and use them to gain the upper hand. The object is to get to the finish line first, no matter who you have to screw over in the process. You gain boost and points by pulling off big air tricks (which you don't control) and performing successful power slides. In other words, ModNations Racers is exactly like every other Mario Kart wannabe you've played over the last twenty years.
Did somebody say something about weapons? Much like wipEout and Blur, ModNation Racers features a number of useful items. At first it looks like there are only four items to pick up -- boost, missile, sound and lightning. But you'll quickly realize that you can power up each item two more times. For example, a level 1 boost may give you a short speed increase, but at level 3 you'll create a wormhole of sorts and warp closer to the front of the pack. Upgrading these items is as easy as driving over another item orb, which are more than plentiful on the race track.
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