Right out of the box you get two dozen race tracks. These courses include the sandy deserts, coastal towns, mountain tops and much, much more. These levels are par for the course when it comes to this style of racing game, which is to say that they are neither spectacular nor disappointing. There are some fun courses that have you leaping over huge hills and avoiding water hazards, but without the unique art style and nostalgia ModNation never quite rises to the level of Super Mario Kart.
I hate to go back to Mario Kart so much, but it's all I could think about when I was racing against the computer-controlled opponents in the single-player career mode. This is a game where the artificial intelligence never lets up, constantly making sure you don't come in first. This isn't a big problem at the beginning of the game, but spend some time with the computer and you'll learn to hate it. The computer seems to have two tactics -- either they'll take an insurmountable lead early on, or they'll attack you with everything they've got an inch before you cross the finish line. In either case, it's enough to make you swear off of ModNation Racers.
The good news is that most gamers won't even think about racing against the computer. Why would you when you could take on a whole world of like-minded race fans? Because of how well the online world is woven into the single-player experience, it's easy to simply ignore the career mode and just find random races to play. Not only will this allow you to play tons of new tracks (including the ones you didn't get to in the single-player mode), but it also pits you against everyday people like yourself. Gone are the unfair practices of the computer players, they've been replaced with the frustration of knowing you aren't the greatest kart racer in the world.
The real draw is the create-a-track mode. It's impressive how easy it is to develop, tweak and perfect a custom track. Creating a course is as easy as laying down road, picking a motif, adding obstacles and uploading it to the world. Much like Sony's LittleBigPlanet, ModNation Racers lets you play the game while editing it, making the whole experience fun and simple. But don't confuse simple with shallow, because there's more than enough depth in the toolbox to make whatever tracks you want. The scope may not be as impressive of LittleBigPlanet, but there is no finer track editor on the PlayStation 3 (or any other current generation console, for that matter).
On top of creating your own tracks, you are also in total control over your avatar and vehicle. Because there are so many different games and even consoles that allow you to develop your own avatars, doing this in the game isn't nearly as exciting as editing together brand new tracks. The editor allows you to build just about any kind of character you want, from movie stars to video game characters to brand new creations. The art styles isn't nearly as interesting as the sack-based characters found in LittleBigPlanet, but I don't have any issue with the nice citizens of the ModNation.
If you're not into creating your own tracks, cars and avatars, there's a pop-up guide that lets you search through all of the user-created content. As you might imagine, the online servers are full of copyrighted characters. On the first page alone I found Super Mario, Luigi, Sonic the Hedgehog, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Master Chief, Vault 101 Boy, Link, Optimus Prime and Sephiroth. And that's just on the first page. There are hundreds of pages of these types of characters, along with a few brand new creations.
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