Modnation Racers: Road Trip
Developer: SCE San Diego Studio
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform: Playstation Vita
Release Date: 22/02/2012
Price: $29.99 (Available Here)
Modnation Racers is Sony’s kart racing franchise which spans two of its platforms: the Playstation 3 and the Playstation Portable. These games offer customisation on a grand scale, from tracks to karts. Now the franchise makes its debut on a third platform: the Playstation Vita. The gameplay and scale of customisation do make the jump to the new handheld, which could mean the racer can cross the line in first place. However, will the finicky touch controls and lack of online multiplayer make the racer stall at the starting line?
Modnation Racers: Road Trip can be split into two areas of gameplay: racing and customisation. In terms of racing, you can expect the thrills of the Playstation 3 version of the game in the Vita port. In the races, one can drift, bump and jump throughout the track. Shortcuts will pop up during the races. Weapons are also in the game. They are colour-coded and can be powered up by collecting weapon orbs of the same colour, up to Level 3. A bolt of lighting and a fiery attack are two examples of weapons present in the game. If you don’t want the weapon you have, then you can convert it to your boost bar for an extra edge in the race. What I love about racing is how quirky it can be. It doesn’t take itself seriously, even though it is quite a competitive race. While the race can be quirky, it can also be challenging. Through the default and created tracks, the races can be tough with the various obstacles lying around. Don’t expect any race to be a breeze.
In terms of race modes, players can choose a quick race, which is jumping into a race on one of the default tracks, a track you have downloaded or a track you have created. Then there is time attack, where it is you against the clock. The game also has a career mode, which included five tours of six tracks. Here you can unlock pieces of gear for both your kart and racer. These usually involved grabbing a certain amount of weapon orbs or obtaining a certain amount of drift points. Tokens are also scattered along the tracks. Trade them in at the Token shop for more gear. Finally, there is adhoc multiplayer. This is the only form of direct multiplayer with the game, there is no online multiplayer. This is a decent selection of game modes for the player to try out.
The strength of Modnation Racers: Road Trip is the customisation features. They are extensive. One can customise their racer, their kart and create a track, as well as pose with their racer using augmented reality. First up, let’s look at the customisation of the racer. There are a lot of options in terms of what the character can look like. One can change their skin, eyes, clothing and more. Players can also add stickers to various clothing. Karts follow the same formula plus it also adds wacky and crazy parts, like a nuclear powered engine. There is so much one can do with their kart and racer. However, the menus for the customisation can be a little finicky. Precision is required to select the items and to navigate through the menus.
Track creation is on another level all together. Players begin by drawing the track on the Vita’s front touchscreen. Once that is done, players can do one of two things: auto populate the track with the player’s chosen theme or add the props themselves. Buildings, obstacles and even mountains and lakes can be created, all using the Vita touchscreen and rear touch pad. Yes, none of the physical controls are used for track creation. The time of day can also be changed. Players can test race the track. What I can say is that, with the creation tools, anything is possible. All of this can be shared via Wi-Fi. You can also download created tracks.
What makes Modnation Racers: Road Trip disappointing, however, is the lack of online multiplayer. The kart racing genre is best played with friends. This is possible, but only through Vita to Vita, which is adhoc. This makes the player feel alone and isolated, despite the sharing abilities. There is another form of multiplayer known as asynchronous multiplayer, which is used for the time attack mode. However, players must be always connected in order for it to work properly, meaning that, if you have the Wi-Fi only model, don’t expect your time to be saved for the world to beat. This is not the most ideal situation. Hopefully, Sony can fix this with a patch to add online multiplayer.
Visuals and Audio
I really do enjoy the visual style of Modnation Racers: Road Trip. It feels quirky, cheeky and somewhat right. The kart animations are smooth, although there will be a minor drop with the frame rate when the action heats up. The tracks look beautiful and also bring their own personality to the game. All of the buildings and the terrain are smooth and bright, thanks to the natural brightness of the OLED screen. The audio also brings personality to the game. The tunes are decent, but quirky. I do love the kart sound effects, which is dependent on the parts of the kart, as well as the weapons.
Modnation Racers: Road Trip does so much right, yet falters with certain elements needed in this genre. The gameplay is enjoyable and does offer something else to other kart racing games. The customisation is in fact the strength of the game. However, there is no online multiplayer and navigation via the touch screen seems to be finicky, requiring precise control. These also extend to the customisation of the various elements. The visuals and audio are quite good. For those who want a kart game that is different or are big fans of Modnation Racers should pick this up. However, it would be hard to recommend it to anyone else.