I still remember seeing Modnation Racers debut on stage at E3 several years back. The second they showed the track creation I was sold. I didn’t love the art style, especially the characters, and I had my suspicions that the driving model wouldn’t be great… but the track editor alone had me ready to plunk down $60. When the game finally came out I wasn’t let down at all. Though finicky, the driving model was better than I feared, and the track editor was the thing of legends. I spent close to 100 hours that summer building 12 enormous tracks (and a few deleted failures). I loved it.
So obviously when Modnation Racers: Road Trip was announced as a Vita launch title I was very excited. It seems silly to think about it now, but at one point I would have probably said this was my most anticipated launch game. The wind got taken out of those sails (sales?) though when they announced it wouldn’t have competitive online play. I wasn’t completely thrown off the scent, but they came pretty close to losing me there. And then the reviews started pouring in and reports of bad framerates tried their best to make me not buy the game. But my love for the source material made me soldier on.
Road Trip is a tale of missed opportunities. They took a great game and tried some different things, things which honestly could have worked, but they never finished it. That’s the most frustrating part of this game. It was clearly rushed to make launch, a launch that was STUFFED with great games, and not delayed until it was finished and released during an incredibly thin release period like the summer. It’s things like this that make me question Sony’s thought processes. It literally makes me angry when I think how easy of a decision it should have been to delay it.
But they didn’t, and I’m here to tell you that the game isn’t that great. This isn’t new news; by this point there are 50+ reviews saying the same thing, plus a demo on the store confirming said reviews. Hell, I’m on the fourth paragraph here and I haven’t even gotten into the nuts and bolts of the game because, honestly, they aren’t worth talking about. You already know.
What I will say is that for a game that eschews competitive multiplayer for asynchronous multiplayer, they sure don’t have an understanding of what makes asynchronous multiplayer fun. Gone from the PS3 version is the Hot Lap, the only asynchronous mode that really makes any sense. Instead they have ghosts on everything and they will put ghosts up against you that are near your skill level, but it doesn’t foster any sense of competition at all. They seem like incidental bits of AI you are slowly passing on your way to getting better at a game that doesn’t deserve it. You don’t challenge friends in-game, you don’t post ghosts to Near, you don’t do anything to create any sort of racing drama among friends.
Surprisingly, the career mode in Road Trip is actually more fun than the PS3 version. Even with framerate issues the career is a good time with some really fantastic tracks. And, likewise, the track creator on the Vita is more powerful, easier and more fun than making tracks on the PS3. The problem with the track creator is that without online play who in the world is going to play your tracks? No one has played mine yet. I don’t know why they would.
The career mode saves Modnation: Road Trip from being a complete waste of time and money. It’s actually quite fun and I recommend giving it a go when this game inevitably fills bargain bins over the summer. You know, the same time when it should have been released as a finished game in the first place.