Review: ModNation Racers Stalls On Sony’s Handheld (PlayStation Vita)

A lack of a crucial feature makes the latest ModNation come up short.

When ModNation Racers came out for the PlayStation 3 in 2010, United Front Games had created a great new portal for community for the PlayStation Network, allowing racers to not only engage one another in races and share their track creations with others to see what they thought.  Its community grew just as huge as LittleBigPlanet’s, making the game an imminent success.  Seeing lightning in a bottle for its handheld front, Sony decided to release a ModNation Racers game for the PlayStation Vita, Road Trip, complete with a new touch-screen track building feature and plenty of racing action.  But for some strange reason, this one feels somewhat stuck in second.

That isn’t to say ModNation Racers isn’t fun to play.  It is.  Sony manages to retain most of the feeling behind the game in the handheld iteration, with all the drifting, power-ups and racing fun that you remember.  Granted, for some reason it also brought along rubber-banding AI, which means racers can easily come from behind and try to dominate a race.  Maybe it was a way to keep the game competitive, who knows.  At least it plays well.

And it does have features that take advantage of the Vita.  The new track building feature is quite awesome, letting you lay down new racing areas using the front touch-screen and the rear touch sensors, and then sharing them with others.  You can also download other created tracks as well, and rate them accordingly.  To take advantage of the system’s GPS functionality, you can also find bonus items in Near, including bonus rewards to help you out during the race.  The photo-taking opportunities are rather weak, but, hey, someone’s bound to take advantage.

As for multiplayer…well, this is kind of where the game goes off-road.  While there are local multiplayer opportunities for those who have friends nearby, the game lacks PlayStation Network support for online racing…which makes no sense at all, really.  This is a kart racing game that thrives on competition, and without too much of it to go around, well, it’s kind of lacking.  You’d think Sony would’ve made this a key feature from the get-go, but instead, it takes a back seat to the single player campaign and track sharing.  No, scratch that.  It’s in the trunk.