ModNation Racers: The Forgotten Gem

There were plenty of notably excellent PlayStation 3 exclusives that were one-and-done during its long history. Games like Mag, Starhawk, Heavy Rain and LittleBigPlanet Karting were solid titles that were not given a chance to expand on their potential with sequels. Ironically, the developer of LittleBigPlanet Karting, United Front Games, had another kart racing title prior to this. Its first game, ModNation Racers, successfully implemented an aspect that wasn’t done previously and hasn’t been done since. While it makes sense to go the direction it did with LittleBigPlanet Karting, the game was not nearly as enjoyable as the developer’s first ever game. ModNation Racers was a masterpiece in customization gaming and it needs to be resurrected.

The game featured cartoon-influenced animation with characters that nobody cared about. The karts offered different variations of handling with useful power-ups and addictive drifting. The default tracks were solid, but the included elements of the game were mostly forgettable. It’s what the game would expand on that made it so unique. While Wii owners had a basic online component with Mario Kart WiiModnation Racers offered more online racers, server rooms and voice chat.

The most enjoyable aspect of the game was, no doubt, the creation studio. Players could create racers, tracks and karts, then upload the creations for the world to download. Players could view how many times their content was downloaded. The center of all of this was done at the ModSpot, an open area much like the Tower in Destiny. The amount of hours spent sorting through characters and karts could only be related to sorting through Netflix. Some of the characters were absolutely wonderful, as they always ended up as cute caricatures of their actual designs. The results would range from Batman and Deadpool to Nathan Drake and Kenny Powers. Masterpiece designs consisted of Spawn and Carnage as they featured definitive accents. More importantly, there were also multiple choices if one was more suitable than the other on a personal preference level.

The karts were a whole other world. Players could make vans and stock cars; literally a ton of options. Examples included the A-Team van, NASCAR designed karts and many Batmobiles. Users could paint liveries and create a Wolverine-themed car and others. The result would be one of the coolest things to experience as online races would consist all of these characters and karts. If you raced an opponent online and they had something you liked, you could visit that profile in the game and quickly view and download what they used. Nothing like this has been done since, and this game was released seven years ago.

The other huge aspect of the creation suite was the track designer. This was not some simplistic aspect, as players had full developer tools to edit terrain and surfaces all while making it user-friendly. Players could then share the tracks and the results were great fantasy tracks, or excellent duplicates of real-world tracks. Custom race tracks in games nowadays consist of a generator and their isn’t a lot of depth to this. Mario Kart has had three releases since 2010, and no track designer was ever implemented. Imagine having the Wii U Gamepad and the Switch to easily design tracks? Ironically, the ModNation Racers: Road Trip for PlayStation Vita did implement this.

While this portable ModNation impressed with its ability to create tracks with the touchscreen for customization on-the-go, it lacked what made the PS3 version enjoyable: the online racing. It was strange that a system that supported 3G data connection and built-in WiFi lacked online racing and it would never be added. Road Trip was considered the sequel to the original, as a new version never saw the light of day on the major systems due to LittleBigPlanet Karting and the direction of United Front Games. They went on to do Sleeping Dogs, Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition, Halo: The Master Chief Collection and Disney Infinity 3.0, so who could really blame them?

While the original Little Big Planet may have popularized the customizing and sharing aspect for games, ModNation Racers raised the bar to the point that it hasn’t been reached since. The PlayStation has lacked a reputable karting game for quite some time and ModNation Racers is something that needs to be revisited. Players love downloading custom content while the creators enjoy the praise. With the advancements in technology, a modern day ModNation would be amazing.