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PlayStation Vita  header logo

ModNation Racers: Road Trip

For: PS Vita

Stuck in reverse

Product: ModNation Racers: Road Trip | Developer: Sony San Diego | Format: PS Vita | Genre: 3D, Arcade, Multiplayer, Racing | Players: 1-4 | Networking: wireless (adhoc) | Version: Europe
 
ModNation Racers: Road Trip PS Vita, thumbnail 1
With a new generation of hardware, there's an expectation that games will get better. Whether it's the increased number of polygons you can push, smoother framerates, advanced physics engines, or improved control.

Added technological grunt should make for superior products from companies.

Flying in the face of this is ModNation Racers: Road Trip, which is not only inferior to the home console release but also to the PSP offering.

Like the other versions, Road Trip is a kart racer with an emphasis on creating new tracks, characters, and vehicles. Following the kind of path walked down by Mario Kart, it's you against seven opponents across a variety of environments, power-sliding around corners, charging off ramps, and firing weapon pick-ups.

The single-player component takes the form of a Career mode of six championships with five races in each. You're awarded points for the positions you take on the podium, which in turn opens up new tournaments, and you can revisit tracks whenever you like to improve your standings.

You'll also want to go back to pick up Tokens, which let you unlock more items in the Shop to use when making new content, as well as to fulfil race objectives – such as coming third overall and hitting five speed ramps – which in turn give you access to new trinkets.

Exhaust-ing

There's none of the humour of previous ModNation Racers titles. There are no nifty little cut-scenes and no story to speak of, so Career and the self explanatory Quick Race and Time Trial modes are devoid of character. The visuals still look cheery, but severe frame-rate issues spoil this when too much is happening on the track.

It's also completely unfair to play - one mistake will usually cost you several places, and the AI rubber-banding is laughable. You'll go for two and a half laps, taking every corner beautifully, hitting every shortcut, and making use of every power-up you can get your hands on, only to bash into an obstacle and tumble from first to sixth place.

Avoiding said obstacles can be a nightmare, too. It's almost as if the environment is actively battling you every step of the way, placing hazards and firing projectiles directly in your path far too often.

When you throw in tracks that give no clear indication as to their layout, some atrocious collision detection, and the game's habit of restarting your races after going out of bounds in the worst possible positions on the course, it becomes a war of attrition that you won't care enough to win.

Handling is otherwise straightforward enough. There's the left analogue stick for steering and the right one for slamming into other racers and firing at targets on the course that open new routes.

Square is turbo, Circle is shield, Cross handles drift, Triangle fires the weapon you've picked up, and tapping the screen converts those pick-ups into boosts, with the shoulder buttons controlling acceleration.

Drifting, drafting, and air time increase the amount of boost you have to play with, the game always encouraging you to take risks for better lap times. The drifting feels a lot closer to the PlayStation 3 version than the PSP one, which is where Road Trip improves on its predecessor.

Competing against yourself

However, it doesn't have any online multiplayer to speak of aside from time trials - something the 2010 PSP release absolutely did. Why it's missing from Road Trip is a complete mystery, especially considering the other network functionality – including ad hoc competitive, ghost data, and design sharing – is otherwise excellent.

Making your own Mods, vehicles, and tracks is simple once you get the hang of it, but not very intuitive for beginners. There are no tutorials to get you familiar with the basics -you're just given menu after menu of options to experiment with until you can craft something reasonable.

It also still suffers from the franchise's biggest issue - load times – and compounds that with unresponsive touchscreen controls. Races take around 30 seconds to get into and the information-stuffed screens often take two or three presses until you select them, making navigation a hassle.

The ability to make your own content and share it for the world to see is still very much a Sony spearheaded directive in gaming, success stories like LittleBigPlanet go to show that with the right tools a burgeoning community can grow around this type of DIY game.

What puts LBP far beyond ModNation Racers: Road Trip is that being in Sackboy's world is fun, technically sound, and encourages social interaction. This effort for Sony's kart racer is none of those things and represents a significant step back for the series.
 
ModNation Racers: Road Trip
Reviewer photo
Peter Willington | 13 February 2012
ModNation Racers on the Vita is a boring, unfair, and wholly unnecessary release that manages to be worse than its previous handheld outing despite the Vita's technical superiority over the PSP
 
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trank | 02:18 - 23 March 2012
 
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