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Review

ModNation Racers: Road Trip Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed:
  • VITA

ModNation Racers: Road Trip gets off to an exciting start but sputters and lurches across the finish line.

ModNation Racers: Road Trip is a kart racer you want to love, and for good reason: it tries so hard to be loveable. It has an adorably devious aesthetic featuring racers that gesticulate wildly as they bebop down the track. It has creation elements that allow you to put a squat Marty McFly look-alike behind the wheel of a Delorian and set the kart loose on a custom track adorned with flaming hoops and unnecessary ramps. It's when you get down to racing in Road Trip that it begins to reveal its inconsistencies. Many races are great fun, but the frustrations pile on the more time you invest. The campaign's later tracks are less about racing and more about coming to grips with your kart's loose handling while avoiding inordinate amounts of doodads strewn everywhere.

Yet the racing seems almost an afterthought in ModNation Racers: Road Trip, which is one-quarter racing game and three-quarters creation suite. The robust tools allow you a good deal of freedom with the karts you devise, the racers you outfit, and the tracks you lay. The more you race, and the better you are at it, the more you get to toy with bits and pieces. Just allowing the game to randomize your onscreen avatar can bring about such cute results: a googly-eyed bright-green frog behind the wheel of a bright-yellow hot rod, for example.

It's a joy to see your creative concoctions spring to life, and thus a joy to receive a post-race overview of all the doohickeys you just earned. Driving around a track of your own devising also delivers that rush of seeing your imagination spill onto the screen. The cleverer you want to be, however, the more of a hassle it is to translate your vision. Placing scenery, obstacles, and other tidbits can be irritating given the imprecision of the touch-screen controls. Unless you have tiny fingers, stuff may not land where you want, and subsequent fiddling may have you wondering, "Why not just let me use the buttons?" In fact, the general interface for choosing submenus may have you wondering it again, what with the small, somewhat unresponsive wheel of touch icons you must use.

This is one of the more normal-looking karts you can create.

On the PlayStation 3, you accessed all your options from a single hub and drove your kart toward whatever feature you wanted to access. Road Trip's more traditional menu interface suffices, though it lacks that uniqueness that made the original so cohesive. Still, the menus make it simple enough to share your creations and download others. You can even download content created for the PlayStation 3 version, which gives Road Trip more longevity than if you were limited to PlayStation Vita-specific creations. This expansive sharing system spawns a sense of community, but that community is a limited one. While you can join local buddies in ad hoc races, there is no online play--a strange decision, considering that even the PSP version had online support. You can race against other players' ghosts, but that's not much consolation.

Races are fun when they focus on--well--the racing. The early campaign stages are raucously entertaining as they introduce you to various concepts: drafting, drifting, midair twirls, and so forth. The middle of the campaign hits a sweet difficulty spot, challenging you with curvy tracks, varied obstacles, and the occasional perilous drop. But then Road Trip's claws come out, and it all becomes too much. Flaming slabs, rotating platforms, narrow bridges, and barrels tumbling across the roadway: you can barely navigate these evils as other drivers bash into you, sending your bouncy jalopy careening into walls or plunging into ravines. The later stages don't require impeccable driving so much as they have you hoping that the timing of giant jackhammers and swaying platforms works in your favor. Road Trip's final stages throw so much stuff at you that you begin to feel powerless. And it's that loss of control that makes those races cross the line from challenging to cheap. Blue shells are child's play in comparison.

Don't let the smooth track ahead fool you: something nasty is waiting for you just around the bend.

It's too bad that some tracks are too clever for their own good because many of them showcase complexity that would make MotorStorm players gleeful. Shortcuts are carefully crafted so that no single route gives you an obvious advantage. Speed-up platforms and launch ramps are placed in ways that keep the varied routes equally viable. But even when you're zooming about, giggling along with your bubbly racer, you can still get snagged by performance hitches. The frame rate isn't atrocious, but it's inconsistent and too often stutters when it needs to be perfectly smooth. Load times aren't unbearable, but they're long enough to annoy.

The general lack of smoothness--in the racing, in the menus, and elsewhere--is what keeps ModNation Racers: Road Trip from ever maintaining its stride. For every smile it elicits, there's a grimace to match it. For every joyous drift and creative breakthrough, there's a frustrating detail that flings you back toward earth. If you're keen on the series, you should consider tinkering with Road Trip. It's too bad that its engine doesn't purr as rhythmically as it should.

The Good
Adorable, mischievous vibe
First half of the campaign is really enjoyable
Robust creation and sharing suite
The Bad
Later races are too chaotic to be fun
Stuttering frame rate and long load times
No online multiplayer limits the sense of community
6
Fair
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

GameSpot senior editor Kevin VanOrd has a cat named Ollie who refuses to play Rock Band because he always gets stuck pla

Discussion

20 comments
Leboyo56
Leboyo56

I'm going to get this eventually because it's very cheap ($15 new) and I enjoyed the single player campaign of the first quite a bit. Online racing was amazing, but Road Trip's price more or less makes up for it.

angelbless
angelbless

I stopped reading at the "No online multiplayer"... really, what were they thinking???

retroworld3000
retroworld3000

Long load times even on a card?? 3DS games can much load faster than on PSVita games. Sony, I thought Vita cards can load faster. :(

Evenios
Evenios

Sad to see the game didnt rate so high.....though this game would be highly rated. meh im glad im holding off for a while for the Vita truth is doesnt look like that many games in the long run down the road even to hold much interest...

digi-demon
digi-demon

Long load times? What have Sony done to cartridge gaming :(

QWERTYCommander
QWERTYCommander

Honestly I can kinda forgive the no online play thing. It sucks that it's not in there, but the publisher most likely forced UFG to release this game at launch, therefore rushing it. I did enjoy the PS3 campaign greatly though, as it had a unique Tony Hawk's Underground vibe to it never seen in a kart racer before. And from what it seems this game has the same problems as the PS3's campaign, with some improvements, which is fine by me. Also, what is to say that an online mode won't be patched in? The PS3 MNR had a ton of support, so what is to say that they won't patch an online mode in? So basically I love the series and I will buy this once I get a Vita.

Ronaldo27
Ronaldo27

If this is Sony's response to Mario Kart 7, no wonder many people thinks the Vita is doomed. I still plan to buy one near to the end of this year, but the library have to get much better to convince me to close the deal.

megakick
megakick

No online whats the point? Another medicore score.

JohnMark320
JohnMark320

No online?! This should be the game that touts the Vita's impressive communication specs! Wow.

Sarumite
Sarumite

Long load times are the killer in the mobile gaming world in my opinion. If I have a short bus journey I want to be able to get racing pretty quickly. I used to play Madden on my PSP and it was very good at getting me into the action really quickly.

burgeg
burgeg

Before knowing too much about this game this was by far my most anticipated game of the Vita launch. I pretty much expected it to be at the very least as good as the PS3 game, with some improvements as well. I really enjoyed the first game, and the only real thing I didn't like was the load times. I'm shocked they couldn't even improve that on a cart. I'm not sure why it seems they screwed this one up so badly with this version, but at least there's plenty other good Vita launch games to choose from.

gamenerd15
gamenerd15

This game went out the door when no online play was announced. Overall the launch seems cool, despite some bad games. Startdust Delta, Hot Shots, Lumines, Wipeout, and Uncharted are leading pack. Most of those games scored pretty good around the Internet. The last paragraph of the Uncharted review does not really make sense with the rest of what was said. The reviewer claims that Uncharted has faults, but then claims that it is almost as good as the other games in the series. I would not say the launch is as bad as 3DS. All 3DS had was SF 4 and Pilotwings. People also forget that the Vita has more games coming out shortly after launch. Unit 13, Gravity Daze, and Sumioni are not that far off. I doubt Gravity Daze will release at the same time as Resistance.

ad0234
ad0234

Jeez, this seems like the same dramatic line up as the 3DS had. What a shame. Nice Review btw.

astro_viper
astro_viper

Well, hate to break it to everyone again, but there's a reason as to why I have had my friends Vita kicking it in my house (in Japan) for the last month...collecting dust. The portable, itself, is pretty tight (really hate the dashboard interface). However, the games are epic fails at this point in time. The only game I have enjoyed, thus far, is Katamari, which is not nearly enticing enough to buy a Vita for myself. Some of the downloadable titles look tight though, like Gravity something-or-other... Give it a while though, launches are always rocky...just look back at the PSP and DS if you've already forgotten.

wumpscutnut
wumpscutnut

This is a flop, uncharted is kind of a flop... the highest rated game for vita is Fifa.. thats just sad. Looks like im canceling my pre order and waiting for a few months before i get one of these.

soulless4now
soulless4now

Looks like I'm better off just getting the ps3 version then.

anticusho1984
anticusho1984

I had high expectations of this games since it was great for ps3, well let's see what will happen with blazblue, I sure it must be good, and if somebody it's wondering if there is a good score for a vita game, so far fifa 8.0 and rayman origins has good scores in other sites

PDXmauler97
PDXmauler97

its a shame that this game is that bad, the ps3 one was great and i spent hours customizing karts and characters. If this game was any good i was actually thinking about buying a vita, but if this is as good as it gets then im keeping my money tied to consoles

FlamingFury
FlamingFury

Wait for it... The surge of fanboy hate is incoming.... Good review. I thought about getting it before, but no online was a killer for me. After being disappointed by Mario Kart 7's often luck based racing, I'm really cautious of games like this, and uncannily good AI is a game ruiner for me. I doubt I'll even pick this up when it's in a bargain bin.

Leboyo56
Leboyo56

@retroworld3000 Vita games normally don't load slowly, this is mainly an issue from the first game that wasn't resolved here. The original Modnation Racers has rather atrocious load times.

ModNation Racers: Road Trip More Info

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  • First Released
    • PlayStation Vita
    ModNation Racers: Road Trip is a Kart-style Racing game that brings the fun of the ModNation franchise to the PlayStation Vita.
    7
    Average User RatingOut of 69 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate ModNation Racers: Road Trip
    Developed by:
    SCEA
    Published by:
    SCEI, SCE Australia, SCEA, SCEE
    Genres:
    Arcade, Driving/Racing
    Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
    Everyone
    All Platforms
    Mild Cartoon Violence