A near-perfect port of the popular ModNation Racers game has landed on the Vita, and the go-kart racing hasn’t been this fun in a long time. But, like Wipeout 2048, the loading times seem excessive (35+ seconds to load a racetrack) for a cartridge-based go-kart racing game.
Loading times aside, MNR:RT has all the fun of its PS3 big brother and even improves upon the gameplay in subtle ways. Allowing you to take on 30+ new tracks, as well as giving you the power to create new racers, tracks and go-karts — a racer’s dream. I think I’ve spent almost as much time creating racetracks and uploading them to the Internet for others to download as I have actually racing in the game.
The tracks are challenging and visually impressive. The controls are easy to adjust to, and the power-ups that you obtain over the course of the races offer you both offensive and defensive capabilities that are a ton of fun to use. The new color-coding system for the pick-ups helps you to identify them at a distance, and allows for a greater level of strategy to your racing.
While the in-game controls using the buttons and the analog sticks are great, the touch controls do need some calibration. Accessing menu items or tweaking my go-kart’s design took multiple attempts and a bit of puzzling until I devised a specific way of tapping the screen. The ability to draw a track with my finger and then tweak it as I wanted is a very nice touch, however, and I really like the ability to rotate, resize and move various stickers on my racers and karts.
The fact that a go-kart racing game on a portable system doesn’t allow for multiplayer races seems incredibly shortsighted. Sony’s stated that you can record your best times and then upload them so that other players can try to beat your time. However, I discovered that I couldn’t get this to work right unless I was connected to the Internet as I raced. So, I can’t take the Vita to work, play a couple of quick races during my lunch break, and then upload the racetimes when I get home in the evening. I have to be connected to the Internet even though the game doesn’t support online multiplayer … wait, what?!
The racing is fun, the sounds and music are well-done, and the visuals are great. The design capabilities are powerful and varied. So why is a game with such high potential saddled with a clunky menuing system, long loading times, and an “asynchronous multiplayer” mode that isn’t any fun (on a platform that is touted for its social gaming, no less)?