That Road Trip has seven different control set-ups is telling, that none of them really work perhaps more so. I’m most at home with the fifth, dubbed ‘Primary Drift Boost’, although asking me to press the triangle button to fire a weapon whilst simultaneously holding down cross to accelerate is perhaps a little cheeky. The default (with the throttle mapped to the right trigger) might suit you better, but it’s baffling that Mario Kart doesn’t have any such problems with control.
Indeed, the very game ModNation Racers so clearly apes is streets ahead in every aspect apart from the still utterly sublime creation aspects that Sony’s title can offer exclusively. The handling, visuals, music and – yes – online on Nintendo’s flagship racer are all two laps ahead of Road Trip, but ModNation still manages to excel in its single core USP. But we’ll come back to that; first, the bad stuff.
Road Trip’s no looker. When I first played it at E3 last year I thought the graphics needed work and were somewhat muddy, and they still are – it’s clearly not running at the Vita’s native resolution and the upscaling hurts, the lack of contrast making everything a poorly defined blurry soup and the forced sizing is evident in everything from the cars and tracks to the menus. Even the user interface looks poor, and navigating it is even worse.
Bonkers, and when you’re knee deep in the editor this jarring interface is troublesome at best. Frustratingly, it’s easily solved with a patch, but why this system was locked down in the first place is anyone’s guess. The truth is though, that Road Trip’s full of these oddities, an-often confusing mess of touch controls that’re compounding by a taunting, teasing Question Mark that, once tapped, highlights which of the new fangled input methods you’re supposed to use.
Tap. Double Tap. Tap and Hold. Pinch and Expand. Rotate. Push and Pull. The latter uses three fingers, in case you were wondering.
There are five Tours in Single Player, and a bonus one if you can make it to the end. Each has its own (new) tracks and achievements such as finish in a certain position to Advance, finish higher to get the ‘payoff’ treats and do some other tasks to get the ‘bonus’ treats. It’s a neat enough system for completists and there’s loads of stats to browse, and at least the interface here is straightforward enough, if a little unresponsive. The track designs are fine – not quite as memorable as the first MNR game but competent enough.
Load times, though, can be challenging. They’re nowhere near as bad as they were on PS3 but they’re still not sharp enough, presumably a result of having to pull together oodles of component parts for each track, Mod and Kart. Restarts, assuming you can coax the stupid little circle thing into the right option, are instant. Other options here include time trials, a quick single race and, as you’ll have heard, Ad-hoc only multiplayer, which limits competitive play to just those around you rather than over the web.
Whether or not this will be a problem to you depends on how you normally game – I’m not adverse to the idea that the developers have tried to build around this omission with other ideas (all the sharing works, of course, and there are leaderboards, time trials and GPS-based ‘postcards’) surely most of the fun with designing tracks is that you can immediately challenge your mates to a quick race regardless of where they are in the world. This isn’t the case with Road Trip, although San Diego have mentioned patching it in.[drop2]Finally, then, the graphics. The resolution issue is something that has affected a good chunk of the core Vita line-up with Everybody’s Golf in particular suffering somewhat from having to be upscaled. Uncharted has the same issue, although it’s not nearly as apparent as it is here and with Clap Hanz’ lovely sporting title – it really does look blurry and messy, and the sloppy framerate, visible texture swapping (the tarmac in the middle distance looks like soup) and blocky smoke effects contribute to a game that hardly shows off the Vita.
Thankfully, apart from some silly typos (“let’s you”) in the loading screens, that’s probably about it. If you’re still reading then you’re wanting to know how the Creation aspect works and happily it’s just as brilliant here as it was on the PS3. In fact, the PS3 creations can be imported in Road Trip without fuss and the various editors (for the Mods, Tracks and Karts) are easily the equal of its big brother. Designing is a breeze too, the touchscreen really coming into play with the visual stuff and a smart ability to ‘trace out’ a track.
So, that’s Road Trip. A launch title that probably didn’t need to be one, a checkbox marked ‘Create’ on a line-up that might have been better suited to Sackboy. ModNation’s a decent enough game, but it’s almost entirely without charm and feels like it’s just been pushed out the door in order to stick to a release date that should have been shifted back. If you liked the PS3 version then expect the same (and it’s definitely better than the PSP title) but a lack of online play and some rough edges mean that this might ultimately disappoint.
- Great creation tools
- Ability to import PS3 content is welcome
- Some interesting online options
- Handling much improved over PSP version
- No online racing
- Poor framerate
- Muddy visuals
ModNation Racers Road Trip isn’t terrible, it’s just not particularly good. Sure, the creation aspect of the game is solid and ranks up there with the very best at this sort of thing, but on the track whilst the handling is fine the graphics struggle and the action feels slightly stilted. Road Trip will be stung by the lack of online multiplayer, that much is true, but even with it it’s hardly going to set the world alight. San Diego have tried, but this needed another few months in the oven.