Crash Team Racing, Team Sonic Racing, Mario Kart… The greatest mascot racers of the video game era; hell, I’m pretty sure Diddy Kong had one too.
…But what about ModNation Racers?
I bet you’ve never heard of ModNation Racers. It’s not a well-known game, one of those titles that snuck out onto the shelves – It’s a last-gen title, and a gem of a game, owing to the genre of the crazy fast-paced mascot-style kart racer… Only, it has no Mascot ties. It’s its own thing. Let’s break it down.
ModNation’s story is basic – as far as I remember – your avatar enters a racing competition to win the prize money for some personal passion goal; from there, it’s up to you to rise the ranks, and beat the best of the best. It breaks down into the standard suite of various themed race tracks, each one evoking the Kart Racer vibe. There’s a beach track, a jungle temple track, city tracks, demolition derby tracks, etc… And at the end of each and every track set, you race a champion – Usually a visually distinct and unique looking racer whose AI is dialled way, way, up. Each champion also has a strength and a weakness to make things a bit fairer.
The first one for instance is a F1-styled urban city centre track, with lots of straight aways and tight corners. The first champion is a speed daemon, whose kart suffers on corners, but is nearly uncatchable on the straights. There’s an insane-ass drifting track that looks like a go-kart sized skate park, whose champion tears around the track with just four continuous drifts. There’s a huge stadium-sized demo derby track with jumps galore and death traps everywhere, where the champion is literally the devil!
The carts and other racers are all bizarre, there’s a luchador in purple spandex, driving a literal pimpmobile kart. There’s a WW1-looking gentleman racing round in a jeep kart, and there’s even a guy in an Easter Bunny onsie riding around in sticker bombed bumper kart.
When you drift, you create fire trails Ghost Rider style, and you can paste stickers onto nearly everything from your kart to your avatar – You can build your own tracks, and race with your friends on them, online or split screen couch co-op. It’s everything a kart racer is, and ever will be… Maybe it’s because it didn’t have any well-known faces on it, but I’m genuinely upset this game never sold many copies. Mainly cause its surprisingly fun. Maybe there’s a form of PC emulation out there for an older copy – I certainly hope there is because I’d love to get my hands on it once more.
It’s not a dissatisfying game either; it does get rather challenging later on, as I remember one track clearly – A medieval themed rally through what might have been countryside, or suburbs maybe. Can’t remember precisely… But it took me nearly forty attempts to beat the champion for that one, just so I could unlock all the cosmetics. It genuinely made me miss Mario Kart when I first played it, after not owning a Nintendo console for so long. It actually made me ponder getting a Wii at the time, because that’s where all the kart games were back then – Maybe now I should get a Switch..?
Sadly I lost ModNation to the PS4, thinking it was reverse compatible; oh sweet naive me… What I would give to see my demon, punk, Sonic/Jason looking avatar, tearing it up on the current gen. Here’s hoping the next gen doesn’t make the same mistake. There is however, discussion, and petition for a sequel to be made for the newer generation. So there’s that!
Developed by United Front Games and SIE San Diego Studio, and released in 2010 ModNation is a beloved game, that I thoroughly enjoyed. One of only two racing games I have ever gotten any joy or fun from.
In summary, whilst this is a short one, ModNation deserves it’s 8/10 from me. God bless you demon punk hedgehog Jason – God damn bless you!