The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
The original ModNation Racers was a flawed but entertaining
attempt to innovate in the kart racing genre. Its easy-to-use toolset for
creating and sharing content has produced over a million user-made tracks,
karts, and racers for players to download, putting the offerings of Mario
Kart's countless iterations to shame. While Road Trip's touchscreen support
makes fashioning your own creations easier than ever, some old and new missteps
make playing this handheld version significantly less fun than the original.
As with all Vita launch titles, a lot of effort has been
placed in utilizing the handheld's unique features, primarily the front and
back touchscreen panels. A wide range of gestures let you place, resize, and
rotate objects and decals, lay down and shape roads, and even bank turns with
ease. You may still want to use the control sticks to fine-tune your
masterpiece, but the touchscreen lets you work quickly and naturally.
The solid controls carry over to gameplay as well. The Vita's
small control sticks are responsive, and using the shoulder buttons for the gas
and brakes instead of triggers is a non-factor. A number of new weapons (my
favorites being a rockslide that bombards the track with boulders, and the
ability to transform into a giant snowball and run down your foes) spice up
For every improvement, however, there's a frustrating downside.
The developer crafted all-new tracks for Road Trip, but the career mode has
been stripped of the cutscenes introducing your rivals and highlighting your
achievements. The announcers also hit the cutting room floor, leaving the
career mode less of a career, and more of a string of races.
After enjoying the first two competitive circuits, the
action quickly takes a turn for the annoying. The later tracks, while
impressive on a technical and creative level, are packed with so many obstacles
and pitfalls that races devolve into chaos. This pandemonium is compounded by
the worst rubberband AI I've ever seen; I won the overwhelming majority of my
races by just a few tenths of a second, and lost many more at the finish line.
There's nothing more frustrating than losing a race at the last moment, then
shaving a dozen-plus seconds off your time - only to be beat at the last second
again. Having your opponents always on your heels may ratchet up the intensity,
but it also requires flawless racing to finish first, which Road Trip's
frenzied action simply doesn't support. All of this makes racing against the
computer less fun, which, it turns out, is a big problem.
The biggest of Road Trip's drawbacks is inexplicable: There's
no online multiplayer support. You can still create and download user-made
content - including everything from the PS3 version of the game - but if you
want to race against humans, the best you get is a four-player ad hoc mode, or downloadable
time trial ghosts. Even the PSP version of ModNation Racers has 6-player online
support - what was Sony thinking? Downloading user-made courses is simply not
as enjoyable when you can only play them in one-off races against the computer.
ModNation Racers remains a bastion for creativity, and I can
only hope its focus on user-made content influences other kart racers and the
racing genre as a whole. Road Trip's new touchscreen controls further refine
content creation, but they aren't a game changer. Unfortunately, the lack of online
Can't decide if you want to purchase Sony's new system? Read our review of the Vita handheld.
Email the author Jeff Marchiafava, or follow on Google+, Twitter, and Game Informer.