Initial impressions of “ModNation Loaders”

WARNING: You have stumbled upon one of my “rant” pages for a game. My rants are intentionally critical. If you want my honest opinion of a game, please read the reviews I write.

So I decided to lay down sixty bucks for ModNation Loaders yesterday. This seemed like a very fair price for a new game, since my local EB Games usually charges me thirty percent more for new games. At $80 for some games, I may as well just donate one of my kidneys to them.

I decided to purchase ModNation Loaders because I was dim witted enough to opt into the terribly restricted beta several months ago. It was a somewhat pleasurable experience, and I really took a liking to designing my own tracks. The retail version of ModNation Loaders obviously features many more options when it comes to track building. In fact, the retail version is so crammed full of content that it is rather intimidating! It is all there right in front of me, but I cannot decide what I want to do – ever. It’s like taking a fat kid who loves candy and leaving him in the grocery store overnight, he’s going to be so overwhelmed by all of the choices available to him that he’s likely to become so overstimulated that he will have a heart attack and die before he even starts his way down the cookie aisle. The feeling is similar to games such as Oblivion thrusting you into an open world environment with no direction or pressing goals. I didn’t really have any set ideas or plans, so I just dicked around mostly.

Making your own mod (or “character” if you want to use terms that normal people use) is even more daunting. You see, United Front Games felt that they would look really clever by giving you approximately only a dozen pieces of eyewear for your mods to wear, while they chucked in what felt like HUNDREDS of different eyes. What is the point of having so many of them! Most people are just going to cover them up anyway, so why is ModNation Loaders so skimpy on eyewear? It doesn’t make any sense! Most of the eyes are ridiculous anyway. The most interesting ones (read: three or four) are at the top of the list anyway.

The kart creation system is pretty fun. It isn’t nearly as daunting as the mod maker and is more intuitive. The only problem I have noticed is that, if you’re anything like me, most of your karts will either look “just okay” or, more frequently, like horrible vehicular abominations pooped out of Optimus Prime’s shiny metal ass. I wanted to make a drag racer with a seafoam-esque paint design, but instead ended up with a monstrosity that looked like it was attacked by a vicious horde of kindergarten toddlers with severe ADHD and a love for vomit inducing shades of green and blue paint.

Anyway, by this point one could probably wonder why I am calling the game ModNation Loaders instead of what United Front Games chose to call it. It’s quite simple, really. This game has one of the most innovative features I have ever encountered in a video game. ModNation Loaders throws so many long loading screens in your face that you begin to forget that they even hinder your play time. I fill most of my loading times with hateful rants directed at the length of each loading screen. To be truthful, the amount of time it takes to do ANYTHING in ModNation Loaders is completely unacceptable. The game has a mandatory 3.2 gigabyte install when you first boot the game up, and then proceeds to take thirty seconds to a full minute to load anything. Considering the size of the install and how frequently these lengthy loading screens appear on my television, I’m just completely shocked that a current generation game performs in the same way that games did over ten years ago on the original Playstation. Every game available on the PS3 can be likened to a hare, while ModNation Loaders is a tortoise.

Let’s talk about how the game actually plays, though. The actual controls are much different from every other kart racer, which is something that pisses me off to no end since every kart racer has it’s own unique control scheme. Why is it that every developer who makes a kart racer decides to be a bad boy rebel and give the game awkward controls? Mario Kart makes you wobble sticks around, Sonic’s recent kart racer may as well just be played using the shoulder buttons, and ModNation Loaders tries it’s absolutely damndest to make every single button on the controller have some kind of function. Why do this!! It’s a kart racer, simplicity is key! We do not need to use twenty fucking buttons! The only thing that is missing from ModNation Loaders’ disgustingly obese control scheme is a “press this knob to jerk off” button. It may as well be in there, since the controller does everything else that you can think of.

The way that your vehicles handle is also very different from Mario Kart and Sonic & Sega Allstars Racing. While the karts in those games behave very stiffly and have tight controls, ModNation Loaders’ karts behave like marbles on a flat glass surface. If you like overly sensitive steering that will see you almost spinning around to drive in the wrong direction when you’re simply trying to drive through a chicane. Perhaps it isn’t as bad as I make it sound, but the controls certainly are a step down from Mario Kart and Sonic & Sega.

There is a terrible lack of variety in terms of weapons. While other kart racers have plenty of power ups for you to pick up, ModNation Loaders has only four. They can all be upgraded into stronger versions of themselves by running over more item pods, so to the game’s credit, it does make you almost feel like there are twelve weapons in the game, which is similar to the way that David Blaine makes you believe that he actually has magic powers. To make matters worse, the initial weapons that you pick up before they are upgraded are, quite frankly, useless. They are meant to take out the opposition, but they can’t even do that right. One weapon that you pick up is a lightning bolt, which sounds like a clever way to annihilate the closest opponent. However, when I used the lightning bolt I found that it was nothing more than a little white turd that shot out five feet in front of my vehicle. Wow. Apparently the level one weapons in ModNation Loaders are as useless for taking out opponents as it is to buy a sloth to act as an attack dog for your home.

The lack of a real menu in the game bothers me. Rather than having a menu that allows you to quickly and effortlessly choose what it is that you wish to do, ModNation Loaders decides to again be a clever smartass by plunking the player down in a location called Modspot as soon as you boot up the game. The Modspot is a 3D environment that you have to physically drive around in. There are several buildings in the Modspot which act as hubs for the game’s features. Do you want to play a singleplayer race? Then you have to drive up to the building that has a “single player” tube sticking out of it and press the square button to access it. You have to do this for everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING. Make a track? Play career mode? Go online? Drive to the tube for each!

Fortunately there is a “wheel” menu that you can access by pressing the start button. As you can guess, it is shaped like a donut and has all of the game’s features on it that you can select using the analog stick. The problem with this wheel menu is that it does not behave like a wheel. The menu utilizes standard up, down, left, and right movements, and getting your cursor to certain icons on the wheel can be annoying as even the slightest accidental movement can have your cursor on the opposite side of the menu. Wonderful.

I have seen complaints of rubberbanding in ModNation Loaders. I can safely say that such accusations are false. As a kart racing veteran (also known as “man child”), I can say with complete confidence that if you’re good enough at the game, then you won’t have any problems and you should win. Don’t suck is basically what I am saying.

I can certainly bitch a lot about this game, but that doesn’t hold it back from being an amazing package and possibly even my choice for game of the year. While there are plenty of shortcomings, possibly due to United Front Games being new to this sort of game, there are also many things that ModNation Loaders does extremely well. The creation features may be so overwhelming that they will leave you wondering exactly what to do with them most of the time, but they are outstanding and very thorough for a console game. The racing itself can feel a little too twitchy at times and the weapons leave a lot to be desired, but overall it is a fast and fun experience that really is a true joy to experience on the proper circuits.

I can’t call this game bad by any stretch and I really recommend it to anyone who enjoys kart racers or game modification tools. The only flaw that works against the game would be the horrible loading times which can be a tad bit annoying to sit through, especially if you’re alone in the room. I can overlook this problem though, as the game itself is quite a lot of fun.

The full package is certainly a great deal better than the useless beta (which was basically just a very limited demo), and after I familiarize myself with the game completely I will write more thoughts on it.

Return to May 2010 Articles

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