After the platforming success of Little Big Planet, it’s good to see someone taking a similar approach to racing games. ‘Race Create Share’ is the new tagline for this arcade kart racer with user generated content at its core.
Players can create their own racer characters -or Mods as they’re known here- then create a vehicle for them too. The most exciting part of the game though is the track creator that has a huge amount of depth, but not at the cost of ease-of-use. And as a feature, it’s a great success. But what about the rest of the game?
With many online-focused games the single player mode is usually a throw-away mode to teach you the ropes. The campaign mode here does that, but requires lengthy play if you want to unlock all the little bits and pieces to edit your mod, kart or track.
The biggest beef here though is how relentlessly harsh the AI is. If you thought Mario Kart’s AI had it in for you, you better brace yourself. Expect to fear being in first place and try to stay calm as you get nailed by three successive barrages of enemy fire and go from 1st to 7th on the final corner.
You can sacrifice boost (earned by drifting, jumping et al) and turn on a temporary shield, but that’ll only last for two attacks at best. Get three in a row and you’re screwed. While you only need to finish 3rd in most events to progress, you need to come first to get the secondary race tasks ticked off too. These might be get 20,000 drift points, take down a specific rival or get 15,000 Spin points. Finishing these extra tasks will unlock more pieces to play with in the Create Station.
Each weapon has three levels, increased by picking up multiple weapon pods before firing. This could be the difference between one rocket and a whole swarm of them. Or you can hold Square and drop them behind you like mines. Other weapons include lightning bolts and EMPs. All very deadly, with a direct hit stopping you dead. There’s isn’t a huge selection of weapons but the multiple levels for each of them are a nice touch.
The camera angle has been improved since the beta; with players now able to put it further back (big thumbs up). The jumps can still be a tad unpredictable with you frequently landing on a track-side railing and the game bounces you around in an awkward mess. There are a few problems with the over-reliance on drifting too; with the tracks being full of little cambers that when hit sideways, can send you flying off the sides all too easily.
When the tracks are nice and smooth though, drifting can be great fun with players still able to move up and down the track while completely sideways. You can also quickly change direction completely from left to right and back again for S-bends, although your drift score resets with each change which is a bit disappointing.
The luck vs skill vs bastard AI takes the fun out of the single player mode, but budding creators will find themselves grinding through it for the extras. At least once you start playing online things get evened out a little as every rocket isn’t aimed at you and people may actually miss you.
Creating LPB levels was fraught with danger for noobs, with horror stories about everything falling apart once you entered real-time putting some people off. No such worries here, just drive the tarmac laying truck wherever you want your track to go adjusting the gradient as you go if you want.
Or fiddle with the landscape after the initial shape is down, adding hills, lakes, pits, jungle, deserts and more. You can make adjustments to the roads at any time too, adding dips or lengthening, widening or tightening any part of it. You can even add shortcuts (or are they?) and then litter the track with jumps, ramps, boost pads and weapon pick-up pods. Or you can ask the game to finish it for you. Traps can be laid out all over the place too such as flame-throwing robots, blocking poles and retractable walls. There’s also a huge range of buildings and signs to put around the edge of the track.
The way you can instantly hop onto the track for a test drive helps you get a feel for it and lets you go back and forth, tweaking a corner or slope to make a drift just right. Mistakes are fixed with a quick press of the undo button and you can make alterations even after completion. Just let your imagination go nuts.
Uploading your own creations and downloading other people’s couldn’t be simpler and is very quick too. You can search via a text search or look through the highest rated items. You can even remix other people’s creations. There is a slight problem with browsing creations, particularly with mods and karts. Rather than look through a 360 degree image of them you have one lo-res image from the same angle. This can be annoying if you’ve spent loads of time creating something cool at the back of your car or when a weird expression is forcibly put on your Mods face. For example one Mod I made had his eyes closed in pain in the lobbies and on the download browser he looks asleep. Good thing I didn’t spend five minutes trying to decide and blue or brown eyes for him then. Ahem.
Admittedly, this browser issue may be to cut down on load times as you’re sorting through forty Nathan Drake lookalikes. However, I’d rather wait a few seconds here than the epic loading screens between races and the ModSpot (like a central hub), that can be well over a minute. Trust me it’s longer than it sounds.
The online race setup is a little strange. Ranked matches, where XP is earned, can only take place on official developer tracks. They are absolutely dead compared to the unranked races, with you waiting for up to ten minutes for the minimum of four racers to appear. Just hope you don’t end up with a short track. At least the races themselves are running smoothly, with lag not rearing its ugly head.
Go for the unranked or ‘casual’ races though and the game comes alive as it was meant to be with players trying out the already huge amount of the user generated content. Races can have up to twelve racers and gaps in unranked matches can be filled with AI bots. A nice touch is being able to see and download the uploaded creations of anyone in the match lobby. This is really going to help the community grow at great speeds. As you can then set up a race on a track and everyone can rate it afterwards, so it’s easy to see how a good track can get recognised quickly.
The creating tools for Mods, karts and tracks have lived up to the hype and have surpassed Little Big Planet’s accessibility. You can keep a track simple or pack it with detail that would make developers United Front Games jealous. The graphics are of a high standard too, so you can really feel proud of all your twisted creations. And on that note, I’m off to finish my sick Wipeout/Colin McRae hybrid.
- Creation tools are excellent and offer great depth
- A great online community already
- Online races are brilliantly smooth
- Single player campaign AI is an utter ****
- Some heavy loading times
- No user-made tracks in ranked races (patch please!)
The Short Version: Creating your own tracks, karts and mods is just as much fun as the racing and easy to get to grips with. Online races are great fun with the community thriving with shared content already. This can only get better with time.