England’s 2010 World Cup Debacle Or ‘When Will We Stop Believing We’re Good Enough To Win The World Cup?’

Where to start? As the dust settles on the day after England’s humiliating 4-1 drubbing by an impressive Germany side, I can’t help but come to the conclusion that this is the worst tournament performance I can remember England ever having.

Having been spoilt by a superb domestic season in which my club, Millwall, were involved in a thrilling promotion race that culminated in a playoff victory at Wembley the World Cup has not provided a great deal in the way of entertainment.

And not just from an England perspective – so far only Argentina and Holland have consistently performed at anything like the level expected at a tournament this big.

To be fair Germany were good yesterday but England were so poor it just wasn’t funny. Apart from the ten minute spell after Matthew Upson’s goal we looked like a team lost.

The defence were pulled all over the place, leaving school boy-esque gaps at the back which the German attack exploited ruthlessly. I appreciate it’s at a completely different level but I have not seen defending that poor at club level for years.

You want to see players hassling the opposition – at Millwall we know we don’t have the best players but the most basic of demands is to close the opposing players down quickly and to chase after every ball.

England gave teams too much space and essentially the time to hurt us.

The players looked nervous and like rabbits caught in the headlights from the word go. Why? Fear of failure? From the opening match the passing was sloppy and we gave away possession far too easily. Nerves need to be settled and at some stage you have to look at the captain and manager.

To be fair to Capello once they are on the pitch there isn’t a great deal he can do but who was leading the team? I mean really? Gerrard? Terry?

At The Den we have three or four players, one of which is the captain Paul Robinson, who you see shouting encouragement, or giving struggling teammates a kick up the arse, to get them going.

Perhaps it was just the camera work on the BBC but other than David James (and keepers always shout at the defence when they concede) I saw no agression – no fight. They looked resigned to defeat and slumped further with every goal.

Maybe it’s the fact that the Millwall players aren’t earning millions each year but they certainly seem to actually care and the victories seem to mean much more.

Paul Robinson’s pre-playoff final speech sums it up:

“We’re playing for the people who hate their jobs, who’d love our lives,” said Robinson. “Let’s give them something special.”

Paul Robinson: What you want from a captain.

Can you really imagine an England player coming out with that? Or if they did actually meaning it?

That for me is why Millwall will always come above England – because I know that week in week out it really matters to most of the domestic players.

I will always support England whenever they play but the sooner this country wakes up to the fact that our glory days are behind us the better. England may well go on to win a major tournament but realistically we are a team who should be looking to get beyond the group stage and take it from there.

Now I can kick back and watch some decent international teams play before turning my attention to the forthcoming NPower Championship season.

It might not be glamourous but it’s real and I love it.

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Top 30 Single Player Games – Part Two (15-1)

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So, following on from the first half of the Top 30, here we are the top 15 single player games on the PS3 – quite a few new entries on the list. See what you think!

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15. HEAVENLY SWORD (13)

Heavenly Sword Main

Another game that didn’t garner the respect it deserves, primarily because it didn’t live up to the pre-release hype.

If you like God Of War you will like this game as it’s similar in style but it looks gorgeous in HD and I believe did a few bits (combos/blocking etc) better than the first two God Of War games.

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14. GHOSTBUSTERS (11)

Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters: The Video Game’s plot is essentially the third movie – set in 1991 you’re a rookie who’s been drafted in to help with the ever increasing ghost workload. A huge paranormal blast sets off a chain of events that only one group of guys can deal with…

For me Ghostbusters was a short (5 hour) game that had me chuckling and geeking out despite it’s flaws – it won’t be to everyone’s tastes but it has a good single player storyline.

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13. ASSASSIN’S CREED II

Assassin’s Creed II picks up with Desmond Miles after the conclusion of the first game as he escapes with Lucy Stillman from the Abstergo Industries building and finds himself in a safe house with a new Animus, delving into another set of ancestral memories.

This time you’ll be playing as Ezio in Italy in the 1400’s. This is a glorious setting as you move between Tuscany, Florence, Venice and more. The difference in areas is apparent and they have gone to a lot of trouble to make each feel individual.

As well as the main plot missions there are a wealth of side missions and collectibles – this freedom of choice means you never feel railroaded into anything and delivers a wonderful gaming experience.

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12. KILLZONE 2 (10)

Killzone2 2

Killzone 2’s biggest achievement is, possibly because of the brilliant graphics, sound and AI, that you feel involved and become embedded in the Killzone universal whenever you pick up the pad.

It’s not perfect by any means but it’s easily the best first person shooter I’ve played and I recommend anyone with a remote interest in this genre to check this out immediately!

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11. BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM (9)

Batman

With some wonderful voice acting from the cast of the animated series, Batman: Arkham Asylum’s story moves at a good pace and familiar enemies are used to good effect throughout.

With such a vivid setting and a memorable selection of bad guys from Batman’s career it’s no surprise that Arkham Asylum is such a great game.

Despite the odds being stacked against it, Batman: Arkham Asylum is a quality title that has had a lot of care put into making it. I’d recommend this to anyone.

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10. GOD OF WAR 3

God Of War III picks up exactly where God Of War II ended and the opening is stunning in it’s sheer scale.

The first part of the level sees you fighting enemies on a Titan’s back before you quickly move onto a boss battle that, quite frankly, would appear at the end of most other games. From there on out Kratos’ rampage against the Gods continues at full speed.

Most of the highlights of the game come from the boss battles, unless perhaps you are a fan of puzzle based gameplay – if so you’re well catered for here.

If you’re a fan of the other games in the series or have never tried a God Of War title before then jump straight in and get ready for a bloodbath… this is a game you have to play if you own a PS3 and is one of the best single player experiences out there at the moment.

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9. INFAMOUS (8)

Infamous

So good it’s the only game this generation I’ve played through twice (seeing it’s rating bumped from 8/10 to 9/10), Infamous is a great game.

You control Cole McGrath, a courier who just happens to be carrying a package containing an electronic bomb when it goes off, devasting the city. Somehow Cole survives and, after coming out of a coma, realises the explosion has given him electrical superpowers.

From there on out the city is your oyster and there is plenty to do as you try to track down the people behind the explosion.

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8. BIOSHOCK (7)

bioshock

Bioshock has a great story to tell and it does it well with some interesting objectives and brilliantly designed levels.

There are several twists and turns in the plot, most of which are not obvious and it’s no surprise to me that a film version is in the works (although I believe currently suspended due to budget concerns).

Dark worlds like Rapture aren’t to everyone’s tastes but you really would be missing out on an awesome story if you decided not to book a trip to the underwater city.

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7. GTA IV (6)

GTA IV

One the biggest selling games of this generation GTA IV features the fortunes (and lack therof) of Niko Bellic – an immigrant arriving in the US at Liberty City to find empty promises and broken dreams from his cousin Roman.

As you work your way up the criminal ladder you’ll encounter all sort of dodgy characters and befriend even more.

Liberty City is a wonderful, if run down, place and Niko Bellic’s story is one you will enjoy playing through so make sure you pick this game up as soon as possible.

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6. FALLOUT 3 (5)

Fallout 3

After a tough few hours at the start you will find yourself rewarded greatly for sticking with this awesome FPS / RPG.

The story line sprawls across the world depending on your actions and you’ll find yourself taking a break from main missions to explore the wasteland or help out other characters.

I could go on and on about various things that happened and how cool it was, how great the story was or whatever.

But Fallout 3 is a game that needs to be experienced first hand and your story will no doubt play out differently to mine.

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5. METAL GEAR SOLID 4 (4)

Metal Gear Solid 4

Hideo Kojima’s tale of Solid Snake’s final mission is a brilliant showcase of the Playstation 3’s power.

This is a game that often gives you three or four different ways of approaching things – whether you realise it or not.

Metal Gear Solid 4 rewards those patient enough to stick with it by giving them a great gaming experience, with some memorable boss battles, that they won’t forget.

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4. HEAVY RAIN

Heavy Rain is the spiritual successor to Fahrenheit, a fantastic PS2 title, and it’s creators have used the lessons from that game to help form the experience that is Heavy Rain.

And I say experience because Heavy Rain is unlike anything I’ve played before.

Telling the story of the Origami Killer, who kidnaps young boys and drowns them in rain water, Heavy Rain sees you controlling four main characters and through their actions – whether everyday stuff like carrying in the shopping or a frantic fight for their life – you get a real feel for the characters.

It says a lot that as soon as I finished this game I wanted to play through it again straight away. I want to give the characters a slightly different personality, experiment to see what happens and find out how it changes the story.

Heavy Rain is by no means perfect but it brings a whole raft of new ideas and innovation to the table.

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3. DEAD SPACE (3)

Dead Space

Coming on somewhere between Event Horizon and Aliens, Dead Space is a third person survival horror game.

You take on the role of Isaac Clarke, a ship engineer who finds himself trapped onboard a stricken spaceship infested with an alien outbreak which is threatening to take over the ship.

This was one of the best games I played last year, it’s use of sound is immense and the fear of the unexpected they create is awesome.

I am not a big fan of horror movies or being made to jump all the time but Dead Space kept on the right side of all that by being unpredictable enough to be enjoyable as a ‘horror’ experience.

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2. UNCHARTED: DRAKE’S FORTUNE (2)

Uncharted Drake's Fortune

Uncharted maps the journey of Nathan Drake as he tries to find the lost treasure of El Dorado encountering, among other things, rival treasure hunters and mercenaries.

The graphics are unbelievable and the gameplay is well paced and well thought out. The characters and story and really well conceived and Nolan North, who voices Drake, is absolutely spot on with his irreverent humour and wisecracks.

At its heart Uncharted is an action adventure game much in the vein of Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider but, and I say this as a fan of both of these, it is better than either of them.

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1. UNCHARTED 2: AMONG THIEVES (1)

Uncharted 2

Uncharted 2 is a complete gaming package. There is plenty of taking out bad guys, lots of puzzles and some wonderful dialogue.

Naughty Dog really have done a great job on the voice acting and the expressiveness of the character models. It is easily the best I’ve come across (though Heavenly Sword was a close second).

I won’t spoil the story but for those who don’t know, Nathan Drake gets pulled back into that murky world of treasure hunting for hire. I loved the story of this game – with a few twists I saw coming and a few I didn’t.

If you own a PS3 there is no reason not to own this game – if you only have an XBox 360 or Wii then get yourself a PS3 Slim and enjoy one of the most finely crafted games I’ve ever experienced.

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So there you have it, can anything break Nathan Drake’s stranglehold on the top two spots?

With a whole heap of new games coming up – not to mention the backlog of brilliant single player stuff I’m working my way through – I suspect by the next time I put this list together it will have even more great games added! 😎

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The Strain by Chuck Hogan/Guillermo del Toro – Review (Book)

The Strain is the first book in a long time that I’ve been sold on strictly by the advertising I saw. The poster describing the opening of the book at JFK Airport really got me interested.

The book begins with a plane landing at JFK Airport then shutting down completely on the runway and this is a novel that doesn’t let up from the start.

Upon investigation every passenger is dead with no sign of struggle. Creepy much? 😆

The book follows Dr. Eph Goodweather of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) as he tries to work out what the hell is going on.

Starting initially as a focus on virus/gas attacks, which I found really interesting, The Strain takes a more supernatural turn as things progress and the tension is soon ramped up.

This is a really well written book and while I’m not sure exactly what Guillermo del Toro’s involvement was, The Strain certainly seems ripe for a film version.

This is the first book in a trilogy, with each book being released annually – I can’t wait to read the next one and strongly recommend you pick this one up as it’s a brilliant read.

Rating: 9/10

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Top 30 Single Player Games – Part One (30-16)

A huge amount of awesome single player games over the last 18 months or so has meant that my Top Single Player Games list has become a bi-annual feature for the site.

Despite the boom in multiplayer online play sometimes you just wanna kick back and enjoy a decent story on your own.

So here is another updated list – extended from 20 to 30, with added games and also a reassessment of some of the titles already in there.

Previous chart positions are included in brackets and you can click on the titles of the games to read my full reviews (where possible).

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30. BATTLEFIELD: BAD COMPANY (14)

Bad Company

Chock full of explosions and with some really impressive destruction of buildings etc, Battlefield: Bad Company is like a huge big budget Hollywood blockbuster.

It’s a great, mindless blast of a game. Add some memorable characters into the mix and you’ve got yourself a very enjoyable, and playable, package.

 

29. ASSASSIN’S CREED (12)

AssassinsCreed

In Assassin’s Creed you play through Desmond Mile’s repressed ancestrial memories as Altair in the Medieval Holy Land (with brief interludes as Desmond struggling to find out what is going on in the present day).

You will need to research targets and carry out assassinations using a variety of options – sword, hidden blade, knife etc.

This game is great fun and definitely one to check out.

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28. ARMY OF TWO

Salem and Rios are guns for hire – private contractors that go in and sort out the crap that the army or whoever can’t deal (or can’t be seen dealing) with.

There is convoluted conspiracy theory plotline but to be perfectly honest the story isn’t really the main attraction here – it’s all about the carnage.

Army of Two is like playing an ultra violent cartoon and overall I would say this game is a fun 5 or 6 hour blast. While it does become repetitive at times it makes no excuses – in fact Army Of Two is likely to hand you a  rocket launcher, spawn 20 new enemies and tell you to ‘get the f**k on with it.’

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27. THE SABOTEUR

The game takes place in and around Paris in the 1940’s with the Nazis occupying the majority of the city and it’s surrounding areas. You control Sean Devlin, an Irishman, who gets involved with the French resistance following a traumatic experience at the hands of the Gestapo.

The Saboteur is a game that I feel should be played but if you are looking for a high quality experience, this isn’t it. The odd bug here and there and a general unfinished feeling hamper the gameplay but if you’re willing  to give it a shot The Saboteur is worth a playthrough.

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26. LITTLEBIGPLANET

While often thought of as a multiplayer experience, LittleBigPlanet is just as much fun when played solo.

Sackboy has become a wonderful mascot for the Playstation 3 brand and this game really shows why. Customising your character and playing through the various crazy levels (loved Uncle Jalapeno!) is great fun.

*Shameless Plug* My created level is called ‘Kitchen Kaper’ by GregHorrorShow. Had a lot of complaints it’s too hard, let me know what you think.

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25. PROTOTYPE (20)

Prototype

In Prototype you take on the role of Alex Mercer as he awakens during his autopsy ,wondering what the hell is going on. He quickly escapes, realising he now has various superpowers.

Mercer needs to find out what the hell has happened to him and why New York is infected with a virus that has turned half the population into zombies.

Prototype is definitely a game worth playing despite it’s various faults – it was a blast to play through if a little frustrating at times.

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24. BORDERLANDS

Borderlands has a distinctive cartoon, tongue in cheek style that is perfectly suited for the game and while the story isn’t particularly amazing, the colourful characters will have you chuckling along.

Borderlands is all about the loot. The game creates random weapons as you go along so it’s unlikely two people will ever get the same set of weapons throughout a playthrough, which is pretty cool.

It’s one of the longer games I’ve played recently – clocking in more towards 20 hours for a first playthrough – but it’s definitely a universe that should be experienced.

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23. RED FACTION: GUERRILLA

Red Faction: Guerrilla is a bit of an underrated gem. It’s your basic David vs Goliath battle with the Red Faction resistance (you guys) taking on the evil Earth Defence Force who have taken advantage of their position in power on Mars.

But the main part of the game is the destruction. Buildings fall realistically and weakening them structurally can often mean a delayed collapse.

I heartily recommend Red Faction. It’s not massively difficult but it has a good solid story and is insanely fun. You can pick this up for about £15 pre-owned in most places and it will be money well spent.

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22. RESISTANCE 2 (19)

Resistance 2

After saving England in the previous installment Hale is back in business to rescue the U S of A – since his incapacitation the Chimera have launched a full attack on America and Hale, as part of the Sentinal squad (made up of soldiers injected with the Chimera virus but kept under control), have to step in and stop them in their tracks.

A hard hitting but fun first person shooter.

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21. MIRROR’S EDGE (18)

Mirrors Edge

Mirror’s Edge wowed everyone with it’s crisp, clean graphics and it’s unique first person perspective. The view takes a while to get used to and it had a few really annoying parts where it was difficult to time jumps etc because of the view but Mirror’s Edge is certainly worth playing through as it offers a style of gameplay that is totally unique in the current games market.

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20. RAINBOW SIX VEGAS (17)

Rainbow Six Vegas

If you like your first person shooters with a bit of brain behind the brawn then Rainbow Six Vegas may be the game for you.

With a good old fashioned SAS vs Terrorists style plot and lots of fun set pieces Rainbow Six Vegas is definitely worth a shot.

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19. RESIDENT EVIL 5 (16)

Resi Evil 5

For all it’s faults Resident Evil 5, taken as a whole, is a brilliant game and one that I would recommend. Graphically it’s stunning and while it isn’t a hugely difficult game you’ll enjoy playing through and unravelling the story.

It survives the huge expectation of following Resident Evil 4… just. This is a game that everyone should play as Resi comes to the new generation of consoles.

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18. DRAGON AGE: ORIGINS

Dragon Age: Origins sees you create a fantasy character to take on an epic journey – starting with your very own prologue.

After playing the backstory your character is enlisted to become a Grey Warden – an elite group of fighters whose main role is to destroy the Darkspawn – evil creatures that have begun to overrun the world.

I really enjoyed the storyline of Dragon Age: Origins and it was nice to see characters develop over such a large amount of time – of course I understand that this may be the norm for you regular RPG players but for me it was a nice change of pace.

This is a mammoth game (over 25 hours) but it is certainly worth your time if you’re willing to lose yourself in it.

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17. KANE AND LYNCH: DEAD MEN (15)

Kane And Lynch

You take control of Adam ‘Kane’ Marcus, a criminal on his way to death row for crimes committed in Venezeula. Kane is busted out of his prison van by a mysterious group called The7 who he worked with previously. They think Kane stole the money from their last job and stashed it somewhere.

If he doesn’t get them the money back in three weeks his wife and daughter will be killed. Kane claims he doesn’t know where it is but he does know who took the cash and will hunt them down. And so begins a thoroughly enjoyable ride into the desperate life of Kane…

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16. BATTLEFIELD: BAD COMPANY 2

The single player campaign is a wonderful blast through several impressive set pieces and the feeling of being in ‘B’ Company really adds to the experience.

That sense of community and closeness to the characters is a big bonus and probably the main reason Battlefield’s campaign stands head and shoulders above Modern Warfare 2.

Clocking in at around 8/9 hours it’s also almost double the length of Infinity Ward’s offering but it occasionally lacks the polish of Call Of Duty – perhaps down to the fact that everything is destructable in the environment. Overall though this is a great single player experience.

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So there you have it the first part of the run down, the remaining 15 games will be hitting the site next week!

Let me know if you think any of these should’ve been higher up in the chart 🙂

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Modnation Racers – Review (PS3)

As much as I enjoyed a few rounds of Mario Kart in my youth I am not a massive fan of kart racing games, so having played the great beta I was keen to see if Modnation Racers could live up to the hype.

As I mentioned in my beta impressions the game is being sold on the customisation aspect of your driver and kart – not to mention the tracks themselves.

It is extremely easy to get yourself a created mod (driver) and kart, despite there being so much choice. United Front have done a great job on making everything feel accessible and it’s the kind of system that is simple to use but has real depth if you want to be a bit more serious about your designs.

                                                                                            My Mod rolls in style 😆 in the HorrorMobile

Alternatively there is also a random option for those who aren’t fussed what they look like.

The track editor is superb – allowing anyone to create a half decent track in around 5 minutes. Yes you read that right, 5 minutes 😮 Obviously you can go more in depth – my first creation took around an hour and I guess you can tweak the track as much as you feel it needs before unleashing it on the public.

*Shameless Plug* My first attempt at a track is entitled GregHorrorShow Arena if any of you out there fancy taking a spin round it. If you do let me know what you think or what could be improved.

                                                                                               My created track in all it’s glory.

So with that part of the game out of the way, let’s move on to the racing. Because without a decent racing mechanic the rest is kind of pointless.

Thankfully Modnation Racers stands head and shoulders above anything I’ve played since Mario Kart.

But this isn’t just a simple rip off of the Italian plumber’s kart game – Modnation adds a whole new layer of tactical depth to proceedings.

First the similarities – you race karts which can pick up weapons and speed up by driving over boost pads.

Where Modnation really comes into it’s own is with the boost bar. By drifting, slipstreaming, overtaking or doing massive jumps off ramps you build up your boost meter.

Holding L1 will propel you forward until the bar runs out as you’d expect but there is a whole lot more to the boost meter than that.

Broken down into sections, with at least one section full you can flick the right stick towards an opponent alongside you to sideswipe them – stopping them immediately for a few seconds and causing them to lose whatever weapon they were carrying. At certain points on some courses a tap of R1 will drain a little of your boost but will open a shortcut on the track ahead and finally (and probably most importantly) if you hear the incoming beep of someone else’s weapon approaching, holding circle will give you a shield until the boost meter drains.

So this isn’t a case of picking up weapons and then building boost to get as far in front as possible. You will need to judge when and where to use your boost meter and what to actually use it for.

You can play quick races or time trials and there is also the option for up to 4 player split screen locally if you want to go old skool.

The single player career mode is great fun and the accompanying mini cut scenes are fairly funny. Essentially career is a really nice tutorial of how to race before you get yourself online for the real action.

Online you’ll be able to compete in Hot Lap (a daily event: literally whoever is quickest at a lap wins, it’s you against everyone else in the online world) online races/series or even just challenge people straight from the lobby for some 1v1 action.

I’ve encountered no lag or any real problems other than a shortage of other drivers. I’ve only had a maximum of 6 (out of 12) so far with the average being 4 which is really disappointing. It’s still a lot of fun but I did think more people would be playing this. The problem probably also isn’t helped by the fact you can only race against people from your own territories (so PAL for me) although this may be patched in the future.

Other than that my only real complaint is that the load times in general are pretty long but at least they have put a percentage indicator on them now so I know the game hasn’t crashed 🙂

If the online had been better supported by the community I would’ve been tempted to give Modnation Racers full marks but I just feel I haven’t fully experienced the online side of things (through no fault of my own).

As it stands this is still one of the best racing experiences out there – it’s a lot more tactical than you may realise from just looking at the cute screenshots. Pick this up, even if it’s just a rent as this is a game you will have a whole lot of fun with.

Rating 9/10

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