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ModNation Racers

Platform(s): PSP, PlayStation 3
Genre: Racing
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: United Front Games
Release Date: May 25, 2010 (US), May 21, 2010 (EU)


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PS3 Preview - 'ModNation Racers'

by Erik "NekoIncardine" Ottosen on June 9, 2009 @ 9:00 a.m. PDT

ModNation Racers is a thoroughly fresh take on classic kart racing that empowers the player to personalize their entire game. Players can express themselves by creating their own Mod character, styling their own racing kart and even building -- in just minutes -- an imaginative track that can be shared with the rest of the PlayStation community.

Play, Create, Share: three words that catapulted Sony back into the systems race, as they challenged the Microsoft and Nintendo lineups with one word: LittleBigPlanet. With the kinds of physics and adjustments that you could make as you built your own levels, and the wrapping of simple, wonderful charm, Sony created a hit to challenge many. At this year's E3, they've shown that they hope to replicate that success with ModNation Racers.

Play. ModNation Racers is a twist on normal kart racing archetypes; player stats are not massively different, and there's a wider range of weapons. Furthermore, objects in the level react to physics, as do the karts and weapons. With cute characters, cuter karts and some really sweet-looking demo tracks, just this part of the game would be a good, if forgettable, title for the Sony lineup.

Create. Try creating a character. In this beta, there were 169 pairs of eyes, 125 mouths, six ear styles (including cat ears), 18 color-changeable hairstyles, 22 shirts (and dresses), 27 pants, 25 gloves and 52 hats to choose from. All of the clothes have three colors that you can adjust. This produces quite a variety of "mods," as they're called, to play as — far, far more than the Sackboy collection in LBP. Karts are similarly customizable from one basic chassis into a very wide variety. The developers showed a few basic models — a tiny semi truck, a '50s-style classic car, and more sporty and modern cars — but didn't go into detail on the creation utilities here, only promising massive customization to let players make their own cars.

Then there's track editing, which represents the real creative meat of the game. Surprisingly, everything to need to create great courses is in place right from the start, and you only need to unlock new props by playing. Start building the track by adding bumps, curves and tilts, and then you can build the terrain around the track and add a variety of props. You can even do it the other way around, if you prefer; the developers certainly don't care, and they're not going to get in your way. Props, from trees to entire villages, can be painted in with brushes, and every piece can be moved around to suit your taste. The game intentionally puts a couple of restraints in place (track length and the requirement that the track be a full loop) and lets you pretty much run hog wild, just like LittleBigPlanet did.

It just requires a few button taps and no load time to take a test lap on the course, and only a little load time to run a full race on the course for more detailed comparisons. This is carefully designed to allow for rapid iterative testing so you can easily make improvements to the courses.

Share. Just like LittleBigPlanet, every kart, every character and every track can be shared. Ratings, comments, and other basics are already fully in place, and that's how the default set of courses, karts and characters is being developed. Yes, you can take someone else's track and modify it to suit your own preferences.

A few last things discussed during the E3 demo:

  • The music should be more satisfying than LittleBigPlanet's limited selection, but no details were provided.
  • DLC is planned, but let's not share details yet. They're hoping for an open model (i.e., you don't have to own the props from the DLC to play the courses that use them) and some free DLC.
  • Many prop and course themes will be available.
  • More exploratory off-road courses, as seen in some motocross games, will be possible. You can set the track's road type to be the same as the ground around it so that it serves as a basis for the AI to work from.
  • Kart customizations will be mostly visual by design.

Sony's figured out a great bit to work with, and they're running with it at full tilt. Hopefully, ModNation Racers will hold up to its potential and join LittleBigPlanet as one of the games that makes its players proud to own a PS3.


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