LittleBigRacer was the first thing that came to mind when seeing ModNation Racers at last E3. And to this day I had written off this racer as a forced attempt to build further on the success of LittleBigPlanet. Sony’s ‘Play, Create and Share’ model in combination with Mario Kart tastes extremely well!
What is especially appreciate most about LittleBigPlanet is the continuous stream of new levels. Thanks to user-generated content the game keeps evolving and innovating, something consumers certainly value in times where money isn’t growing on your back (not that there are times when this does happen, but you get the point). Media Molecule already informed us that over five million levels have been uploaded in LPB and eventhough 99% of those are pure crap, that still leaves 50.000 that are certainly worth checking out. Just imagine checking out all of those!
The guys at United Front Games, also the makers of True Crime btw, switching the platform part for racing and instead of making levels you now build racing tracks. Your home-made cars, tracks and pilots are exchangable in the game, which should result in the creation of a creative ModNation Racers community.
Where most other games give you a menu when choosing your modes, in this title you get to “drive” your choices in a place called ModSpot. Here you can drive around freely and you’ll find back all modes the game has to offer. This is also the place where you end up with your friends after having invited them for a race. By means of large billboards you can read messages from the devs, check out the best tracks and judge the “hippest” racers. Next to that also the best lap times of your friends appear on the boards, wich heightened my competitive nature when seeing their times. If you don’t want to waste time with driving around you can just press start and make your choice from there.
Before you start racing you need to design your pilot and kart. The options are remarkably extensive. Thing of all the content in LittleBigPlanet: Game of the Year edition and you’ll probably be getting close of all the things you can adjust in ModNation Racers. No matter how insane the thing you’re thinking about when designing, it’s probably present. You want a hamster-powered car engine or do you rather prefer something more ecological? What about a kart powered by hot coffee? The game doesn’t take itself serious, lucky for us.
No matter how you look at it, ModNation Racers remains a racing game. No matter how much stuff you can do next to the tracks, as long as the racing mechanics and feeling aren’t good, the game will suck. Luckily the studio went to Canada to get some experience with racing games so they know better than to screw up. The controls are good, the races are fun and challenging, and the jumps and tricks make for a nice extra. Contrary to Mario Kart there’s a feeling of speed and the game encourages to take curves while drifting.
Just like in Mario Kart there are tons of ways to make things difficult for your competitors. There are rockets, lightning strikes, mines and supersonic waves. While racing you can upgrade each weapon three times and with each upgrade they grow stronger. However, when you’re hit by someone else’s weapons, you lose all your upgrades. It’s a matter of choosing for the upgrade or quickly discharging your ammo.
Where ModNation Racers really shines is the track editor. In no time you’ve created a track with jumps, boostpads, crushers, tunnels, weapons, trees, … you name it. There where LittleBigPlanet became a bit too complicated in creating a level, ModNation Racers’ simplicity is a relief for the creative mongols amongst us. You start by laying out a track by driving around with your kart. Underground or on the soil, long straight lines or sharp curves, you make your pick. Only your creativity (and loopings) stop you from making your tracks. Next to that a simple push of a button allows to automatically “style” it. Everything next to your just-laid down asphalt is given a makeover. From out of nowhere mountains, trees, houses, hotels, bridges, … rise out of the ground. If you’re still not satisfied about the result you can add more or remove the things you don’t like.
Lately games that support split-screen multiplayer have grown thin and this is a trend that really bothers me. I was therefore very pleased to see ModNation Racers allows not only to go online with two people but also has four-player offline split-screen. Next to that the races are manned with a maximum of twelve players which results in a nice amount of chaos.
ModNation Racer really managed to surprise me. The racing mechanism feels good, the feeling of speed is present and the drifting around corners is well worked out. The three pilars, Play, Create and Share may be introduced in all games for me. Adjusting your Kart and pilot is fun, but the gold goes to the track editor. I can’t wait until more people have this game and really delve into it. 50.000 great tracks, just imagine checking out all of those! And like the idiot Xzibit would have said, thanks ModNation Racers for pimping my ride!