Hands on with ModNation Racers

If Mario Kart had let you design your own tracks…

After continued exposure to ModNation Racers, we get the feeling that people will approach it in two very definite ways; one group (the lazy, instantaneous thrill seekers) will be quite happy if they never create anything. Why would they need to? Even during the brief beta trial somebody had already gone to the effort of making everyone from Kermit the Frog toKratos. Plus, it’ll be just weeks after release before Koopa Beach and Mushroom Bridge are faithfully interpreted. For a master class on character creation,check this out.

With the capability for old-skool, four-player, split-screen racing as well as the more conventional online racing, the creatively barren gamer could pick and choose as they please and still enjoy the traditional kart racing gameplay.

Conversely, we can also see gamers who barely spend any time behind the wheel. For them, the joy comes from the creation apparatus at their disposal. Unlike LittleBigPlanet, which has so many components and layers, making a functioning track in ModNation Racers is idiot proof. The ease of which you can manipulate your environment (without needing to be a physicist or engineer) is a green flag to push the editing tools to their limits.

The more we play ModNation Racers, the more we realise that the driving itself is pretty simplistic. That said, this is fine for the genre and can be supplemented with crazy courses, weapons and so forth. Only boring tracks will result in boring races. Plus, seeing Spider-Man driving around in the Starsky and Hutch Gran Torino or Link in a pimped-out gangster car is the sort of thing that allows you to overlook misgivings we might have elsewhere…

Considering that Forza 3 artists can make cars with almost photo-realistic designs using little more than sticker sheets, the possibilities for ModNation Racers are mind blowing. Good job too, as user-generated content that’s created ‘outside the box’ is what stops this being just a box-ticking kart game. The freedom to create a ‘pure’ racing circuit with scenic vistas and a circuit inspired by your favourite real-world tracks, or a gadget-filled race brimming with jumps and floating hoops of fire means MNR could be an arcade racer for all boys and girls.

Those with mad LBP skills might argue that MNR is quite limited with what you can achieve. But we’d argue that people are more creative when they have to work around restrictions; just look at Spore. Heck, if the option was there to add realistic handling, we’d have made our own Gran Turismo 5 and told Polyphony Digital we got bored of waiting. As they say, if you want something done, you need to do it yourself; MNR is exactly the excuse we need…

Apr 21, 2010

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