ModNation Racers could be described as the spiritual successor to Little Big Planet in that it's a kart racing game with highly customisable options. Although Little Big Planet featured similar gameplay systems and tools, the creation itself was a time-consuming task. Making compelling content required dedication and a significant time investment, which for many were insurmountable hurdles. Thankfully, ModNation Racers looks like it will be much easier. We had the opportunity to spend some time with the creation and customisation tools to see if developer United Front is taking the Play, Create, Share ethos to the next level.
After a short qualifying race, we were granted access to the ModSpot, an interactive menu of sorts which also serves as a social hub and a portal to the online content. The ModSpot is composed of a race station and a creation station, with smaller podiums dedicated to highlighting the hottest kart and racer creations. Information boards tower over the racers in a clear bid to get noticed and display the best lap times and player statistics. These conduits are likely to garner some competition between creators as well as racing rivalries. The focus is to encourage the ModNation community and provide a user-friendly experience to make this interaction as painless as possible.
We headed for the creation station, which allowed us to work on a mod racer, a kart, or a track. Opting to create our own mod, we were presented with a blank, pure-white mod that was laid bare for our customisation. Creating a mod is simple, but the number of decals, facial features, outfits, and accessories provide the depth to create numerous wacky racers. Stickers can be rotated, resized, and placed on characters to further personalise them. With so many options available from the start, it becomes quite difficult to settle on one racer, but the frightened-looking mod decked out with a racing helmet and covered in a comic book skin was too endearing to leave behind.
After creating our racer, we dived into track creation and were surprised to find how easy it was to create a professional-looking circuit. Within a few minutes, we were able to create a dizzying track littered with item boxes and boost pads and dressed with lush vegetation. Laying down a track involved driving a large steamroller helmed by our terrified mod around the chosen locale. The trail of tarmac and the environment around it defined itself on the fly around our chosen route, with the terrain dynamically deforming to make way for the track. Altering elevation using the right analogue stick allowed the steamroller to loop back over previous sections of the track and create an underpass or overpass, the ground opened up and even colossal mountains bent to our track-laying will.
After pressing the triangle button to make the track auto-complete itself, we were given the option to auto-populate it. This hands over the job of filling the track with objects and props to the game and allows you to jump straight into the driver's seat and take a spin around your track. The creation tools do the majority of the hard work, leaving you to focus on the parts you actually care about. However, if you want to change small details, you can do so. We easily added volcanoes and mountains of various sizes, laid down thick foliage, and added hazards by simply selecting them from the menu and pressing the X button to place them in the desired location. The simplicity of the track builder and the streamlining of creation in ModNation Racers make it an appealing proposition.
Little Big Planet's complexities pushed the majority of the player base exclusively into the "play" section, leaving a dedicated few to "create" and "share." In ModNation Racers, the tight driving mechanics, user-friendly creation tools, and great access to the community mean that it could become an even more successful embodiment of the Play, Create, Share ethos. Aspiring kart racers and track creators will be able to take ModNation Racers for a spin on the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable in the last week of May.