In the same way that the Playstation 3’s LittleBigPlanet took over the world with it’s user generated content and broad appeal, Sony is set to do it all again with ModNation Racers. Think Mario Kart and LittleBigPlanet mixed together and you’re on the right track.
Due to release in the first quarter of 2010, I have spent the last 24 hours playing the exclusive beta and am very much impressed!
I think the popularity of Mario Kart from Nintendo shows what a big audience this game is set for and even if we were to just look at the game as a kart racer alone, minus all of the user customisation it would turn a lot of heads.
First up the stunning hi-res visuals really pop-out of your screen. It’s great to see a kart game look so good. All of the models are very solid and are accompanied by crisp, clear textures, atmospheric lighting and pretty effects.
For some reason whenever you look at a games graphics that have the ability to be built and created by the user themselves, you always expect there to be some flickering textures or paper thin polygons but ModNation Racers is solid as can be and is probably the sign of a great engine built by United Front Games.
My only gripe in my short time with the beta is that the frame rate isn’t quite silky smooth yet. It’s certainly not slow or stuttery but it would be amazing to see it in 60fps glory, much like Wipeout HD for example.
Another slight annoyance is the camera. In this beta, your view is directly behind your kart and quite low, probably too low actually. Maybe it’s just me being used to all of the different Mario, Crash, Diddy Kong and Cocoto kart games over the years but it would be nice to see the devs add some options for the camera position. I personally would zoom out a little and hover a little higher, just to give a better view of the track.
The actual gameplay is spot on even in it’s early stages. The karts (funny how we’ve become accustomed to spelling it with a k now…) are super responsive and make navigating the turns, jumps and shortcuts not just simple but also fun. My main problem with Sony’s other Play, Create, Share title LittleBigPlanet was that while it gave us amazing options and was only really limited by our imagination, the actual platforming gameplay wasn’t quite up to par, with poor little Sackboy floating on jumps and not being able to stop on a dime. But ModNation Racers is totally on the money which is great to see.
The controls are simply steer with the left analog, R2 to accelerate and L2 to brake. This is even shown in the loading screen of the trial, although I am sure some of the early videos and interviews have shown the ability to add and collect powerups during the races, so another action button will most likely be added.
There are a number of options already available for character and kart selection, giving us a good idea of what will be included in the final game next year. It seems character wise, we should have the same amount of customisation options as Sackboy but I have a feeling all of the karts may be premade.
At the time of writing this there was only time trial available offline but there were a number of greyed out sections, not selectable in the beta, such as ‘connect online’. So hopefully these get switched on for all beta testers soon.
I’ll be sure to checkout the level/track creation mode soon and add further impressions but for now, ModNation Racers is shaping up to be bigger and better than LittleBigPlanet and with the broader audience being able to simply jump into a racing game, Sony have another smash hit on their hands!