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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Darkmatters Review: ModNation Racers PS3

ModNation Racers
– Play, Create, Share, Kick Some Racing Ass!!

PlayStation 3 (and PSP)

Reviewed by Matt Adcock

Sony have many many cool exclusive games hitting the shelves this year, you can taste the anticipation for Little Big Planet 2, Gran Turismo 5, The Last Guardian etc etc…

But here is another big hitter in the suped up form of kart racer ‘ModNation Racers’ which is all kinds of awesome!!

As a massive Mario Kart fan (spent days of my life playing the original SNES version), I’ve been hoping and praying for a suitable Sony equivalent which could look Mario Kart in the eye and deliver sublime racing action…

And the killer sell with ModNation is that it comes with a virtually infinite customisation engine which allows you to design your driver, your car and even your track. Pretty much anything you can think of can be created – your creations can then be uploaded and shared world wide. The joy is that if you see a creation that someone else has made, you can simply download it, use it, remix it a bit if you like – you get the idea…

It’s an audacious play and the big question is can United Front Games really deliver a world class new racing phenomenon or are we destined for a shoddy ‘me too’ effort. ModNation Racers on PS3 (and portable on PSP) is the future of racing…

Instead of menus you get the ‘Modspot’ is a mini town that you can drive around, choosing to stop off at different areas to check out things like the creation zone, where you can get stuck in to building or modifying or the racezone which is where you can jump straight into online (multiplayer) or offline (vs AI or split screen) races. When online you’ll see other players zooming around the Modspot too and you can challenge them, message them or just check out their creations – or just have a mini race around with them… It’s seamless and a real joy – and it’s not often you can say that just about a menu!

You’ll probably be inspired to make your ‘mod’ next (no, not the Quadrophenia kind), these are your racing avatars and again the creation / editing interface is very nicely implemented and simple to use. If you can’t be bothered to make you own, there are a nice selection of prebuilt mods and some wicked user created ones too – from Simpson characters, Mario, Killzone Helgast Troopers, Spiderman… The ones with the most votes get showcased in the modspot and only take a few seconds to download. Loading times however can be the only real annoyance – mostly because you’ll basically be highly anticipating getting stuck in. It’s the only thing I could find to moan about and it’s not a deal breaker…

Then it’s on to your car / kart, lots of options for design innovation here and masses of style tweaks to allow you create something truly bespoke and utterly awesome. The user created ones again can be downloaded and people have made some killer machines.

Finally the track editor, this is excellent too. The level-sculpting tools reminded me of those in Far Cry 2 which hit the sweet spot between usability and powerful creation options. To lay your basic track you simply drive a tarmac laying machine around, and the AI can help you out if you get stuck or want the PS3 to take over and complete the track for you once you have the outline you want. The landscape can be raised and lowered, populated with all manner of terrains, trees, buildings, rocks… At any point you can jump straight in to a ‘test drive’ and see how your track handles. There are speed boosts to be laid, weapon / power ups, barrels (both exploding and water filled) – it’s a lot easier to build with than the Little Big Planet levels. It took me under ten minutes to create a fairly cool track – and seconds later I was hosting a race on it against some online rivals.

The joy in uploading your creations to the PlayStation Network and share them is pretty much user generated nirvana. You can comment and ‘rate’ the content uploaded by others – and download those that you like the look of.

And so to the racing itself… MRN offers up some seriously slick racing thrills. The karts handle nicely (very very reminiscent of Mario Kart control wise, right down to the drifting around corners – which leave tasty ‘Back to the Future’ style flaming tyre tracks here). It really is a joy to partake of and is very easy to pick up and play, yet there is lots of challenge which will see it take some time to master – and the weapons add a Wipeout like wild card to the proceedings. Use em straight away or collect a couple and see them power up!?

ModNation Racers is fantastic fun, Sony have a potentially supernova hit on their hands here – there really isn’t anything to match this create, share, race package. Nintendo should be worried, Xbox owners should cry, there is nothing on the market to match the high speed creativity of ModNation Racers – what’s that lying bleeding in the road? Look a lot like some guy in a plumber’s outfit…

Play, share, create – BUY THIS GAME!!

Darkmatters rating: öööööööööö (10 burning laps out of 10)

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