Preview: ModNation Racers

January 31, 2010

ModNation Racers, set for release this Spring, has been called “LittleBigRacer” for its similarity to Media Molecule’s customizable platformer. Shawn Vermette and Graham Russell spent a lot of time with the beta so they could give you a preview of the upcoming title.

Shawn Vermette: I went into ModNation Racers without high expectations. I love kart racers, mainly because of Mario Kart, but the big focus of the game seemed to be on customization, which I’m not a big fan of. I love the idea of customization…I just rarely put the time or effort into customizing things. So consider me impressed when I tell you that I believe ModNation Racers could be the closest anyone has gotten to creating a kart racing game that is as fun and addictive as Mario Kart Wii. 

The single player in ModNation Racers has a number of modes, none of which really impressed me, but the AI is much more challenging, without feeling cheap, and aggressive than the AI in any other kart racer I’ve played. It made the single player game more challenging and really made it feel like I was playing against actual people.

The multiplayer is, I feel, where most people will get the majority of their enjoyment. The loading and matchmaking systems still need a lot of work, but the races themselves are a blast…sometimes literally. There’s not a lot of variety of weapons to pick up, but that is slightly offset by the fact that you can upgrade said weapons simply by not using them and picking up more items from the track. Each weapon can be upgraded twice, with each upgrade doing slightly different, ever more powerful things. They’ll range from homing missiles to bombs to a wormhole that will push you and anyone else who drives into it far up the track, sometimes even moving you from last to first in an instant.

The racing itself felt like it was nearly complete, with the majority of work to be done in the game relating to the behind the scenes stuff along with making what was already there more efficient.

Graham Russell: Unlike Shawn, I’m a sucker for customization. I’ll spend more time making my character look cool than playing the game, and I’m especially a sucker for customization that changes gameplay. I even tried to make my own LittleBigPlanet level, but that stuff is just too involved for most. (I’m enamored with playing others’ work, though.)

I’m happy to say that ModNation’s track creation is significantly easier. You can just essentially drive a track and it’ll create it, auto-populating it with scenery and fans. Of course, you can do everything manually too. It’s addicting, and I’ll be doing a lot of it.

Of course, the character customization will be more popular, and that’s pretty polished too. Paint and logos make it pretty detailed, and for those who’d rather let the others do the work, you can download popular avatars. (Expect a lot of comic book heroes and game characters, obviously.) 

As it was a beta, the online framework wasn’t incredibly functional, but that’s what a beta’s for. I’m fond of local multiplayer, and it’s here. 

This is one of those games that will get more and more awesome the more people pick it up. I guess what I’m saying is…pick it up. I’ll race ya.