ModNation Racers Beta Impressions

December 21, 2009 Written by Jonathan Leack

When ModNation Racers was announced back at E3 2009, millions of gamers worldwide were excited to see the ingenuity of the Play, Create and Share philosophy seen in LittleBigPlanet brought to the racing genre. For nearly half a year now ModNation Racers has only been known as one of the great titles to look forward to in 2010. As of December 18th, United Front Games have released their official closed beta to thousands of participants across the globe, and now this great-looking title is finally being explored.

As seen in the several trailers that have been released, the visuals in ModNation Racers are vibrant and colorful. Both the textures and characters have met the expectations of fans who have been desiring a Mario Kart style game with HD graphics. The first thing to note is that the game doesn’t contain a typical main menu screen. Right after the introduction within the beta, you are dropped directly into what is called a ModSpot. The ModSpot is essentially a 3D menu that contains a lobby full of other online players. In order to access the creative tools, racing, leaderboards and other content, all you have to do is drive up to the labeled locale and press a simple button. At that point you’re given either a quick option screen such as the options for which type of race you would like to join, or dropped into a building that lets you fine-tune a variety of available options.

The Create and Share aspect of ModNation Racers is truly impressive. Not only can you completely edit the way that your racer looks to your liking, but you’re also able to create your own vehicle from the ground up. All customizable options for both are purchased within the ingame store, and while the store isn’t available in the beta, there are thankfully dozens of items already included. The amount of decals, items and others is in the hundreds if not thousands, and even in the beta it’s rare to see two racers or vehicles that look exactly alike. The most impressive thing about the beta is the main focus of the game, and that’s the Track Studio. The Track Studio serves as a tool for creating and editing tracks which are then uploaded online in a similar fashion to Little Big Planet. The level of creation offered with the Track Studio tool is more than ever seen before, and while only one of three or four different environment styles is included in the beta, the amount of detail is insurmountable. Players who don’t feel inspired enough to make a detailed track can simply lay out the foundation then let the game auto-create and tune the level. Not only is is easily accessible to casual players, but the hardcore and creative will have plenty to chew on.

Of course, what’s the point of creating tracks if the racing isn’t fun? Thankfully, the gameplay itself is fresh and exciting. The racing itself is fast-paced, entertaining, and doesn’t feel like anything else on the market. ModNation Racers incorporates a lot of neat gameplay elements such as the ability to build up boost by drifting, drafting, pulling off tricks and hitting other players with weapons. The boost allows you to either shield yourself, turbo at quicker speeds or even sideswipe opponents. The mixture of intense and enjoyable racing sequences really revitalizes what many call an unprogressive genre. The game also sports leaderboards for both racing and modding, so those who are quick or creative can really stand-out. Unfortunately, the camera in the beta seems a bit too close and makes it hard to see the entirety of the track, but with the amount of feedback being given there’s a good chance that’ll change prior to release.

ModNation Racers really does look like one of the better games of 2010. The ability to create and edit both large and precise details means that both casuals and hardcore will find something to like about the title. The fast-paced gameplay with a variety of well-designed elements means that even without the creative side of the game, the game would still be enjoyable. When it comes down to it, ModNation Racers is simply a highly-entertaining game that will please a wide-variety of audiences. The ModNation Racers beta will remain available until January 10th and the full release of ModNation Racers will become available in Spring 2010.