Preview: ModNation Racers

As we said yesterday, ModNation Racers has the potential to be absolutely massive, and just as popular as LittleBigPlanet. Well, this morning I was sent over a heartfelt preview of the PS3 exclusive game to publish on the site (albeit under condition of strict anonymity) – some of you might recognise our mysterious contributor’s individual writing style…

Back in the day, when Skidmarks was King and I thought AMOS would be the answer to my prayers, I started work on a top-down racer. I put a lot of effort into creating a track editor, and before long I had a great little UI that allowed me to create race tracks. Oh, and trees. It had trees and bushes for scenery too.

History lesson over, it does serve to highlight just why I have been prancing around like an over-excited horse since Sony announced ModNation Racers (MNR) at their E3 press conference. The rubbish name aside – my game was called Red Revs – I have to concede that it just about beats my effort on all fronts. Well, technically I haven’t finished Red Revs yet, because the editor was so ace that I never got beyond drawing pretty race tracks, so I’m still in with a shout.

The first thing I learned from ModNation is that Sony has apparently create a new genre called Play, Create, Share. I don’t think it’s a genre at all. Imagine if it was a genre, and on a post-pub Friday night you asked your mate to load up one of those PCS games; you wouldn’t have a clue what you’d get. I mean, ok right now it’d be LBP ‘cos that’s the only one in the genre. And, alright, when MNR is released there will be two, so you’ll have a fifty-fifty of knowing what’s coming up. But, you know, it’s a not a genre. It’s like asking your mate to boot up one of those cool FPS games and getting Haze instead.

Wow – imagine if this article was of the genre PCS? Imagine that! You could make it whatever you wanted it to be. It could be an article about the Sony “wand” instead, which would be utterly brilliant but thoroughly confusing to anyone wanting info about MNR. I’m really not sure I like this new “genre”. I also think that MNR is a little too close to MMR; here’s hoping we don’t get idiots spouting pseudo-scientific nonsense or world leaders refusing to confirm either way whether their spawn play the game.

Goodness, I’m sorry.

MNR is kart racing gone next-gen; PS3 next-gen. Which means it’s whizz-bang nice to look at and listen to, but it’s got toybox appeal just like LBP’s Create mode. Not only will you be able to create your character and style your kart, but there is a track editor too. As tracks can be shared via the PSN, MNR is going to be able to boast a huge number of tracks over time. For those of you less inclined to Create, and more inclined to Play, MNR will feature a story mode packed full of characters, karts, tracks, and challenges.

Sound good? Let’s break it down some more: MNR can broken down into three areas: Race It, Mod It, Share It. Rumours of a fourth area named Sod It are probably wide of the mark.

Race It: Yes, it’s kart racing, but powered by the PS3 it’s going to look and feel tremendous. We’re being promised the ability to “…interact with dynamic obstacles in the surrounding environment…”, which hopefully means killing sheep. Real-time physics will ensure a racing experience that’ll be competitive, and the multiplayer – online and off – will put that to the test.

Mod It: You can create a Mod character and bling up your kart. So far, so every other character creation game. But, MNR also has a track editor the equivalent of what developers United Front Games used to design the tracks the game ships with. Judging by the E3 video, it’s an elegant, simple mechanism for creating almost any track you can imagine. Just by driving your kart around the track will be built in real-time behind you. We’re not sure what happens if you reverse while sitting the opposite way round, but that’ll be brilliant too. Other elements can also be added, such as hairpins and bridges, and even “enviromental” stuff like mountain ranges.

Share It: So, you’ve spent an age designing and perfecting your creations. Right, time to upload it and share it via the PSN. You’ll be able to download others’ tracks too, mod them yourself, and even re-upload them. Like someone’s track, but wish it had a tighter bend or a nasty bridge? Well, grab their track and mod it to your heart’s content. As with LBP, MNR will feature a rating system so you can easily gravitate to the best the community has to offer. As far as I know there is no truth in the rumour I just made up that suggests all uploaded content will be auto-modded and deleted for the first two months.

Right, now we’re getting to the good bit. The bit they call “key features”. I’m excited for this bit, because I ever since I got my Golf VR6 and it had one of those flick-knife keys I’ve been all about features of keys. The creation aspect takes places in the thee studios; Character, Kart, and Track. Simple enough to enable creations in minutes, and deep enough to allow for that fine level of polish only the most anal can produce.

The actual kart racing is as you’d expect; drifting, boosting, violence via weapon pickups. There are a number of game modes: story mode shows the player’s rise through the ranks – so a short mode for me – featuring tutorials and challenges; single and multiplayer modes including a “pure race” mode free of weapons; online play via the PSN including matchmaking, leaderboards, and all manner of tools for communciating with your racing chums. MNR comes with a bunch of Trophies to collect too.

At E3 MNR was demoed in very impressive fashion by building and playing on a track in under five minutes (see YouTube video below). No doubt in homage to my Red Revs editor and its trees, MNR allows you to not only create a track but add gorgeous trackside “furniture” to really bring it to life. It’s like a tighter, more focused version of the LBP editor. 2010 can’t come soon enough now. I’m already planning a very special track. Which, in my own homage to Red Revs, I won’t actually finish.

Unlike this article.

Which is now finished.