ModNation Racers Preview
ModNation Racers box art
System: PS3, PSP Review Rating Legend
Dev: United Front Games 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: SONY 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: May 25, 2010 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 (12 Online) 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Everyone 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Creative Racing
by Maria Montoro

June 4, 2009 - One of Sony’s biggest surprises at this year’s E3 was ModNation Racers, an apparently simple and family-oriented car racer that has it all. It might not look like much at first glance, but those who are already deep into the world of LittleBigPlanet will surely be able to appreciate this title before they even get to play it. If you enjoy Mario Kart and LBP, get ready for this one, because it seems to have all the ingredients for success.

ModNation Racers screenshot

ModNation Racers is not being developed by the LBP creators, but by United Front Games and Sony. However, the game definitely has a similar feel and even many of the creative features found in last year’s platformer. For starters, character customization is a big part of the game. The developers want the users to be able to express themselves through very unique avatars. You start off with a blank vinyl character with no facial features or clothes and then start adding eyes, mouth, hair style, etc. There is a wide selection of features; there seems to be over 100 eyes to choose from, around 100 mouths as well, and dozens of hair styles. As if that wasn’t enough, you can tweak some of these features by making them larger, smaller, rotate them, etc., which allows you to achieve a unique style that sets your character apart from other players. There are 2D and 3D hair styles, so you can add some dimension to the character or make it more classic-looking. Racing suits, dresses, and pretty much anything you can think of make up a great collection of outfits for our little racer. You can also pick from diverse accessories like hats, helmets, or even a gas mask to complete his/her look. Finally, a virtually unlimited color palette lets you change the color of each feature and different parts of the outfit, and you can even sync up the color scheme with the rest of the body so you only have to color one thing or two.


Kart can also be deeply customized and “painted” to achieve different color styles and textures. You can pick from different body styles, whether it’s a boogie, a classic sedan, a sports car, an old-school convertible, a truck, you name it! Of course, you have to take physics into account, and use karts that are more aerodynamic for certain races, while other times you might need a heavier vehicle to tackle a specific track.

ModNation Racers screenshot

The game comes with a good amount of tracks already built into the single player campaign, and as you advance, you’ll be able to unlock parts and assets that you can then use in the amazingly deep Track Studio. Here, players will be able to pick from many different themes – the developers said almost anything you can think of, including the obvious rural landscapes, modern cities, etc. Once selected, you can start adding a track by simply dragging the cursor around the screen. In order to spice up the track, you will then add trees, houses, hills, mountains, bridges, animals, or whatever it is you want, and then you can move them around individually, rotate them, or delete them need be. You can add most elements on an “auto” mode, but you can also get as detailed as you want and place each object individually, if precision is your thing. The cursor seems to move very smoothly, allowing for a very accessible experience for everyone. From what I saw, the level creator seems more user-friendly than the one in LBP. You can even add textures like gravel, cobblestone, mud, etc. to the road, change the weather or time of the day, create bumps, modify terrain, or even add launchers, tunnels, and obstacles. All these things will affect the driving experience, so basically players will create their own challenge from top to bottom. Oh! And let’s not forget the weapons, which are inside little bubbles (similar to Mario Kart’s boxes). You can drop these around the track, place them in hidden shortcuts, and much more.

As you can see, this game is extremely customizable, so all these elements already set it apart from other racers out there. The developers are really focused on creating the most original kart racing experience, while still paying full attention to the presentation and gameplay. The game is displayed in full HD, with detailed textures and a realistic yet cartoonish style that looks very professional. Characters have a full range of expressions and react to the events in real time, taunting and all. The vehicle physics are also very accurate, with everything happening in real time like it would in Burnout or MotorStorm. Collisions affect terrain, your own vehicle, and other vehicles as well, when you crash against them. The racing is very fast-paced, as it is to be expected. Handling the vehicle seems very easy, though we didn’t get to try it for ourselves. You can drift, get turbo boosts, and attack other players with an arsenal of weapons you pick up along the way. Although the game is very accessible from the beginning for new players, you will definitely get savvier later on and use weapons to your advantage, obviously like you would in Mario Kart. They couldn’t talk about the music yet, but they have very cool plans for it as well, with a wide range of music tracks that should please everyone.

ModNation Racers screenshot

The online component is also worth mentioning, since it’s supposed to be huge. In addition to local and online multiplayer, players will be able to upload their custom tracks and download tracks other users have created. Anyone can edit the downloaded tracks, though it won’t overwrite the original creation, which is good. This way, a group of friends could join forces and create the coolest track there is. Since the track designer tool is the same as the one used by the creators of the game, the options are virtually unlimited. This sense of community already included in previous games like LittleBigPlanet or Spore seems to be the way of the future, and that’s why I think this game is going to be very popular for years to come. It looks like Sony has a great exclusive here, so hopefully they’ll be able to continue to grow their library with unique and strong titles such as this one. There’s not a firm release date, but they’re aiming for 2010. Long way to go!

By Maria Montoro
CCC Site Director

Game Features:

  • Single player with dozens of pre-designed tracks unlocks content for level creator.
  • Full character and vehicle customization, with tons of original features and accessories to choose from.
  • Track Studio lets you create tracks with diverse themes, any shape imaginable, and much more.
  • LBP-style game community with online play and content sharing.

  • Screenshots / Images
    ModNation Racers screenshot - click to enlarge ModNation Racers screenshot - click to enlarge ModNation Racers screenshot - click to enlarge

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