Little Big Planet brought the “Play, Create, Share” ethos to the PlayStation 3, and ModNation Racers applies the same concept to the kart racer. The result is a game that offers you all the tools you need to create your own karts, tracks, and racers and then easily share your creations online with the community. These features are excellent–both simple enough for beginners and powerful enough for creative types to match anything from the developer. The fiercely competitive AI makes the single player career more challenging than it needs to be, and long load times are a bind across all game modes. However, played with friends locally or online, ModNation Racers is a fun, rewarding and novel addition to the genre.
Once you’ve played the first tutorial race, you’re dropped into ModNation Racers’ central hub, which connects all of the play, create, and share elements of the game. You can select game modes either by browsing the menu system or by physically driving your kart to the corresponding area of the hub. If you’re online, the world is populated by other racers whom you can communicate with, share content with, or challenge to a race. The hub also highlights some of the highest rated content from users around the world, with statues of user-created characters, such as Mario, Ryu, and Spider-Man, and karts that have been made to look like locomotives, aeroplanes, or even the A-Team van. There’s a clear emphasis on sharing at all times–you can drive up to anything you see and press the square button to browse, rate, and download items. It’s a brilliantly implemented system, with seamless online integration providing a stream of new content.
The gameplay is based around karting staples–drifting and drafting are key, while power-ups and boost pads keep the action frantic. ModNation Racers introduces quite a few variations on these themes, though. The power-ups fall into four categories: boost, missile, sound, and lightning. As in Diddy Kong Racing, the more power-ups you collect, the more potency you add to the original pick-up. For example, the first rocket is a tiny little explosive that you have to aim manually, but if you wait and pick up two more power-ups, you’ll be upgraded to a shower of rockets that will home in on an opponent.