Developer: United Front Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Fancy a kart racer with a little something extra? The endless drones of kart racers that are willed onto the market year after year is not only a callous sign of the rise in casual games but also the undying love we have for them and the game play that surrounds this genre. Ever since the original Mario Kart release for the SNES was met with both critical and commercial success (and the continued success of that series in particular), its no wonder we've seen other developer's follow suit in anything ranging from the great (Crash Team Racing) to the downright strangest of franchise integration (Motor Kombat, anyone?!) The recently released Sonic & Sega All Stars Racing still shows that huge publishers are willing to back these cutesy racers in a densely crowded market. The 'pick-up and play' aspect of kart racers is no doubt a sure fire reason why they continue to sell well, with anyone from hardcore gamers to the most casual of players sure to get great enjoyment from the thrills and spills.
ModNation Racers offers players the chance to not only play with others in typical kart-racing fashion but it is the second title in Sony's “Play, Create, Share” brand of games (after a favourite of mine, LittleBigPlanet) which ultimately allows users to create their own content using an in-built editor, in this case a race track builder, and play, share and rate these creations through the Playstation Network. Sony's ModNation Racers announcement at E3 last year first showed how simple the creation tool is (take a look at the video on the 'Game Videos' page if you don't believe me!). Like LittleBigPlanet, it promises budding creators and casual users alike to start from scratch and tailor a track from the dreams of their kart-fantasies! OK, maybe not...But you get the idea. A quick look at the LittleBigPlanet communities' efforts show the amazing content that can come from the simplest of tool-sets. It's here that I hope ModNation Racers will follow suit.
Customisation doesn't end here however, anything from your racer's skin and wearable gear to your kart's suspension, body kit and colour scheme are editable within the game, meaning you'll never suffer from every girls' nightmare and turn up in the same outfit as another racer!
Game play is much the same as other kart racers- yes, boost meters, drifts, collectible weapons etc. etc. Here, however pickable weapons each have three levels of power, meaning crafty tactics will often mean the difference between a good and a great player. Do you fire the weapon instantly for a quick grab for the lead or keep a hold of it for a much larger benefit later on? It's here that MNR can really distinguish itself from others of the genre. It may not be the most complex of ideas but there's no doubt it could be extremely effective in the 'rubber-banding' nature of the kart racer. Weapons range from classics to brand new creations. The developer has also promised a much more detailed physics model than those currently seen in kart racers.
In addition to the community aspect of the game, a full-fledged single player (complete with story) is also included. Online multiplayer consists of races of 2 to 12 players whilst players can also take advantage of the way in which the game allows a local player to also join you online in split screen mode. If online isn't your thing, local multiplayer lets up to four players race together in traditional split-screen fashion. Who says local multiplayer is dead!?
With only 3 weeks to wait now for this new take on the kart-racer of old, the only real question is; can one of gaming's most casual of genre's survive commercially on, argumentatively, the most hardcore of platforms out at the moment? With the daunting shadow of other game's on the horizon, I hope that this new IP can stand out from the crowd enough to deliver a show-stopping hit.