At E3 2009, United Front Games alongside Sony Computer Entertainment America unveiled its latest joint project in the Play, Create, Share foundation known as ModNation Racers. While originally announced for PlayStation 3, it was later revealed that the title would be getting a smaller adaptation on PlayStation Portable (developed by SCE San Diego). Thankfully, just because the size of the screen has shrunk, the content provided hasn’t as the PSP version of ModNation Racers offers a full-fledged offering of the modern kart racer.
The biggest concern I had from the get go about MNR on the PSP was the incredibly long load times that were evident in the PlayStation 3 Beta. Whether those load times will be cut down or not is another question, but I can happily say that the load times in the PlayStation Portable version are very minimal and not intrusive at all. In fact, once you read the helpful hints on each loading screen, the loading itself should almost be complete allowing you to get right to the racing or building.
In the preview build that I played, I was given access to the ModNation Racer Championship, Track Creation, Kart Mod and Character Mod modes within the game. The only aspect I couldn’t check out was the online portion of the game, but as you can imagine, it should be pretty smooth like other online racers and other community-driven titles like LittleBigPlanet.
When I first loaded up the game, I immediately went to check out the ModNation Racer Championship mode as that is usually the first mode of play I venture into in most games like this. Needless to say, I was immediately impressed. The MNRC features rich, comical cutscenes of several in-game characters that help push the story along to make the game a bit more engaging to the user. Cutscenes feature the two hilarious announcers from the game, your crew chief, mother, and evil sponsor.
Once you’re done with your opening cutscene, you’re thrown right into the mix as “Tag,” the rookie racer looking to make a name for himself. Throughout the mode there are several levels of play (think of Hot Shots Golf Ranking System) and each level has four to seven races that you must complete in order to move to the next level. Each race has three goals that you can complete in order to both move on to the next one or to unlock some of the hundreds of unlockables for track building, kart building, and racer building. These goals are not mandatory, but you must complete the most basic one in order to move forward.
Overall there are hundreds of unlockables in the game and this helps extend the playtime of the title significantly. In fact, after spending 10+ hours with the game, I have still yet to unlock 75% of the items made available. This isn’t too shabby for a PSP game you should enjoy playing on the go.
If you happened to check out the PS3 Beta or the PSP Demo, you should have had the chance to check out all of the weapons available on the tracks as well. These weapons range from shock attacks, NOS boosting, and a myriad of other standard attacks. Each has its own properties and all work as they should with little to no effort. Outside of weapons, you can gain boost properties through hitting other opponents with weapons or drifting. Once you’ve accumulated Boost, you can utilize some of it to power your shield or you can hit triangle and use the boost as intended – to go faster.
Through the MNRC, you are also given the opportunity to modify your karts, characters and build tracks. In fact, some of the processes in advancing through the MNRC involve doing just that, so it’s kind of like an “everything-in-one” mode of play.
As expected, kart and character modification is quite simple. You can select from clothes, voices and skins in order to create a racer that you’re happy with. The same goes for the karts. There are silly things like cardboard to build your karts out of or you can go the professional way with a sleek sports car build. Regardless of which way you go, building and creating is easily accessible whether you’re new to gaming or a veteran pro.
As for Track Creation, it gets a little more difficult. While the development team has claimed that it’s so easy anyone can do it, it’s not 100% accurate. Yes, anyone can create a basic track that is pretty bare bones, but in order to create something elaborate and “filling” in atmosphere, you’re going to need a lot of patience and dedication. It’s quite similar to LittleBigPlanet in the fact that anyone can create a level, but to create something special is going to take some time – especially since the PSP screen is so small.
ModNation Racers for PlayStation Portable continues the great game lineup that the handheld has been offering over the last six to seven months. Anyone looking for an awesome kart racer to enjoy on the handheld that has a ton of replay value will be hard pressed to find anything other than ModNation Racers to play.