Kart racing for modern- day gamers

With fully customizable characters, level designing, a variety of weapons and online matches that can accommodate up to 12 players, ModNation Racers takes the best elements of games like Little Big Planet and the Mario Kart series and improves upon them.

Developed by United Front Games, this Playstation 3 title should feel similar to Little Big Planet in its philosophy of “Play, Create, Share” and in its intuitiveness. As a kart racer, it does not take great leaps and bounds to innovation; instead, it focuses on polished and diverse gameplay.

With the opportunity to create unique characters, or ‘mods,’ players can feel as though they are racing in several different games at once.

The game debuted on May 25, and already there are hundreds of different mods, ranging from Maggie Simpson to Darth Vader. And thanks to the game’s uploading system, each mod can be used by anyone.

Character creation is one of the first things a player does upon beginning gameplay; from there it only gets easier to be sucked in. With over 40 different skins available and the option to use an array of colors, clothes and accessories, a player can spend quite a while deciding how best to design a unique character and even longer creating a very detailed replica of already familiar characters.

Unlike more realistic professional driving simulation games, ModNation Racers employs some of the livelier elements of kart racing and does so well. Races are three laps each with up to 12 players permitted in each heat and involve a variety of items to shift the tempo, including boost lanes to gain speed, drifting to cut corners and racetrack weaponry, such as missiles and electric bolts. In the track editor, these can all be altered.

The game utilizes the Playstation 3 console to its fullest potential and feels like a more refined version of older kart racing games. The drawback to the updated gameplay, however, is the loading times from screen to screen, which can slow down the otherwise quick pace of the game.

Bright and vivid images give the game a decidedly cartoony feel, making it all the more appealing to a wide audience. It is easy enough to pick up and play that inexperienced players needn’t worry about making fools of themselves. For those interested in competing, there are plenty of time trials and a leveling system to keep track of skills.

Other useful additions are the four-player split screen and the option of playing online with a friend. This is often a neglected feature in kart racing games, so it’s nice to see ModNation Racers making full use of its host console’s potential.

Although the game is centered around user-generated content and the multi-player experience, there is a full story mode included for newer players to practice on.

A useful centerpiece to help organize all of the game’s different features is the Online Modspot. This hub functions as a sort of interactive menu and serves as the jumping-off point from which new players begin gameplay.

Rather than clicking through a dashboard, players simply drive toward buildings of the desired function, such as the Creation Station or a building housing competitive racing.

The Online Modspot is also where players can meet each other and chat via text or headset. One of the most important features is real-time streaming of top players, top tracks, coming attractions, daily tournaments and the most popular mods, which, as of this writing, are Spider-Man, Iron Man and Super Mario.

Community is difficult to achieve in most new games, but the constantly updating live stream works to accomplish that.

With its endless creative potential and a strong online component, ModNation Racers looks to be in for a long future of community-driven gameplay.