ModNation Racers PSP Hands-On Preview

By Mary-Lynn McLachlan on April 22, 2010, 10:12AM EDT

For those who enjoy Little Big Planet prepare to "play, create, share" once more in United Front Games' first official title "ModNation Racers"! For portable fans Sony's very own SCE San Diego Studios has been in charge of developing the PlayStation Portable version. ModNation Racers is what you would get if LittleBigPlanet and Mario Kart had a baby, with both the portable and PS3 version offering the same gameplay. This leads to the ultimate question; will the portable version stack up, and which one is worth buying?

ModNation Racers is a new 'kart' game with a focus on user generated content, creation, and racing. Like many games with customization features, players will find themselves finessing their way through campaign mode to unlock all of the gizmos and swag to decorate their mods, karts, and tracks. That's right, a well played campaign will get players extra bragging rights with better features for their karts, and special decals. Players may create 'mods', a little person or creature to race karts (much like 'sackboys' from Little Big Planet). With oodles of patterns, objects, and colours to choose from creativity has been maximized for the player so they may express themselves however they like. Both versions of the game boast creation features with very little difference between them. There are slightly less options when creating 'mods' and karts on the portable version, but it's nothing to complain about.

The meat and potatoes of this little miracle is in the track, or level creation. Most home-use landscaping software isn't this good, or intuitive. Players will find themselves very comfortable with the tools to generate rivers, lakes, hills, roads, and so much more. It's fun, and very easy. The best part by far is how simple it is to create or customise a 'mod', kart, or track. Do not doubt the power of the track creator in the portable version as it's just as good and complete as the PS3 version. Many would expect the portable creation system to be slower, or be gutted for features, but nothing notable has been left out and it's very fast to process terrain.

There are three different modes of gameplay in both versions. Campaign, which is where you will unlock most of your customization parts and bling, single player race which is broken down into three types of races, and finally, multiplayer mode where you may share your creations, and battle other karts (or simply race them!). The controls for these different gameplay modes are pretty intuitive, and players who have tried Mario Kart will find controlling the karts in ModNation Racers nearly identical. Creating, navigating tools, and sharing custom content is very user friendly, much like LittleBigPlanet, and even beginners will find themselves easily at home. Maps can be made meticulously piece by piece, or can be laid out in mere minutes by using population tools. When comparing the gameplay between the PS3 and portable versions it's not a matter of if the controls are good, but how well they are implemented on the PSP. Controls can be slightly customized in both versions, and while the PS3 controller may be a little better due to the analog sticks, the PSP version holds its own.

While ModNation Racers is a family rated game, it doesn't mean that only kids can enjoy it. Mods can perform tricks in their karts when 'getting air' and there are plenty of opportunities to drift as well as demolish enemies. The unique style of the environment and characters is fun and light-hearted, and the soundtrack is quirky and energetic. Stylistically this kart game has a lot of flair in the gameplay as well as the environment. While not horribly so, a bit of this detail is lost on the small screen of the PSP.

With so many playable options such as two to four person split-screen, online multiplayer and solo-career mode, players will find much to do in ModNation Racers. For anyone with LittleBigPlanet on their shelves, this title will make sense to add to the collection. While both versions look and play excellently, the PS3 version may be the better choice in the long haul simply because there is so much to do and so much to create; the small screen on the PSP just doesn't compare in the amount of detail and comfort a larger screen, such as a monitor or television has to offer. ModNation Racers will be available on both the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable May 25th, 2010.

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