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Modnation Racers Beta Impression

Posted by Bazaboy On March - 1 - 2010

ModNation Racers, developed by United Front Games for Playstation 3, is an arcade style kart racing game in the same vein as titles such as Mario Kart and Crash Team Racing. From those names you get the idea of what the racing element of the game will involve, with cars pulling huge drifts through turns, speed boost pads, weapon pick ups and huge over the top jumps. With all of these things combined, you can imagine it leads to some action packed racing and the inclusion of weapons means that you can quite easily be in the lead one moment and then be hit by a rocket from behind, leading to you losing 2 or 3 positions or, worse still, finding yourself in last place.

 
The Racing may be at the centre of the game, but in reality it is only a small portion of what ModNation has to offer. Running with Sony’s play, create and share tag line that they used to sell another PS3 exclusive back in 2008, Little Big Planet, the game offers up a wealth of creation and customization options. This is the first thing I checked out during the beta, as no modern day ModNation driver wants to be driving around in a default car with a default racer.

 
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The first thing you would want to do is create your driver. You start off with a plain white head, body and appendages, to which you can then add a face using stickers which can also be applied to helmets, accessories and clothing. Obviously, like any game of this nature, the more you play the more options you have when it comes to customizing. But even from the off I had enough options available to create a passable likeness to Top Gears tame racing driver, The Stig. This was a simple creation compared to what some people were turning out. I saw both a good looking representation of Mario and an amazing looking Helghast from the Killzone series and, if these are the kind of things people are managing to create in the beta, I cant wait to see what is possible in the full game. That does not just go for the drivers, as the next stop in the creation process will be your ride.

 
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The vehicle customization tool is just as, if not more, involved as the character creation. Again, the further into the game you get, the more options will be available to you for building and modifying your car. But also like the character creation, from the start there is more than enough choice in parts and stickers for the player to build something that suits their style, be it a muscle car, sports car, pimped street racer or even a van. I even saw an attachment that replaces the accepted idea of an engine with a hamster in a wheel for powering your kart, alongside the expected item’s such as body kits and numerous wheels to fit onto your ride. Again sticking with my theme, I created a nice metallic purple sports car with a huge wing on the back for mini Stig to play. Like the driver creation, I can imagine when we get our hands on the full title the creation options will be a fair bit more extensive. From this point you are ready to take your kart and driver out on the tracks to race. But before getting to that. I will discuss the final creation part.

 
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The final creation section of the game is the most impressive of the three, allowing the player to turn an empty, flat area of land into their very own race circuit. Personally I was more interested in exploring the racing side of the game. But before the beta was closed, I thought I would at least give it a look and see how it worked and boy, was I impressed. Having messed with Little Big Planets level creator on and off since it’s release, I have always found it tricky to figure out the masses of tools included and to build what you wanted was equally as tricky to figure out. This made it satisfying when you managed to pull off what you were trying to. When it came to ModNation, I was expecting a similar system. I could not have been more wrong. The track creator in the game is so simple and yet so rewarding that within half an hour I had a simple yet fully decorated circuit available to race on. Sure, with more time, a lot more could have been achieved. The main element of creating your track is the racing surface and this is simply created by putting the player in control of a vehicle the width of the track, and then driven using the same controls as you would use to race your kart. You drive where you want the track to go, while changing the elevation of the track using the right analogue stick. Extremely simple yet extremely effective. Then it is a case of selecting the track surface. Being a rally fan, I went with dirt and then decorated it by dropping buildings, trees, sheep, chickens and many other things, including the aforementioned boost pads and weapon pick ups. You can do this manually or, to make things even easier for the player, you can simply hit populate which automatically puts all of the finishing touches to your track. The track creator is very simple to get the hang of and easy to use. You will be amazed at the results that can be achieved.

 
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Everything you create in the game, be it characters, vehicles or tracks, can be kept for personal use or, as the share part of play, create, share suggests, it can be made public for other players to download and use or modify.

 
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The final thing to talk about is the racing side of things. ModNation Racers doesn’t use your normal menu system for starting races, with players instead connecting to the Modspot. This is a lobby in which you are free to drive about using your created car and driver alongside other players. You can communicate with fellow racers using text chat or a headset. The Modspot is the players gateway to all sections of the game, including the aforementioned creation stations. You can even see top rated character and vehicle creations and fastest times on tracks amongst other information. The Modspot is also the area from which you access races. You get everything you would expect from a racing game including a single player mode, which will involve the player racing against AI cars, time trial, which is the perfect place to hone your skills on the pre-built tracks included with the game, along with any tracks the player has created or downloaded, and of course multiplayer.

 
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The racing action is pretty much full on arcade style. No fancy realistic handling here, just fun racing with huge drifts around turns, jumps that send you flying through the air pulling of stunts on the way, ramming and firing weapons at your opponents and making the most use of any shortcuts you can find in a bid to give you an edge over the other racers. This leads to some exciting and, more importantly, fun racing action. On top of all this, United Front Games have also announced that the game will be released for the PSP with pretty much all the features of the PS3 version which, from looking at what is included in the game, is quite a feat. The one major drawback, which I really hope will be fixed by the time the full game is released, is the really long load times. In almost every aspect of the game, be it the loading of Modspot or even going into a race, it all seemed to take a little to long. This is about the only thing I could find of fault in the title at the moment, meaning it’s another game I shall be watching and waiting for sometime this spring.

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