PS3 beta impressions – ModNation Racers
Well, Thursday a download on the European PSN appeared. The first 100000 people to get it got access to the ModNation Racers beta. I managed to be fast enough to get the download. So I gave the beta some gameplay to see if the final game might end up living up to its potential or not.
Does it, or should they delay the release to iron out some things?
(NOTE: This is not a review, they’re merely my impressions after playing a very incomplete version of the game. I know this is a beta and that its nowhere near what we’ll get in the final version.)
The gameplay definitely borrows a lot from the Mario Kart series. The racing is similar, you can drift for extra boost, there’s weapon pick ups and the overall physics are pretty similar.
The controls are not too bad. You steer with the left analog stick, you accelerate with R2, brake with L2, jump/drift with X, L1 to boost, use weapons with Square, sideswipe with the right analog stick and use a shield with Circle. The steering… is okay. It’s a bit too stiff at times, and too loose at other times. There’s no middle ground. Once you get a feel of it, it becomes pretty good, but there’s a pretty big learning curve for basic steering. Drifitng works pretty much like in Mario Kart. You jump, and when you land you start drifting. There you have some control. You can basically decide how tight your drift is.
You get a boost meter for doing various actions. The one you’ll get more often is drifting. Starting and finishing a drift without hitting the walls will give you some boost power. The longer the drift, the more boost power you get. Otherwise you get boost power by attacking other racers, drafting (staying directly behind another racer) and getting in the air. Boost power has 2 uses from what I’ve seen: boosting (duh), and setting up a shield to protect from attacks (requires a third of the full bar).
Weapons come in weapon pods, regenerating pick-ups that are littered across he tracks. Getting a first weapon pod gives you a random weapon. Getting a second one without using the weapon gives you the level 2 upgrade of that weapon, and a third one gives you the level 3 form, which is also the final form. You have homing missiles, lightning strikes, boosts, and shockwaves. Maybe I’m missing some, but not that I can recall. Overall I think weapons are pretty well balanced… except for the level 3 boost. The first time I used it, I was in last place (8th in that case). After using it, I was instantly in third place. It’s essentially a teleport… REALLY cheap. It’s a BIT balanced by the fact that, when you create the “protal”, other racers can use it for a short time. Otherwise though, the weapons are pretty fun to use.
There’s 3 things you can customize: Cars, Mods (basically avatars) and race tracks.
Cars have pretty limited customizing options from what I’ve seen. You can put on stickers, change the color, put on some accessories, choose the basic body’s look, the engine’s look and the suspensions. From my experience in the beta, whatever you choose for your car’s look doesn’t change the car’s performance. Which is a bit of a deception. It would be nice to at least have car types, like heavy, light, more acceleration in comparison to top speed, stuff like that. Again, this is a beta, so maybe this kind of thing will make it to the final version. Though, if it stays like this, victory won’t be determined by the car, but by actual skill, which could be nice.
Mods have a bit more cutomization options, and I have seen a lot of different characters made with what I first thought were limited options. I’ve seen a relatively nicely done Sonic, a Mario, a Rorschach, and other pretty cool-looking characters. I might not have the patience to make a cool character myself, but the option is definitely there.
Tracks is the main focus of the whole customizing part of the game. It’s actually quite simple. First, you drive a concrete machine in an empty area. You can turn, change elevation… basically do whatever you want. After you have the desired track, you have to populate it. Decoration in the outlines of the track, obstacles on the tracks, trees, buildings, you can change the terrain, add water, change the amount of clouds in the sky, change where the sun points, change the pavement, add item pods, add boosts… whatever you want. And if you can’t be bothered to actually populate everything yourself, there’s an option to let the game populate your track itself. ASfter everything is done, you have tons of options for fine-tuning… Making changes to curves, adding shortcuts, adding alternate paths… There’s a LOT you can do here.
Sharing is pretty simple. In the Share Station, you can check each type of creatable content by highest rating, name, newest stuff, search by keyword, things like that. For publishing, you just go in the publish section, choose what you want to publish, put in a description and keywords and that’s it. Really simple, and finding good stuff is quite easy too.
What needs to stay the same
- The customizing is really nice, the track creation is great, and the sharing is nice and easy.
- The racing works really well and it gets really fun and frantic when there’s 12 people on the track. The online system seems to work very well as I never encountered any
What needs change or improvement
- The ModSpot feels really useless. Maybe adding some things to it would be nice.
- The racing physics need just a bit of work.
- Make the controls a bit smoother, sometimes I just run into things because the controls aren’t responding how I’d expect them to. Even after getting used to the game.
- This might just be a beta problem(it probably is), but the load times are TERRIBLE.
- A bit of weapon balancing. There’s no actual Blue Shell equivalent (from what I’ve seen)… it might actually not be a completely bad idea… for some reason the first place racer rarely gets hit (compared to everyone behind him) by attacks… which is a bit weird
- I find it a bit strange that the race tracks are basically all “realistic” visual-wise when the cars and characters are basically cartoons… hopefully they give a lot of really cool visual designs in the final version beyond just boring realism.
-Different stats for karts maybe? Â Heavy, light, high top speed, high acceleration, different handling, stuff like that.
There’s a bit of things that need balancing/minor changes, but I think ModNation Racers will be a very good game. The PS3 lacks a really good kart racer (does it even have one at all?) and ModNation Racers seems to offer a pretty good experience in that regard. I’d say not as good as Mario Kart, but it’s no slouch.
I know the beta is really limited in what you have access to and what can be done, so I can’t wait to see all the options that are going to be available in the final version.
After playing the beta, I went from uninterested to quite interested.
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