How hard can it be to create your own race tracks? They're just a series of straights and corners, built out of tarmac, so surely anyone could do it if given the right tools. Well, that's what PS3 exclusive ModNation Racers aims to do, being the LittleBigPlanet of the racing game genre. And, as it turns out, track creation isn't hard at all. It's a piece of cake. Just as in LittleBigPlanet, though, the best creations are going to come from those of us with some real creative talent. Rules me out then.
Before talking about my incredible creations, it's worth talking briefly about what the racing's actually like. The preview build we received featured only four tracks, but they were enough to understand that this is very Mario Kart, although from what I've played it lacks that game's charm. Comparison's to LittleBigPlanet also come unstuck here, as the level of artistic freedom on display isn't close to what Media Molecule sewed into every one of Sackboy's seams. ModNation Racers is, based on what I've played, a fairly generic kart racing game.
The handling model is what you'd expect, with agile karts able to corner easily, while a slide mechanic lets you whiz round trickier bends. Slide enough and you'll fill a boost meter, which lets you zoom past rivals. There are even the fairly standard power-ups to collect, and none seem to stand out as anything overly original. It is still good fun though, and will be playable online and on a single machine via four-player split-screen - something that's essential for this kind of racing experience. And the less said about the career mode the better. From what I've played it seems aimed squarely at young children.
I'm willing to give developer United Front some slack at the moment, as the preview build is only packing a fraction of the content the final game will offer, but even so the bigger draw certainly comes from the game's creation tools. At a basic level, gamers who don't want to mess about with the track creator can quickly and easily knock together a customised Mod (your racer) and kart. It's all done via a series of easy to understand menus, and if you're really lazy the auto create option produces some funny results.
What the hardcore will want to jump into, though, is track design. This is split into the creation of the area in which your circuit is set and the layout of the track itself. I set about building a level in a jungle, although after 20 minutes the end result was like nothing I'd ever seen before, or should that be, like a mishmash of every other race track I'd seen before. It's a good job the sharing functionality, which will let users upload and play other people's creations, isn't working in this build, as I'd have been shamed by the community.