ModNation Racers is a kart racing game developed by United Front Games for the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable. User generated content is a central aspect of the game, such that it uses the same "Play, Create, Share." adage as LittleBigPlanet to convey its basis in online user-generated content sharing and level creation tools. ModNation Racers for PlayStation 3 was announced and first shown publicly at E3 2009.
The PSP version was announced in February 2010. Both versions of the game were released in Europe on May 21, 2010, the UK on May 19 and North America on May 25. An online beta was made available for the PlayStation 3 in the U.S. in December 2009 and in Europe in January 2010.
Players are able to accelerate and drift, successful drifts allow players to fill their boost meter. The meter resembles a multi-tiered thermometer which allows players to the choice of activating a turbo boost to increase the kart's speed, a shield to protect their kart from incoming attacks or sideswiping other racers. Players are able to collect weapons as they race which can be upgraded to up to three levels of power, weapons include sonic attacks, missiles and lightning strikes. For example, a first level sonic attack emits a series of rings around the player knocking nearby opponents off the track while a third level sonic attacks sends the rings forward, knocking all racers ahead of the player off of the track. In addition to the emphasis on user-generated content, the game includes a full-fledged single-player mode featuring a story by professional Hollywood writers.
ModSpot is the main lobby area for ModNation Racers. Players can meet up, race, and create and download content. The ModSpot contains Race Station which has Online Race, Quick Race, Split-Screen and Career (Story Mode), Creation Station, where players create their Mods, Karts and Tracks, and also a share and shop points, Top Mods, Top Karts and Top Tracks, Coming Attractions to view upcoming DLC, Hot Lap where players can try to earn the best times on a track and a News Update screen. Players can start chats using text, voice or gestures.
When the game was first announced, it was likened to LittleBigPlanet to highlight the game's emphasis on customization. Players are able to design and create their own characters, vehicles and race tracks in great detail. The overall style of the cars and characters is based on vinyl art and collectors' toys, but players are able to greatly modify their clothing and overall look. Players are also able to create and modify race tracks using the in-game 'Track Studio' tool. This tool was showcased at Sony's E3 2009 press conference where one of the game's developers created a race track and its surroundings in a five-minute presentation. In April 2010, Infamous developer Sucker Punch Productions showcased the game's editing tools with a track based on Empire City, where Infamous is set.
Players start off by customizing their racer who begins as an all-white character model similar to Sackboy from LittleBigPlanet. Players can put various decals, different skins, masks, facial hair as well as other details on their racer. The material properties of certain customizable accessories allow players to make materials look more rubbery or metallic.
The track creation was designed to be user friendly and has been described as "probably one of the deepest you’ve ever seen in a racing game." The player drives over a flat terrain template and "paints" the road from the starting point of the race to the finish. The player can then modify things such as land deformation, lakes, mountains, surface texture, houses, item pick-ups, trees, animals and time-of-day settings. 30 staff-made circuits were available on release, according to United Front Games at E3 2009. Players can choose between 29 different types of terrain to create a track on. Landscapes can be sprayed onto the course using a virtual spray can such as dirt, sand, and tunnels. The game can auto-populate the track with items and ramps after the player creates the basic design. Players can set up moving obstacles such as the Devastator which drops a crusher from the sky to destroy vehicles based on a timer or a switch, other obstacles include spinning platforms and leaping enemies. Players can also take a snapshot for the thumbnail for the level which then allows the track to be posted in the online community. In addition, players can also create short cuts on tracks through specific track pieces or open terrain short cuts.
The story is focused around the player, commonly referred to as 'Tagger' or 'Tag', whom remains silent throughout in-game cutscenes. Biff Tradwell and Gary Reasons, commentators of the Modnation Racing Champion announce the qualifier of this season's MRC tour. Tag lives with his mother at their family run paintshop, where business has been slow for a long time. Upon showing an MRC poster to race to his mother, she informs him that his grandfather, Chief, is a crew-chief, which along with his own kart is all he requires to enter the qualifer. Chief, while critical of Tag's choice of kart decoration, agrees to be his crew-chief.
Upon qualifying for the MRC Tour and already becoming a popular contestant with fans for his unique style, Tag's Uncle Richard, head of Conservative Motors, a company responsible for cheap, bland and uninteresting karts, attempts to sign him up for a sponsorship deal which is quickly turned down. Halfway through the Home Tour, Tag's mother reveal that they're unable to afford the constant repairs to his kart. When the kart blows out, Tag's mother is inspired from her son's newfound popularity to reopen the paintshop as a bodyshop garage, becoming an instant hit with customers and allowing them to stay financially afloat.
During the 3rd Tour, Chief finds that the Boom Box Weapons System on Tag's kart is badly damaged, despite their supposed indesructability, and since they are expensive to replace, could risk Tag being unable to race. Tag's mother asks if the Boom Box from Chief's old kart is still functional after his racing wreck years ago, but Chief claims it was the reason he was unable to remain a racer. While working on repairs for Tag's kart the night before the Grim Tour, Chief discovers a bomb planted on the kart's undercarriage. Chief survives the explosion but falls into a coma. Not wanting for his mother to sell the paintshop to afford a new Boom Box, Tag reluctantly signs on to the Conservative Motors team, now being forced to race in a bland kart and racing outfit with no creative freedom, and to have Richard as his unexperienced crew-chief.
Eventually Chief recovers from his coma. Unhappy that Tag has signed onto the CM Team, he reveals that he actually retired from racing after being petrified from his wreck caused by MRC reigning champion Espresso, and that the Boom Box from his kart is still functional. He offers it to Tag so that he can remain in the race, break away from CM and get his creative freedom back. Tag wins the MRC Grand Tour, becoming the new champion of the MRC replacing Espresso. Chief gets his revenge on Espresso, and Uncle Richard is arrested as the culprit of the bomb on Tag's kart, in order to force Tag to sign onto the team.
The game was first announced at the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2009 cited as being a "thoroughly modern take on kart racing." Producer Dan Sochan stated that the PlayStation Network being free and the PlayStation 3 console's power were important factors when deciding to make ModNation Racers a PlayStation 3 exclusive game. During development, the aim has been to reduce the restrictions and limits the circuit building tool places on circuit design, to create as open an experience as possible. The circuits themselves won't necessarily have to be realistic as various obstacles, launchers and the like will be available, as well as some new and original weapons. In addition United Front Games, the developers of ModNation Racers, have a "great relationship" with LittleBigPlanet developer Media Molecule. At Gamescom 2009 in August, the developers confirmed that ModNation Racers was to have 4-player split screen and an online where twelve people could join in on a single race.
Sony announced a range of pre-order incentives featuring video game characters. Kratos (from God of War) and his Kart of Chaos, Ratchet and Clank (from Ratchet & Clank) with their HoverKart, Nathan Drake (from Uncharted) with a Jungle Jeep Kart, and Sackboy (from LittleBigPlanet), with his Cardboard Kart.
A demo was released on the PlayStation Store one week prior to the game's release. It includes limited Track, Mod and Kart creation tools and offline multiplayer and single player races.
A month prior to the game's release, an event was held in PlayStation Home in a special events space called The Backstage Pass and the event was called the "ModSpot Challenge". The challenge was for users to run around the dedicated area of the space and search for certain Mods. This event began on April 29, 2010 in the European and North American versions. On May 7, 2010 GameSpot began to give away Air Raid downloadable content to their members. On May 27, 2010, a dedicated Game Space was released in PlayStation Home for ModNation Racers called the ModNation Club. The space features a Sticky Wall where users can create their own stickers and it also features a kart race minigame based on ModNation Racers. Sweet Tooth (from Twisted Metal) with his "ice cream truck" is available from July 6, 2010 as a download from PlayStation Store. ModNation Racers is also available as a social multiplayer game on Facebook. On May 16, 2011, Sony announced that along with LittleBigPlanet, inFAMOUS, Super Stardust HD, and Wipeout HD Fury, the PSP edition of ModNation racers would be given for free on the PlayStation Store for 30 days as a welcome back gesture after the PSN outage.
ModNation Racers received mostly positive reviews. It was rated 9 out of 10 by IGN who commended the game for its excellent kart racing mechanics and the robust level design tools stating, "If you can dream it, you really can make it in ModNation Racers." Gamers Globe, a Danish gaming website, also rated ModNation Racers 9 out of 10, and said "the game isn't a creative breakthrough as LittleBigPlanet or a go-kart game so complete as Mario Kart - it's a solid combination of both, which borrows the best of two worlds." Eurogamer scored the game 7 out of 10, criticising long load times and saying that the dynamic game difficulty can make the player feel like they're "operating at a distinct disadvantage" but that when playing online or split-screen against other human players, "ModNation allows its own charm to shine through".