One of the most anticipated PS3 titles of the year is releasing on Tuesday, and since we don't have a copy to review, I'll just give my impressions on the demo, which seems promising but does have some flaws.
ModNation Racers is Sony's answer to MarioKart any way you slice it. It's just cartoony go karts racing each other down funny little courses. Same as MarioKart, right? Not completely. There aren't any Sony characters in the game, unless you create them yourself or preorder the game, so the star appeal of MarioKart just isn't there. It probably would have been a good idea to make guys like Kratos, Solid Snake and some guy from Resistance the main characters of this game and let the gamer create the others on the side, but Sony San Diego, also the developers of the MLB: The Show series, decided to go completely in the mod direction as the title implies.
The demo did let us mod the characters and other things but we couldn't actually use them though the options seemed varied and different. My guy looked like an extra in the Road Warrior for god's sake. This is the advantage it does have over MarioKart: customization. You don't just have stock characters to use or limited numbers of tracks, it's LittleBig Planet on wheels basically. There's no option to put things like the Miis everywhere in the track like in Wii MarioKart but I can live with that. (Though I did get tremendous satisfaction in that game out of seeing Hank Hill or Zoidberg's face looking at me as I went through a tunnel).
Another advantage it has is the weapons. They are fewer in number but can be powered up as you get more items. There aren't unfair things like the Blue Shell or the Rocket from the back either. There are just awesome things like force fields, rockets and lightning to go along with the typical boost, which you can also gain through drifting and flying through the air. However, when you do get hit, there also isn't the same penalty as in MarioKart, as you don't fall off cliffs or get completely stuck; you just get put into a wall basically. Combine this with the ultra sensitive driving on the higher speed classes, and there's a problem.
The speed classes themselves though are awesome. You can essentially adjust the sense of speed to your liking. Whether you want the race to be fast and sensitive or slow and easy, it's up to you. On the fast level, it's just insane. And on the slow level it feels like a Sunday walk in the park, which is what they obviously were going for so it succeeds in those respects.
Overall, playing the demo, it seems like it could have the potential to surpass MarioKart based on its customization but it's not yet known if the racing and items hold up over the longterm. We'll see soon enough as it releases on May 25th.