ModNation Racers PSP comes so close to its PlayStation 3 counterpart that it's impossible not to compare the two titles. Sadly, that's detrimental to ModNation Racers PSP because, for everything the game gets right, the drifting component feels 'off'. However, if you're able to overcome the issue you'll find a super deep kart-racer with some great multiplayer options.
ModNation Racers PSP should not really be considered a wholly different game to the PlayStation 3 version. The career mode, tracks and functionality are largely similar, if not exactly the same. This is still a combat-based kart racer in which you'll still be creating, racing and sharing — you'll just be doing it on the move this time.
Such are ModNation Racers PSP's similarities to its older-HD brother, it's perhaps more interesting to start this review with the differences. Very slight changes to the PSP version inherently affect the gameplay — namely the drifting mechanic which is so smooth in the PlayStation 3 version. Here it feels tight and clunky. It saps the fun out of taking super long corners and building up boost points on the way. Unlike in the console version, where you're able to swing your drifts from side-to-side, the PSP version sticks to a rather stiff rigid path — meaning your drifts usually end up side on with a wall. It's something you can adapt to with a few hours play, but it makes the PSP version of the game feel like the PS3 version at beta. Not quite there yet.
It's even more gutting when you take the time to consider all the things ModNation Racers PSP does the same in a positive way. Despite the complex mechanics, ModNation Racers PSP maps out pretty well to the PSP's controls, with two available set-ups extremely playable. The game also looks fantastic on the PSP — comparable to the PlayStation 3 release, with plenty of objects littering the track sides.
Amazingly, the creation mechanics are here in full with the Mod, Kart and Track studio all as usable on the PSP version as on PS3. The use of layered stickers to create impressive effects is notably absent from the PSP version, but there's still plenty of scope to create new interesting characters and, of course, these can be uploaded and shared on the Internet. As impressive as Kart and Mod creation is in ModNation Racers PSP, it's the Track studio that will blow your mind. This is practically like-for-like to the PS3 version and, while it's perhaps a little more fiddly to use on the PSP's control setup, the results are just as good. In fact, having checked out a range of user-generated tracks on both PSP and PS3, we'd say the PSP user-base has the edge on creating interesting and focused tracks. Perhaps this is due to limitations imposed by the PSP leading to greater focus, or perhaps this is because there are no trophies to obsess over.
Multiplayer is understandably simplistic but enjoyable, with open lobbies allowing up to six players to race on packaged or user-generated tracks. We didn't experience any noticeable lag during races, and there are even leaderboards and XP to keep track of.
It's just a shame that the drifting doesn't feel better, because that's a compromise that saps a chunk of fun out of the experience. Still, if you're looking for a solid PSP kart racer then there's nothing better out there than ModNation Racers PSP. The racing is fun, the create options are excellent and even the multiplayer's noteworthy. It's a great achievement.