I tend to play things safe and not enter into danger unless it’s totally necessary. That’s why I’m a big softie with a fat belly; too much playing video games on the couch and not enough real world action. So if given the opportunity to drive a motorbike off a cliff in real life or in a video game, I’d probably choose the video game. I wouldn’t say I was scared, rather not totally stupid.
Despite there being a whole host of All Terrain Vehicle racing games in existence, I’ve not played very many of them. The last was probably Excitebike 64 back in 2001, ages ago. Now in 2011 Nail’d from Deep Silver gives me the chance to safely enjoy the thrills and spills of stunt biking and quad racing from the comfort of my own home. Who needs to go out into the big bad world eh?
Generally racing games fall into three categories:
- Simulation Racers such as Gran Turismo
- Arcade Racers such as Motorstorm
- Party Racing such as Mario Kart
Nail’d definitely fits into the arcade category and in some ways even crosses over into Mario Kart territory with some crazy features but more on those later.
Stunt/Dirt/Off Road racing is a traditionally an extreme sport but Nail’d takes things further into the realms of the impossible. Yes you’ll be dirt racing through the usual twisty and climby tracks made up with the likes of mud, snow and sand; but to spice things up a bit massive death defying jumps and special moves are called into play.
The game features 14 fictional tracks spread across real world locations like Arizona, Greece, and the Andes. All of the locations are realistic looking and the designers have focused on using the natural landscape and scenery such as: trees, water streams and rocks as the majority of your obstacles. But this isn’t purely a nature trip so you can expect to dodge a few man made obstacles such as: oncoming trains, wind turbines and even a crashed jumbo jet.
The single player tournament puts you up against 11 CPU bots in a long winded series of 1,2,3,4,6 or even 8 race events. Your blindingly obvious goal is to race to the finish of each event in the top three to progress onwards. However doing so successfully is another matter because the game isn’t just looking for racers that can navigate twists, turns and jumps, no no no.
As you race along either on your ATV or MTX a bright orange boost meter slowly fills up. At maximum capacity this gives you around twelve seconds of boost power to speed you along. Now of course you end up using this almost instantly and as races spanning many miles, the emphasis is on you to fill it up again. You do this by pulling of special tricks called boost feats that fill your meter at a quicker rate than usual. Here are some examples:
- Whilst jumping you can control your landing angle. If you can successfully get all 2/4 wheels to land evenly you will earn a Touchdown boost feat.
- Driving along a wall for three seconds earns the Looking Down on Others boost feat.
- Crashing sideways into another racer and knocking them off the track earns you a Punchbag boost feat.
The harder it is to pull off a boost feat, the more it will fill your boost gauge. Driving through orange boost gates only gives you a small amount of Nitro whereas landing on top of an opponent smashing them to pieces, will fill it up completely. Knowing the best opportunities to perform these tricks is essential to winning the races on the harder courses.
If that wasn’t enough to contend with then the mutations could throw you for a loop. Boost Madness gives you (and your opponents) a never ending supply of boost power that will make you feel like you’re racing at 1000mph. No collision turns off contact between racers therefore making races much less about knocking your opponents off a cliff or into a cactus. You could say it makes things much more like a traditional racer and you’d be right.
Sometimes instead of pure racing you’ll instead be performing in a stunt challenge, this isn’t quite as different as it sounds. Rather than just race to the finish you’ll also need to rack up Boost Feats to earn points as well as Nitro, so now the player at the end of the race with the most points actually wins. It must be said that I hardly had to differ from my usual racing style in the stunt challenges, so don’t worry too much about it if you’re not one who likes to perform wheelies all the time.
As you progress through the tournament you unlock new upgrades (and paint jobs) for your vehicles. Before each series of events you can change the Exhaust, Handlebars, Suspension, Engine and Wheels to suit your racing style. Each change will alter your bike’s attributes in a number of ways including; Steering, Boost and Acceleration. I generally didn’t fiddle in the garage too much and found myself just upgrading to each new part as it came along – if you enjoy tinkering to get the perfect setup then you could probably get some extra performance here and there.
If you’re a multiplayer loving freak then you might be worried that I haven’t mentioned it yet, don’t fret, I just wanted to get the singleplayer stuff over with first – that’s all. For those that to play online or via a link cable you’re more than catered for here. You and up to eleven others can all experience Nail’d together in harmony. Those that like to customise the game settings can do so and create a public match for friends or random people to join, if you’re not fussy which map you want to race on or if collision is enabled or not then just head into Quick Match to get racing.
At the moment I don’t have any friends with the game so I just went online against random people and found the racing to be tough but fair, it may benefit you to finish the single player tournament first because you’ll find many of the shortcuts and alternative routes which may save you a few seconds each lap.
So how does the game actually shape up? What’s good and what’s bad?
The racing is very fast and very frantic, the well designed tracks mix a whole host of different challenges to the racer. Everything from the rocks on the ground to the 200ft jumps (or is that falls?) down cliffs can play a part in weather you win or lose. You will have fun at first but things can get a little boring racing CPU’s all the time. It is at that point you’ll have to play with friends if you want to enjoy the game ti the max.
Visually the game isn’t the best you’ve ever seen but the environments and locations are very pretty to look at all the same. The weather effects are spectacular and I rather enjoyed it when mud and water splashed up onto the screen blocking my view of the action. Most importantly of all the frame rate never drops and the draw distance is huge.
The soundtrack is full of hard rock from the likes of the Backyard Babies, Queens of the Stone Age and Aggressive Chill – the music perfectly suits the game but in the end I got so fed up of hearing it that I turned it off. The 104 race long tournament is a slog to finish (even on easy mode) and is just too long for its own good, it really felt like a chore to finish off the campaign. If it wasn’t for the wealth of gamer-score points and achievements I probably would have given up much earlier and just played online.
Overall there is fun to be had here; the game doesn’t excel in any one area at all perhaps aside from the rather excellent track design – however it equally isn’t bad in one area either. One thing that did disappoint was that there isn’t much difference in controlling either the Quad Bike or the Motorbike, they do handle a little differently but not enough to make you choose one over the other before each race. Maybe those with more persistence with tweaking the body parts in the garage may end up with a favorite but I was happy to drive (and win) with either. On your own there is little replay value to be had, however the multiplayer and extensive leaderboards will keep you busy for a bit longer.
In the end you probably just want me to give a score out of ten and be done with it, well here goes: 7 out of 10.
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