I’m not normally the type of gamer who would be interested in an ATV racing game. In fact, when MX vs. ATV Reflex came out, I was offered a free copy from a sponsor on a sports site and I sold it, site unseen to a friend. But after hearing the positive buzz about nail’d
, I had to give it a shot. And I’m really glad I did.
Though I previously had never played an ATV game, that’s not to say I’m a racing novice. Between the Need for Speed, Cruisin’, and Test Drive franchises, I have a lot of virtual racing time under my belt. Of course, there’s a big difference between street and off-road racing, so when I compare nail’d to anything, to me it’s more like Excite Truck than any other racer I’ve played. The comparison, I think is a favorable one, because I really enjoyed Excite Truck and I really enjoy nail’d.
Like Excite Truck, nail’d doesn’t exactly adhere to the laws of gravity or reality in the course of racing. Sure, you start with a guy, an ATV, a course, and a bunch of racers. But once the race starts things start getting crazy. There are blimps, helicopters carrying burning rings (more on that in a minute), and need I mention a bunch of those wacky armed inflatable guys? Definitely not your mothers ATV game.
The courses themselves are about 80% what you’d expect. Trees and trails, canyons and caves, with plenty of twists and turns and a bit of water are all there. But it’s that other 20% that goes way, way, WAY off the beaten path. Whether it’s driving on old train tracks, what seems to be the remains of a rollercoaster, or through the innards of a downed jumbo jet, you get the feeling there was some drinking going on during the late night planning sessions for this game.
Now back to that helicopter carrying burning rings bit from earlier; ATVs in nail’d come equipped with a KITT-esque turbo boost, that not only allows you to fly with an appropriately cool “whooshing” sound and blurred background, but also recharges whenever you land certain tricks, or pass between posts (or through rings) of fire. The boost is especially helpful immediately following the numerous crashes you’re likely to be part of especially on the trickier courses.
The single-player campaign in nail’d is comprised of multiple race series in which you must finish first or second in order to advance through each series in order to move on to the next. Each series increases in difficulty to the point where after the first few series, I had to race some courses multiple times in order to consistently finish in the top 2. The increases in difficulty are gradual enough that my skill seemed to progress along with the courses.Skill is only one way your racing will improve. Another is through customizing your vehicle. You start with two sets of parts that you can use to customize the performance of your ATV. You earn more available parts for good performances in races or by completing achievements. Each part affects the performance of the vehicle in a different way; a half-dozen or so different parameters allows you to build a fairly customized ride.
Once you’ve given yourself enough time to increase your skill and build out your ATV, it’s time to head to the area where nail’d enjoys it’s best hope at some real longevity; multiplayer. The highlight is “Detonator” mode, part of the included DLC, a hot-potato like race where the rider with the bomb at the end eventually goes boom. Simple and Free Races are all about being fastest, while Stunt Challenge is about who can do the most tricks in the time allowed. Tricks are more limited than I first thought they’d be, but pulling them off consistently is enough of a challenge that it doesn’t feel overly lacking in the area of stunts.
One of the last things that I personally enjoyed is that customizing your racer doesn’t let you see his face in a very Stig-like manner, which I think fans of Top Gear will enjoy. While you can customize the racers outfit, and the paint job of the ATV, there isn’t much to the visual component changes for the bike and driver. I personally didn’t mind this as it sort of keeps the focus on the racing.
That’s not to say nail’d is without faults. In a racing game with a lot of crazy obstacles, crashes are common. And from the initial results of a crash, it looks like nail’d could utilize it’s physics engine pretty well to display some fun and over the top crashes. Unfortunately the developers chose to get you up and racing again instead. I’m not a fan of being dropped significantly when you crash, but at the same time, there’s an over the top vibe going, and then you can’t see your crashes to completion? Especially when the crashes could be a truly spectacular addition to the game, it seems like a real miss.
The graphics overall aren’t bad, but I do notice that sometimes while racing even without boost it can be very difficult to pick up the trail. Coloring seems to be the biggest culprit here, as there are some areas where it’s very easy to see the trail. There are a great many signs marking major turns, and the fact that there is more than one way to make your way through each course is a boon. But when you’ve really got to make a turn and it’s difficult to see the course, it can be frustrating.
Finally, the soundtrack is exactly what you’d expect for this type of game: loud and guitar heavy. I was hoping for a bit more variety as frankly a lot of the songs seemed to roll right into the next with so little difference in tempo or style that it made it difficult to understand why effort was put into adding more than one song to the game. There were a couple I liked, but the rest seemed nothing more than background noise and didn’t add much to the game.
What it comes down to in the end, is that the game accomplishes what it set out to be: fun. There are a bunch of things I’d tweak, and for the game to have enough replay ability, I hope there are several more multiplayer tracks in the offing. I enjoyed playing nail’d, and I’m definitely going back to finish the single player campaign. I would
recommend the game to fans of ATV racing or those who don’t want to take their racing too seriously.