Platforms: PS3, 360, PC Version Tested: PS3
Before Techland had their zombie hit in Dead Island, they tried their hand at ATV racing in Nail’d. Mad Riders is the natural successor to that game and manages to improve on nearly every aspect.
What we have here is an un-ashamed arcade ATV racer with no sense of real-world handling or physics. It could well have come out of the EA Big stable back in the day (and is actually very similar in feel to EA’s Freekstyle) with all its postering and mad stunts in mid-air, but the game is brought back down to Earth a little by the rather more realistic scenery and riders, making for an interesting mish-mash of styles.
Graphically, Mad Riders isn’t the greatest game on the planet, but as a downloadable title it certainly does well enough for itself. Tracks are rife with vegetation, large statues, waterfalls and cliffs and it all moves at an incredible pace with little sign of slowdown. But use a boost and everything goes into blury mode. This wouldn’t be too bad if it wasn’t for the fact that tight corners are barely visible around cliffs at times and the blur effect makes it all the harder to see anything. Like the game itself, it seems a little too over the top.
You start off with a single choice of vehicle, although you can repaint it, and a set of tracks to race on. Stunts are gradually handed to you as you complete races, making for a good progression system which rewards constant play. The tricks are also needed to gain boost, which can often be the difference between winning and losing on later courses. Tricks are handled by the X button while in the air, but jumping is automatic, so a ramp or hump is required to launch your ATV off the road before you can pull them off.
As you progress through tracks and courses, unlocked via a three star system based on your position , new modes are added to the game. Initially, you’ll be racing for the top three places, but other tracks require you to run through gates in a time trial, find markers before other players or pull off the biggest stunts for top marks. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before, but Techland have managed to squeeze it all together into a fairly comprehensive package for a downloadable title, rivalling some full price software for content. Further ATVs with more powerful attributes are added as your skill increases, giving you a garage full of vehicles to choose from and even go back to if you feel like improving on older courses.
In addition to the main courses, progressing to a certain point will unlock the Off Road Challenges, a much more difficult set of tracks which rely on taking the path less riden. These are meant as a bonus and include time trials and ghost challenges, but some of these tracks are much better than the standard courses.
The biggest issue with Mad Riders, though, is that it doesn’t offer all that much of a challenge for seasoned racers until you open the last few sets of courses. There are no skill levels to choose from, so it all falls down to the online games. Now as this review is from a pre-release title, there are very few people online so my own experience of this is short and sweet, but games are easy to set up and there seemed to be very little lag at the time of playing. If enough people are enticed into playing this online it should certainly help the longevity of the game for those who’ve already exhausted every level.
It would be easy to pass Mad Riders off as a brainless arcade racer, but the impressive number of tracks, modes and the sheer fun of flying through the air while cartwheeling a massive machine over your head can’t be understated, particularly for a downloadable title at such a reasonable price.