The folks behind nail’d really pushed it to be wilder, edgier four wheeling/dirt bike racing than other current games in the market with this theme like Pure, the MX vs. ATV series from THQ, and Motorstorm. So, right off the bat, it is evident that this game will at least attempt to do everything “to the extreme!” A couple of months ago when I was selecting what games I might want to review, this game definitely peaked my interest. I’ve personally have always been a fan of the racing genre, and love it when a company can get the “off road” experience right, and I was hoping this could maybe give some competition to developers like THQ so that they don’t simply rest on their current formula and “milk the cash cow.” Unfortunately, the aforementioned company has little to worry about from this game.
The first thing the game takes you through is a tutorial that tells you about the main points of the game and what certain objects are (like various “gates of fire” that when gone through refill the Boost gauge). After taking those three laps, you can then choose what mode of play you would like to partake in next. The main single player offering is Tournament, in which there are different levels of competitions (from amateur showcases to “Pro” style events). With 49 races total between you and taking home the nail’d Trophy, the objective is to place in the top three of each event. To try and keep pace with the other games on the market, nail’d offers two event types. The first is simple race, which is simply go faster than the other competitors and try to take home gold, silver, or bronze to advance. The positive thing here is that there are 12 racers in each race, you and 11 other CPU members. I was honestly pretty impressed with the relatively high number considering this isn’t exactly a AAA title. The second one, however, just seems spliced in. Stunt Challenge is like most of the ones you’re familiar with, which is scoring as many points as possible in a certain amount of time. But there are serious flaws in the way that this game offers that goal. For starters, there are no designed Freestyle courses, you simply drive along one of the race tracks, and the first participant to cross the finish line on the third circuit ends that particular event. And being the first across the stripe doesn’t give you a points bonus or anything, you just end it. So if you were first in track position, but fifth in points, you would finish in fifth (hope that makes sense). But the worst part is that you don’t pull off traditional “tricks” to rack up points. Oh no my friends, you will not be hurling your bikini-clad female driver through the air and trying to pull of a stripper backflip, or even a relatively simple nac-nac. Instead, this game has you doing Boost Feats, which range from knocking into other competitors to make them wreck, “smooth landings” on two or four wheels after a jump, driving through a particular part of the course without crashing, and going through the Boost pick-ups. The only real “trick” to speak of that scores points is a wheelie, that just consists of pulling back on the left thumbstick and balancing yourself on the back set of wheels. This is so fundamentally disappointing that I hated doing these events in Tournament mode, even though they are relatively easy and stress free. If this hollow premise was coupled with a frustratingly high difficultly level, I’m not sure what I would have done, but it wouldn’t have been good! The other two modes worth noting are single race and stunt event, time trial, and custom tournament. Oh, and by the way, there is no split screen multiplayer in this game, which should be a standard feature in an arcade style racer like this.
The gameplay elements are probably the worst component of this game, which is very unfortunate. I would venture to say that most racing game fans could forgive the above sins if the game was just a blast to play. One that was easy to pick up, hard to be great at, but would be so much fun that you would want to take the time to learn how the ATV and MotoX Bike handle in certain scenarios, find good shortcuts on each track, learning little “tricks” that make your laps times quicker, ect. But nail’d simply doesn’t do that. The first problem comes in the vehicles themselves. As I said, Deep Silver/Techland really “called their shot” when it came to advertising this game by calling out the real heavyweights in the off road racing landscape. So in accordance, they decided to develop both ATVs and Motocross Bikes. The four wheeler actually handles pretty good on the track, and the physics seem right with it (such as flinging off of ramps and landing). The amount of speed you have when jumping does seem to be in relatively good proportion to how high and how far you travel in the air along with your hang time. But as okay as the ATV is, the MTX experience is just as bad, if not worse. The handling and physics just don’t seem right, and the bike doesn’t have any real unique characteristics (like leaning into a turn). It feels like the ATV was cut in half and elongated. Just plain bad. Also, it is unnecessary to ever have to let up on the right trigger to slow down, definitely no braking. Absolutely every corner, turn, straightaway, ect. can be handled with WOT (wide open throttle) with no decrease in handling or stability. Even for this style of game, some elements of actually racing and not just driving with others should have been developed.
Sticking with gameplay stinks, the way in which the levels are designed and play are the weakest part of this game. Okay, I understand that this is a racing game, and fairness must reign supreme to create an evenly competitive environment. At the same time, this is an off road, arcade style racer, and staying inbounds is way to strict. There was one time in particular that I was taking a turn, and drifted just behind the turn indicator, and without hitting anything, my ATV exploded into a million pieces, and I was greeted with the infamous respawning screen. Understandable if the punishment for being “out of the groove” was a loss in handling or slower speed until I fought my way back onto the track, but to shatter my vehicle and potentially make me lose positions just seems a little over zealous. Staying with the whole respawn thing for a minute, this is another big misstep. Every time you crash, you are met with a white screen with the nail’d logo and a respawning bar that determines how much track time you will lose. And the time you are suspended from the track for each crash is chosen seemingly at random by the game (between 2-8 seconds). Another guessing game is when a wreck might actually occur. Some objects will always make you wreck when hitting them, but others, you never know. Certain “hurdles” in the various types of tracks (snowy cliffs, desert runs, ect.) like boulders could make you crash out one lap, and then simply bounce of off them the next. This game of roulette adds a small level of anxiety that brings down the fun factor. Even with this, there were numerous times where I would wreck two or three times a lap while leading a race, AND NEVER GET PASSED! But the worst of the worst in gameplay mechanics is the level design. In many ways, a clean lap is not the goal, rather wrecking the least amount of times. I feel this ideology is wrong. A good run is predicated on knowing when to hit the boost and when to lay off, another fundamental flaw. Any boost that one may have should be used simply to race the other competitors and have an edge against them to advance one’s position. At no point should it be necessary to use boost to simply complete a successful circuit around the track. Alas, this is the way of this game as a whole. Some jumps are simply impossible without hitting the L1 button to get the needed push. But the most annoying design are the few instances where going to fast is a problem! For example, on a course called Dam Buster, there is a jump that leads over a cliff onto a lower part of the course. Instead of having another ramp waiting on the other side, or just open terrain, there is a tree branch that hangs over the landing in that particular groove of the racetrack. So you find yourself in a quandary, do I lay off the boost and fall into the abyss to respawn, or do I go as fast as possible and run into the fallen tree to respawn? Again, this is an arcade-y off road experience, and has been publicized as a “white knuckle” thrill ride, and the player gets punished for pushing it to 11?
More disappointment comes in the presentation of the game. On the plus side, the soundtrack is pretty good, and fits well in the game with tracks from hard rock acts like Queens of the Stone Age to metal heavyweights Slipknot and Jamey Jasta from Hatebreed. This is where the good stops. I was initially excited to see a PS3 game set in full 1080p so that I could give my LED some exercise. But instead of P90X, my TV got Jazzercised. The graphics lack polish, varied textures, colors, details, ect. Everything seems to blend together in a rather “murky” style. Another quirky omission is the lack of “change view” option. If you don’t like the semi-close third person view the game gives you, too bad that’s all you’re getting. This is another basic racing game element that was left out of this title.