What would happen if you took the ATVs from Techland’s 2010 racing game Nail’d and put them into a downloadable game by the same developer, without those pesky MX bikes? Well if you’re using an updated version of the Chrome Engine, then you would most certainly be talking about Mad Riders, Techland’s new follow-up to Nail’d ‘s crazy off-road racing style, but with a few added surprises thrown in for good measure. While the first game was a retail product published by Deep Silver, Techland’s latest venture is now in the hands of Ubisoft and has been released for download via PSN. So does this new installment significantly improve on the ideas from Nail’d while also improving the Chrome Engine?
While there’s no story in Mad Riders, the game really doesn’t need one. You play as an unnamed driver with your objective being to place first in a long running, world spanning tournament. For each event you have to place within the top three in order to pass the event and earn stars which are used to unlock the next world. Each world features five different events. There are the standard race events which make the player go from A to B, but with the added twist is that there are insane jumps and serpentine pathways galore. Other types include the checkpoint races where you have to speed through checkpoints within a set amount of time and earn time extensions for each checkpoint reached, and there are stunt races where the player has to earn points by performing tricks. Each world also has some elite races that are accessible from a different submenu within the game. These races are more difficult and usually consist of checkpoint races where the precision required is as fine as a razor’s edge. Within the elite races there are also ghost races where the player has to beat an AI ghost from a professional player. In total, there are 45 different levels that will test your racing mettle.
Perhaps the most striking feature of Mad Riders is the sense of speed. Your ATV will move very fast and the motion blur effects along with a buttery smooth framerate from the Chrome Engine do a great job of making it feel like you’re really moving. Further to this, the game also places a heavy emphasis on the use of boost in order to get ahead. While the game’s controls are fairly precise and good driving is key, boosting is the only guaranteed way to keep yourself in the lead. Performing stunts in races and collecting boost icons around the track can also help in managing your boost gauge. Additionally, some levels also feature multiple shortcuts that can be accessed using special tokens that can be collected as you race. These tokens also grant access to boost recharges that can be triggered at set points much like the shortcuts.
But the speed with which this game moves is sometimes to its detriment, as there are a few moments where some of the mechanics don’t integrate well with how fast the ATVs drive. The most major of these problems is the reset system. Every racing game has some form of reset where your car, kart, or, in this case, ATV is reset back onto the course following you losing control and going wildly off course. Unfortunately, Mad Riders features a reset system that seems to be set on a hair trigger. Like an overprotective mother watching her child at the playground, even the slightest deviation from the course can lead to a reset prompt being issued for the player. You may still be in control of your vehicle, but the game’s reset system will pop-up an on-screen prompt. Now this wouldn’t be so bad if there weren’t occasions where the game also just autoresets the player, and ignores player input entirely. It’s pretty absurd at times and has cost me more more than a few races where I was in first place at the time that this occurred. Further adding to this frustration is that there is no way to tweak or change this within the game’s rather spartan options menu.
The penalty for being reset is also pretty steep as you may find that your second or third place position get’s quickly usurped causing you to reset into sixth or seventh place. Considering that this can happen pretty often, especially on new or unfamiliar tracks, you would think that Techland would have made this penalty a bit less severe. However, I do want to say that the races in the game are a lot of fun to play. The later races are nice because they give you so much freedom as to which path to take and which jumps to ramp from. However, my problem comes from some of the variants. The stunt races are fine for the most part, but performing stunts in Mad Riders feels very stiff at times. This is very true in some stunt specific events where the player isn’t given enough air time to perform certain moves. But of all of the variants I think the checkpoint races are probably my least favorite. Those races require both a high level of control precision and some luck. The former is easier to come by provided that the physics algorithm doesn’t trigger a reset. So having a huge measure of the latter is really what those races boil down to.
Online racing works well, but there can be some lag spikes when trying to go at speed. But the online tracks are the same ones from the single player and so once you’ve exhausted the single player you can try your hand at playing the world in multiplayer. In some ways, the online feels tacked onto the experience, but it’s nice if you have some friends to race against. Oddly, the online suite also features LAN support if you want to create your own LAN party for the game instead of playing over PSN. Either way the connectivity is good and the online plays as well as the single player.
In a weird way, Mad Riders is a game that seems to have too many different race types. The fact is that the game seems to be at its best when the event is just a simple race. When the screen takes on an almost fish-eye presentation complete with motion blur, insane jumps, and boosts the game shows that it is indeed a successor to Nail’d. Unfortunately, the overbearing reset system makes many of the races feel less like a game of skill and more like a game of luck. Still, I can’t deny the innate Pavlovian satisfaction that comes from playing the game and – if you have some friends willing to share in the experience – the online suite is well constructed, if not tacked on to the experience. Regardless of your love for Techland’s previous outing, anyone considering diving into Mad Riders may want to try the demo first.
PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score
+ An amazing sense of speed.
+ Variety to the off-road tracks featuring some insane ramps and jumps.
– Reset system may make you throw your controller at the screen!