If you ever rode a high speed train (in France, in the Euro Tunnel or who knows, maybe even in the Japanese Maglev), the notion of colored lines of landscape flying by is a known fact. If not, then play nail’d to discover what crazy speed and impossible jumps mean. ‘Extreme’ is the operative word for everything that takes place in this game, from the carrier mode to the rare, but intense online matches.
The idea is very simple: you have a Tournament with a series of events where you compete on an ATV or light motorbike; no story, no fuss, just off-road tracks where you spend your time both flying and hitting mountain tracks, beaches, snowy passes or jumping on helicopter-sustained platforms. Personally, I went for the bike in these events because I found them easier to control and more responsive in sudden turns and aerial handling than the ATV.
The events come in 3 flavors (plus one more from the DLC):
- Simple races with three laps, where you preferably have to win, but a podium finish is enough to unlock the next races;
- Stunt Challenges, where it isn’t an issue to be number one (although you do get bonus points for it), but to perform spectacular jumps, land on all wheels or kick your opponents off the track;
- Time Attack, where you start out with a fixed amount of time and you get more by reaching checkpoints before the timer expires. By far, these were the most annoying races, not necessarily because the time is too short, but because you need to be almost all the time at warp speed, so some gameplay defects just stand out more than in the other types of races;
- From the DLC comes Detonator, where a bomb is randomly attached to a player and he gets to pass it on if he manages to perform spectacular jumps using boost.
The basis for the insane show are the boost (the flaming meter that fills up based on stunts or crossing through burning gates and rings) and the unnatural long jumps, practically flights during which you can (and must) control the bike / ATV to land in the right spot, not to get smudged on a rock. But it’s not all that easy when you fly like a bird: balloons, zeppelins, huge wind mills, mountain tops and high trees form partially moving obstacles, so you must watch out not to hit those while still keeping the right direction. The bike or the ATV can be steered so that jumps can be longer or shorter, so that you hit a platform or just barely get under the arch of a gallery.
The races are very intense thanks to the amazing speeds, which sport an incredible blur that transforms the landscape into lines that fly by you like chased by 1000 devils. You barely have the time to see the red directional arrows and you actually miss those quite often, “helped” by some weird corners made by the camera. On the other hand, the boosted speeds not only have blur, but also turn the landscape black and white, an annoying feature because the tracks are really varied and beautiful and full of surprises. As you win races, you get to know the tracks by heart (10 in the standard version, 14 with the DLC) and I can say that after 5, 6 runs, I concluded that the brake is more of an option in the menus than a real need.
Upgrades and mutations
In order to somehow compensate for the 1000 plus cars in GT5 or the gull wings from the NFS Lamborghinis, Techland decided that the ATVs and bikes can be improved, from the handling bar to the rear fender; components are unlocked as you win races, it’s just that you have to go to the garage to see what you get. Engines, exhausts, steering, wheels, color schemes are all important in the vehicle’s behavior: a better aerial control hinders the terrestrial one a bit, more boots means a slower rate of filling, higher top speed means less handling. Each upgrade has pros and cons, not essential to win, but at least worth testing to see in how many ways you can smash your virtual biker into trees and rocks.
Depending on the type of Race or a choice in Quick Races and multiplayer settings, we’ve also got some mutations that change the rules: No Collision transforms the opponents into ghosts, so a gold cup is won strictly with talent, not by kicking others from a bridge. Boost Madness keeps the boost meter always full and you use it all the time, especially for time attack races. And this is the moment when you don’t see anything around you anymore, you just mash buttons, pray for a good turn and to avoid the masts of a ship that you happen to fly by at the moment.
Baring the single-player tournament, nail’d has other means of pitting you against the AI, in random Quick Races or a specifically set number of tracks and opponents (up to a maximum of 12). But don’t get fooled by the Custom Track option, because it’s not an editor, just the ability to set some parameters for the existing tracks, which is a real bummer.