Nail’d is unrelenting. A wild, savage beast of a racer intent on providing thrills and spills to such an extent that launching yourself off a vertical rock face and crashing head first into an arched rock formation is a normal, unremarkable occurrence – an everyday event in the world of Nail’d.
If this kind of thing happened in real-life, in a movie or even in another videogame it would be considered a big event, something – for better or worse – to be made a big deal of. In Nail’d it’s par for the course, a trivial event sure to happen a few more times before the race is concluded.
This extreme, ‘arcadey’ nature is its greatest triumph and its biggest flaw. What it lacks in subtlety it makes up for in sheer, all pistons-pumping craziness but, as a result of the constant visceral barrage, the extreme soon becomes the mundane.
Nail’d is, presumably, aimed squarely at a crowd who previously spent their Sunday afternoons glued to Motorstorm, Pure and, looking further back through the crystal ball, Sled Storm. The problem is that while it outguns all of those in its complete disregard for the Newtonian laws of physics, it fails to capture the same sense of scale, the same feeling of accomplishment for taking the chequered flag or the same desire to complete that perfect lap.
The problem is that there’s nothing to ground the experience; the lack of ‘regular’ track sections or serious gameplay mechanics mean you never have a chance to pause and appreciate the physic-bending insanity you’ve just put your daredevil-alter-ego-‘extreme’-racer-participant-person through.
For example, racing across the near vertical side of a dam – as you desperately try to avoid powerful water outlets waiting to throw you into the watery depths below – quickly becomes tiresome and repetitive because every stretch of track is equally outlandish. This means nothing – no matter how crazy – ever stands out as being particularly special or interesting,
It’s clear the design team have been over-eager in their attempts to create something that’s gnarly, rad and/or bitchin’.
As is traditional for the genre, your vehicle selection consists of either an ATV (read: quad-bike) or MTX (read: dirt bike). Unfortunately, the difference in performance between the two is negligible; their acceleration, speed and handling all extremely similar. After a few races you’ll come to a decision as to which vehicle you prefer based entirely on aesthetics and will likely never look back. For me the quad bikes are the weapon of choice. Four wheels are better than two, a personal philosophy.
What’s bizarre is that, for such a ‘gnarly’ game, neither of your vehicle options allows the performing of tricks. At times it seems as though you’re falling, soaring or gliding across some ravine or down into some abyss for a good ten seconds before coming back into contact with solid ground with little else to do but position yourself for the perfect landing. There’s not a 900-degree Circumcision Spin or Inverted McTwizzle Swizzle Grab in sight, for shame.
Despite the lack of trick ‘support’, you do have an enormous level of control over your speed and positioning while in mid-air, so much control in fact that it barely feels any different from racing along the ground.
Again, this highlights Nail’d’s unique talent in making the spectacular feel utterly ordinary; a heart attack inducing plunge into infinity reduced to little more than an exercise in positioning. In-flight speed can be controlled by applying your boost (predominately earned by hitting ‘fire gates’ sprinkled across the track) or by pulling back on the left-stick which results in your rider raising the nose of your vehicle – leading to significantly increased air time and travel distance. Quite how the science behind such an act works is still under investigation.
Steering is simply a matter of… well… steering. It’s as easy, and as effective, as that. While it does provide a degree of satisfaction in being able to alter your velocity so accurate through empty space, the novelty soon wears off. Less is more is obviously not a mantra the team at Techland are familiar with. A reduced level of control would have gone a long way in providing the sense of speed and danger they’ve surely attempted to convey.
However, the ability to manoeuvre so accurately during flight is almost essential in successful navigation of the wild track layouts. Many of the jumps are coupled with a selection of landing zones that feed into each course’s multi-path design, many of which are impressive in their complexity and diversity; each track demanding numerous runs to experience them fully.
In a bid to prevent you getting lost among the maze-like setups, tracks are littered with plenty of vibrant red chevrons highlighting your route options. While these are helpful (probably essential) in leading you around the environments, their presence means there’s nothing left up to you to discover for yourself as any potential short-cuts are already well signposted.
Visually, Nail’d is hardly going to set the world alight but it does – to an extent – manage to create its own identity through its juxtaposition of natural scenery and manmade structures. For example, the dusty red canyon environment is littered with speeding trains, wrecked aircraft and half finished suspension bridges, providing (unlike elsewhere) a good balance of the natural and the unnatural.
The vehicles and their riders look extremely dated, however. Textures, animations and the models themselves seemingly pulled straight from a Playstation 2 title and dumped unceremoniously into a high-def setting. It’s a disappointing failing that’s impossible to overlook given that this is a game played from a third-person perspective, meaning there’s no escape from the texturally-retarded little chap.
Initially, Nail’d is a lot of fun – an over-the-top, exciting arcade-style game that will appeal to the thrill seeker in all of us. Unfortunately, after the first couple of hours, it’s revealed for what it really is: a poorly balanced and ultimately generic off-road racer that just doesn’t know when enough is enough.
My lasting impression of it is that it feels – largely due to the crazy physics – as though you’re playing with all the cheats turn on, only to realise you can’t turn them off again. That’s not a good feeling.