I am a big fan of developer Techland. I thought Dead Island was one of the best games of last year, and I am a fan of their first two Call of Juarez titles (we will pretend the third one didn’t exist). I also just happen to love ATV titles. So when I heard that Techland was creating a new one, that it was downloadable and coming out so soon, I was pretty excited. I mean, I really enjoyed Nail’d, which was also created by Techland. It seemed nothing could go wrong. Unfortunately, Mad Riders is not the game I hoped it would be.
Anyone who played Nail’d will immediately recognize the tunnel-vision inspired speed-fest in front of them. Mad Riders is all about speed and tricks, and honestly not much else. You are presented with the standard stable of modes, including a tournament, time trials and Platinum Tracks, which are paid DLC. Each race varies between a handful of modes, such as the highly original race and stunt runs. Honestly the diversity is minimal and you will start to feel like you have seen and done it all before the second tournament ladder even commences.
As you complete races, you earn XP that, in turn, unlocks new riders and vehicles. Unfortunately, the progression never feels progressive. The new vehicles rarely offer up much of an improvement, and the game never really demands it. It feels almost like progression for the sake of it. You can also customize your rider and/or ATV independently, but again this feels tacked on for pure bullet point material. You never really have time to see your rider or your vehicle, so it feels like a moot point.
The gameplay is simple. Everything in Mad Riders is dependent on speed. There is a stunt system in place, but it mostly consists of landing on designated areas or performing simple flips. Points are what dictate your XP after the race or your place in stunt events. I have to mention that I found a misspelling of the word “brake” in the controls menu. Apparently, the developers want us to pull the left trigger to destroy the game. The actual feel of the vehicles is a bit stiff in my opinion. I always felt like my rider was attached to an invisible guide that never gave me free reign of movement.
As I mentioned, speed plays a major role, and you can collect tokens on the track to increase your boost meter. Stunts also fill up this meter, and laying down on the boost button is the real key to winning. Races never advance past that mentality and, again, cause the game to become stale far too early on. The tracks are definitely pretty and diverse, but the awkward tunnel-vision feeling never lets you appreciate them. They also are limited due to being mostly the same tracks with different paths open and closed off.
The online portion of the game is solid, featuring up to 12 riders at a time. The sense of speed is still there and the focus remains on this aspect. The one issue I had in my online sessions was having to back out of the lobby to change certain options. I still have no idea why developers don’t think that through before launch. I do, however, like that multiplayer can be accessed directly during single player by simply tapping the d-pad when an online race is available. When you get into a match, the lag is minimal, and racing against others is much more exciting than the AI in the game.
Visually, the game is extremely colorful, and as I said, the tracks are nicely detailed. The weird tunnel-vision can be disorienting at first, though. It makes taking turns more difficult than they need to be. You will also miss several shortcuts because of it. The frame rate is pretty solid considering how fast the game moves. Visual inaccuracies, such as the misspelling and clunky menus, let you know it wasn’t a priority. Sounds are decent with some generic rock tunes and cheesy voiceovers. It is nothing to write home about, but it is also nothing offensive.
Mad Riders is not a bad game, just an unfortunate one. Nail’d is now in the bargain bin along with some of the older MX vs. ATV games, and they are much better. This feels like a stripped down version of Nail’d and one that is not nearly as entertaining. The lack of diversity and progression are disappointing, and the stiff controls don’t lend themselves well to this type of game. If you want an off-road racer for your console, there are a lot of other, better choices out there.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.