Those involved in the making and selling of videogames need to learn something: if you’re going to create a bog-standard game, you need to be realistic about it. We hate to put such a downer on the development studio that produced the excellent Call Of Juarez: Bound In Blood – not to mention the original Call Of Juarez and the Chrome Engine most of their games are built on – but we must. Very few people are going to play this game, we suspect, and as such, it can’t rely on the multiplayer mode to save it. Indeed, while it hasn’t at time of writing been officially released in Europe, we failed to find a single person online.
The dose of realism developers like Techland need to take is that unless you build a genuinely enjoyable offline mode, gamers aren’t likely to get involved with the online side of things. All indicators suggest that Nail’d was designed as an online, off-road racer to rival the likes of Pure and MotorStorm. Sadly, it fails. Given that the idea most likely came about around the time that the MotorStorm franchise was enjoying some success on the PS3, I can understand the decision to create an off-road arcade racer of this type, but the results aren’t great, and despite a generous helping of the ridiculous, it fails to impress.
Initially, I was quite buzzed with the speed and verticality (a horrible turn of phrase, but an accurate one) of the game. Right from the start you’re zooming along, periodically being launched into the air with gay abandon and, surprisingly, nailing a large number of the jumps you make. Nail’d gives you plenty of time to react, which is a good thing, given just how hideous a game it would be otherwise. You get a good 15 minutes of ‘wow’ factor from the off, and until your expectations of a hike in difficulty are dashed wholesale, it’s reasonably fun, if a little derivative.
Once that initial feeling wears off, you’re left with what is a decidedly pedestrian title. It’s unlikely you’ll lose a single race in your career, and the emphasis seems to be on racing against times rather than other racers. A majority of the time I spent on the track I might as well have been completing time trials, as the other racers are woefully incompetent, and have real trouble keeping up with you, even if you make a right hash of things.
This unfulfilling experience makes everything else entirely devoid of purpose. You can go into the menu and upgrade your vehicles, but there’s no real need to for the most part. You can try your hand at learning the courses with the various other modes, but again, there’s little point, as the time you have to react to changes in the course give you enough time to save yourself, even on slow days.
This leaves a gaping hole for the multiplayer to fill, and if there were plenty of people online, and a few NFS-esque Autolog features, all the failings of the game could be washed away, leaving only a faint wiff of lazy game design. It doesn’t though. You choose the type of race you want to participate in, and you race. Again, it’s bog standard stuff that, had it been released at the right time and with a little good luck, might have garnered some kind of following. We just can’t see it though.
As far as the technicalities of the game go, everything bar the AI is pretty good. The environments – while a little repetitive and, well… dusty – are more than passable, and the speed at which the game runs is admirable. The courses are mostly the same larger course split into smaller ones, and have a degree of uniqueness about them that suggests some quality level design. The problem is that all this technical proficiency is mooted by a single core problem: it’s just not that fun. The bikes are no less fragile than the ATVs, and the ATV’s seem to be quite capable of matching the bikes for acceleration and control. Similarly, while the courses have some quite nice features, there are very few places where the brake needs to be employed. It’s simple stuff, that wouldn’t be worthy of comment had it been included, but if it’s not there, you really miss it.
Nail’d smacks of a tech demo given a promotion. It runs fantastically, it looks nice, and it has potential. Its functionality as a racer, however, is limited, because it has few of the basics that we’ve come to expect over the years: tight racing, bustling tracks and AI that can actually compete. If you can get online with a bunch of other people, then great, I suspect it will be a good deal of fun, but I also have the nagging suspicion that you’ll be hard pushed to find too many people online at once.
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