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In the industry today, there’s one genre that has been dominant for the past 5 years, and that is the First Person Shooter. This isn’t surprising, but due to this, many of the genres that populated the PS2 and Xbox era are now obsolete, and we rarely see a game in these genres. One of these genres is the ATV racer. During the days of the PS2, series such as ATV Offroad Fury were popular, and therefore, got support from publishers and developers. We’ve gotten attempts at replicating the successful ATV racer formula in games such as MX vs. ATV Reflex, but they’ve never captured what makes these games so much fun; the sense of barely controlling your vehicle at high speeds in fun tracks. Nail’d, a game by the creators of Call of Juarez, is another such attempt at recreating the ATV racer. While it succeeds in the gameplay of this genre, it lacks in content, making it a game for hardcore ATV racer enthusiasts only.
The gameplay in Nail’d is fairly similar to what you’ll find in any other racer. There are no stunts, no leaning like in MX vs. ATV Reflex, just the gas, steering, and boost. Boost is earned by going through fiery rings and gates littered around the courses, encouraging the player to land jumps and steer in a specific way. What sets Nail’d apart, however, is the course design and remarkable sense of speed. The courses feel surreal and arcadey, as you’ll ride your ATV on trains, drive sideways on dams while water is bursting out, and go up and down incredibly steep slopes, which are nearly at 90 degree angles. There are also plenty of alternate routes, making sure that the courses stay fresh on multiple playthroughs. The only problem with these courses is that, in the developer’s attempt to make the tracks as crazy as possible, they’ve also made them very difficult to navigate, at least on your first race on the track. This is a source of potential frustration for many players, as you’ll crash over and over on the first time in a track due to indestructible cacti, trees, confusing turns, jumps, and more. These problems don’t necessarily hurt the courses, they just make it difficult to master them for a while.
This sense of craziness and confusion is only heightened with the speed Nail’d plays at. This is one of the fastest games on the market right now, and it shows. Like the courses, though, the speed is a double-edged sword. While it’s exhilarating to go nearly 200 miles an hour in dangerous terrain, it’s also frustrating not to be able to tell where you’re going half of the time. Eventually, as the 14 tracks repeat during the Tournament mode in Nail’d, you start to be able to tell what’s going on just from pure memory, but this is still a problem that limits the game’s appeal. Still, going so fast makes the game more fun than it would be otherwise, and in conjunction with the course design, the speed makes Nail’d stand out.
There is very little to do outside of the Tournament mode though. You can switch out parts on your ATV for differences in speed, air handling, ground handling, and so on, but they don’t make that much of a difference, even though the game’s stat bar would like to tell you otherwise. You can customize your rider, with options between male, female, colors, and outfits, though it doesn’t really add anything to the game outside of being able to ride your ATV as a topless female, which could appeal to some people, I guess. There’s online play in Nail’d, but it shouldn’t be considered a selling point, as there’s next to no one playing online at the time of this writing.
The biggest problem with Nail’d is definitely it’s presentation. It makes a horrible first impression with it’s poor lighting, grungy textures, and hard rock that would’ve been OK to have in a game back in the Dreamcast era. The UI looks dated, and the sound effects are annoying. What really sucks is that one of the best parts of the game, the speed, is marred by the motion blur which makes the game look worse than it already does. The boosting sound effect, something you’ll hear a lot, sounds more akin to a car horn than a boost. Whenever you boost, the otherwise colorful environments turn near gray as well. The physics in Nail’d also leave a lot to be desired. Sometimes you can ram a sign head first with no issue, but then bump a cactus and explode. It’s inconsistent, which just adds to the presentational mess.
So all the technicals of the gameplay, content, and presentation are subpar, but Nail’d does what most ATV racers as of late fail to do: it creates the sense of barely controlling your vehicle at high speeds on creative tracks. This can be a lot of fun, but it’s still a cheap thrill and not really worth your money. While I can appreciate what it does, I can’t recommend it to anyone but the most diehard ATV racer fans. Just play the demo, it’ll be a lot cheaper for the same experience.