STAFF REVIEW of Nail'd (Xbox 360)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010.
by Adam Dileva

Nail'd Box art I have to admit, I never even had Nail?d on my radar this year (before going to PAX) with all the huge titles coming out so fast and furiously as of late. What?s Nail?d you may ask? It?s an ATV/Dirtbike game which oddly enough, is developed by the team who did the Call of Juarez games. I honestly didn?t know to expect when I first started playing it, as I?ve picked up quite a few racers this year; would this one be any different? A is essentially the off-road equivalent to the chaotic and unrealistic racing that we?ve come to love from titles like Burnout, Blur, and Split Second. It?s completely over the top, laughs at the laws of gravity and physics, and every race will feel much like the ups and downs of a rollercoaster.

Nail?d is all about going fast as you can with boost and taking huge (which is an understatement) ramps that will have you free falling for easily more than 5 seconds. Yea, you?ll be falling in the air for over a mile while trying to avoid windmills, planes, pillars and other object. It?s insanity on 2 or four wheels and it?s a blast to play simply to get massive air and making that perfect landing. Extreme is really the only way I can describe this racer. Motion blur kicks in when you boost, giving everything a grey faded look as if you were focusing very diligently and the free falling after taking the jumps is simply awesome since you can nudge and maneuver yourself midair to land that crazy jump.

Surprisingly, Nail?d is very simple to pick up and play. Right Trigger is gas, Left is brake, Left Stick steers and A is your boost; doesn?t get much easier than that. The mentality behind it is you press a button, go fast and then be awesome while trying not to die. You can easily learn the driving nuances like ?steering? mid-air really quickly, but you?ll have to be at the top of your game if you want to actually win races while boosting at break-neck speeds.

Playing alone is no problem as there are tons of different modes for you to enjoy. The basic Simple Race and Time Attack is here that is standard, but there?s also quite a few interesting modes included as well that make for some unique gameplay. Stunt Mode will net you points for every feat you do (such as boosting for a certain amount of time, landing perfect jumps and more) but the winner is not determined by who crosses the finish line first (though it?s a huge advantage) since everyone?s points start to decrease rapidly once that first player finishes. Having ?stunt? in the title may be a little misleading since you don?t really do stunts, but it?s still a fun mode never the less.

Detonator is essentially hot potato, but it?s actually a bomb strapped to your racers back. To pass the bomb and avoid it exploding on you, you again must land a crazy jump properly or do certain feats to pass it to the next victim.
Boost Madness was easily my favorite of all the modes and that?s truly what it is: madness! All players have unlimited boost in this mode so you?ll constantly be going so fast that it can actually be quite challenging just to stay on track or decide what path to take.

There is a career mode of course as well that will have you doing individual races (and different types) to finish tournaments and progress. It does a good job of varying the race styles and maps enough that it doesn?t become too stale with the 14 tracks on the disc (4 more with the DLC) and will become increasingly difficult.

All of the tracks feel varied and unique from each other. Some races will have you driving through the woods dodging trees, in the desert jumping dunes, and even in (and over) canyons. The maps themselves are nowhere near your standard design either. Because Nail?d tries to go for an exciting way to race, you?ll constantly be taking huge dips and climbing hills to setup for those huge jumps and airtime. Harsh angles will even have you racing almost completely sideways along a dam at times as well; there?s definitely some racing here I?ve never experienced before. And like any good racer, there are tons of secret pathways and branching routes to take. Do you play it safe and stay low and quick or go up that huge hill and hopefully land in front (or better yet, on top) of your rivals? You?ll be making these decisions in a split second due to how quickly you go while boosting which is where much of the excitement comes.

In the Garage, you can even customize your rider and ride. While the rider doesn?t have many options other than your racing suit and gender, the real customization comes in tuning your quad or dirtbike just how you want. There are multiple parts you can change for each section of your vehicle and different parts will have different stats. The parts that can be changes are Body, Engine, Wheels, Handlebars, Shocks, Exhaust, and Engine; and the features that are changed with parts are Ground Steering, Air Steering, General Acceleration, Boost Acceleration, Boost Regen, and Total Boost Capacity. Every part also has its own unique look as well (including colors), so you can build your bike to your liking in not only stats, but looks as well. What?s great about this is that there?s no ?best? bike with all the stats full, you?ll build your quad to suit how you play. I chose acceleration stats instead of boost just because of the way I found I was playing after a few hours; it?s completely up to you. As you progress through the career you?ll unlock more parts as you go to help you along the way.

What makes Nail?d so crazy is the speed you?ll be going when you have boost. Press A and you?ll get a short burst of nitro and if you want to refill it you need to land jumps properly (and perpendicular to the ground), do feats, or simply go through the flaming gates and hoops. Word of wisdom: don?t lay on the boost for a long amount of time unless you need to get somewhere very quickly, I found doing small bursts (even simple presses of boost) was much more efficient as I didn?t seem to go faster when laying on the nitro (though impossible to tell since there?s no speedometer in Nail?d).

When you do crash (and you will, many times), you?ll get a short slow motion vignette of the crash before it puts you back in the race (usually just ahead of where you crashed since you usually need an ample amount of speed to make certain jumps) a few seconds later. Obviously you don?t want to crash, but I?ve had a few times where I crashed beside another racer and when I respawned, I was easily a few seconds ahead of him. I?m not sure if it was a bug or just one of ?those spots?, but it wasn?t always consistent with how far ahead or behind it put me.

You?ll be able to hop on Xbox Live as well and race up to 11 other players in any of the modes as well (I suggest Boost Madness for some craziness) and there?s even a unique Leaderboard that Nail?d is using. When you start the game it?s going to ask where your location is (state or province), this is because you?re going to be comparing yourself to other players in your same region. It definitely feels more competitive that I?m trying to beat someone?s record that?s close to me as opposed to some kid way overseas. Yes, you?ll also be able to compare against those kids with too much free time worldwide as well, but I really like the idea of region leaderboards and I hope it does well and catches on with other games.

Surprisingly there?s a quite decent soundtrack to go along with the game. There are lots of artists I?ve never heard of but there are the few greats that I do know from Rise Against, Slipknot, and even Queens of the Stone Age. The soundtrack as a whole really fits the mood and fast pace of the game and when that Slipknot kicks in mid-race, I find myself holding the boost button down even harder to try and go faster.

As mentioned before, the lack of a speedometer does seem a little odd at first, but you get used to it. You never know HOW fast you are going, you just know you?re going TOO fast and are about to do some crazy jumps. This speed also makes it somewhat difficult to figure out where you sometimes need to go (even mid-air) because the moment you go out of bounds you will explode and be respawned. The same goes for landing your jumps, sometimes you?ll land no problem, and other times you?ll crash even though you look like you landed it perfectly. Some rocks can be driven on and bounced off of (when coming down a jump) while others cannot. It?s not a huge issue, but it takes time to learn the rules in Nail?d of what you can and cannot do. Also, not really being able to do tricks when you are free falling for so long does seem like an odd omission, but you?ll forget it pretty quickly since that turn coming ahead is closing in quickly.

Nail?d is in no way a realistic representation of what off-roading is like in any way. That?s not a bad thing though because they aren?t trying to be a serious realistic racer. Nail?d is all about going balls-out and seeing how much air you can get while making your way to the finish line while avoiding oncoming trains and more. Nail?d could do for arcade quad games what Burnout did for arcade racers; it?s simple and fun to play and never takes itself too seriously while doing so. My only concern is if there is much of a shelf life and substance here after a substantial amount of gameplay (especially if you can?t play online), as it is fun to jump in and slam down some quick times, but for how long with it being almost too simplistic.

I enjoyed playing Nail?d for quite a few hours and you just need to take Nail?d for what it is: a mindless awesome speed induced arcade racer that will have you doing crazy stunts and going way too fast. Turn off your brain and simply race as fast as you can while getting as much air as possible; and yes, that?s me half a mile above you about to land on you and make you explode; you?re about to get nail?d.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.2 / 10
Sound: 8.1 / 10


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