If nail’d were a shooter instead of a racing game, it would absolutely be Vanquish. Similar to its shooter counterpart, the newly released arcade off-road racer from Deep Silver stabs an IV of adrenaline into your arm and doesn’t stop pumping until you turn off your console. Starting from the tutorial, nail’d doesn’t pull any punches whatsoever, sending you up and down, sheer mountain sides, through rings of fire, and in between windmill propellers with blistering speed. The result is a game which, although a touch on the shallow side at times, is some of the most pulse-pounding fun that you will be able to find on consoles this holiday season.
The biggest feature that separates Nail’d from the competition is the sense of speed that it brings to the table. The developers have done everything in their power to ensure that your speedometer remains maxed out, this includes implementing a boost feature which ratchets the game up to ludicrous speed. To account for how fast players are going, Techland has made the controls incredibly simple to pick up and play. The simplicity of the controls will likely be a source of frustration for hardened sim fans but will be appreciated by the masses because they allow you to hurtle down the physics defying tracks with ease.
Speaking of the track design, it is definitely one of the high notes of nail’d. Techland has taken care to add a tremendous sense of verticality into each and every one of the game’s 14 tracks (or 18 if you include the free on-disc DLC). This means that you’ll spend up to 25% of your time airborne, avoiding hot air balloons and windmills thanks to in-air controls. These jumps become all the more awe inspiring thanks to the game’s engine’s ability to render the massive, beautiful vistas with ease. Once you hit the ground, the vertigo inducing moments doesn’t stop as levels are peppered with moments, although this time it is as a result of driving straight down the side of a mountain or down a tree scattered forest. Add to this a pervading sense of claustrophobia, innumerable branches on any track, and occasional graphical effects that partially obscure your vision, and you have a game that forces you to stay continually tense lest you wreck into one of the many obstacles. Fortunately, once you crash, which you certainly will, the developers have ensured that it not will totally destroy your race through short respawn times and placing you actually ahead of where you wrecked.
Unfortunately, although very good, the track design is not perfect. For one, although the tight turns and high speed normally provide a pleasing sort of tension, the game occasionally steps over the line and becomes uncomfortably tight and fast. There are also occasional issues with camera placement and collision detection that can cause surprising, and frustrating crashes. What’s more, although there are a decent number of tracks, they are only spread out over four locales. This makes all of the stages begin to feel repetitive as you advance through tournament mode and experience them over and over again. In spite of this repetition, the tournament mode still provides plenty of hours of enjoyment thanks the breakneck speed and intensity.
As you progress through career mode, you’ll unlock a number of different parts for your ATV/MTX. These don’t necessarily upgrade your vehicle so much as modify it, diminishing certain stats while upgrading others. It certainly won’t satisfy fans of Forza-style tuning nor does it add an obscene amount of depth, however it does ensure ensure that your ride is tuned to your driving style for maximum effectiveness.
Once you have mastered the tournament mode and offline play, you can go online and test your skills against the rest of the world through online multiplayer. In addition to offering the usual suite of race options, what really sets the multiplayer in nail’d apart is the sheer number of different ratings that the game assigns. Sure, there is the classic “your overall rating is X”, however, there are also ratings of every other type. Curious about how good players are on a particular track? That is ranked. Similarly, if you want to find out if you’re superior to your friends in a given mode that can be checked. The sheer number of different types of ratings should give fans of the competitive environment something to drool over for a good period of time.
The multiplayer aspect, much like the rest of nail’d, is a testament to just how polished the arcade racer is. Although there are a couple of rough patches in terms of vehicle customization and track variety, those certainly don’t overshadow the fact that Techland has created a beautiful and intense game that pretty much anyone can pick up and play. More than anything else though, the game is just plain, immersive, fun. That fact alone makes nail’d a title which should find its way into your racing game collection provided you aren’t a diehard sim-racing fan.