Team VVV enjoyed Techland’s Nail’d and Mad Riders appears to be its unofficial sequel. Just like its predecessor, Mad Riders is an over the top quad bike arcade racer with a sense of fun. Mad Riders is available on XBLA, PSN, and Steam for £7.99/$9.99 USD/800 MSP.
Team VVV tested the Xbox 360 version.
Mad Riders looks good, akin to the most recent Milestone SBK games with a cel-shaded appearance. Thankfully bright colours replace the usual dull browns and subdued colour pallet that plague most off-road titles. A lack of anti-aliasing is noticeable at times but once a race gets underway, one soon forgets about graphical niggles as Mad Riders really shines when in motion – the sense of speed, especially when boosting, is fantastic.
Courses are well designed with detailed environments and are littered with jumps and most featuring multiple pathways. I found that turning right at a junction was usually the shorter, less jump filled route whilst turning left tended towards a more stunt filled path.
The further you progress in Mad Riders, the more over the top the courses become. Jumps become huge (it’s possible to be in the air for 5 or more seconds) and course objects such as hot air balloons, spinning wheels to dodge, suspension bridges, water falls, canyons and even a moving train become obstacles to jump over (or under). Jump high enough on some courses and you’ll have flocks of birds flying alongside your quad bike. Vehicles can be steered whilst in the air too, allowing the player to choose a landing spot or correct a skewed jump.
Red and blue balloons litter each track and have a specific function: red balloons add boost whilst blue balloons can be used for two separate items: unlocking a shortcut or dropping a ramp down for a ‘boost recharge’ consisting of 3 red balloons.
The single player mode is set around a tournament which consists of eight series each containing five events. The events are:
Race – race against 9 other riders.
Stunt race - racing on a stunt track and the winner is the rider with the highest stunt points after three laps.
Race against the clock – solo race whereby checkpoint gates must be reached before time runs out.
Arena - checkpoint racing against 9 other riders in a small arena.
Ghost challenge - race against the ghost of a ‘professional’ rider/driver.
In order to progress through the tournament mode, players are awarded stars for finishing in the top 3 positions; a win awards three starts whilst a third place results in a single star being awarded. In order to progress to the next series in the tournament, 10 stars (out of a possible 15) must be unlocked.
Earn enough stars and a special event in a series called the ‘Off Road Elite’ is unlocked. These are a more challenging set of time trials and ghost challenges. As these are solo events, one only need beat the time trial or ghost in order to win. Successfully complete an Off Road Elite event and you’ll earn a special unlock such as new vehicle and XP.
Player experience points (XP) is awarded for wins and stunts completed during events. One must either finish in the top 3 (race, stunt race & arena) or win outright (race against the clock, ghost challenge) to be awarded XP at the end of an event. Everything you do when riding adds to the XP tally from collecting red and blue balloons to sliding around corners, performing stunts (which also adds boost) and successfully landing a jump.
XP is used to unlock new vehicles, including buggies, riders (a Native North American Indian, Ninja, Mummy and a baseball cap wearing Gorilla) and paint schemes.
Nearly all quad bikes can be customised; fairing designs can be selected (many being unlocked as you earn XP points) as well as the body, fender, frame, rims, swinging arm, hand guards and A-Arm all being paintable. I didn’t notice much of a difference in the handling of the vehicles
The AI provides a decent challenge on the highest difficulty setting. AI are cognisant of what you are doing on track: open a shortcut and the AI will join you, AI riders steal red and blue balloons and they aren’t afraid to bump their way past. Rubberbanding is present, keeping most of the early races close but it never felt unfair.
Sound is adequate too with quad bikes and buggy’s sound similar to the real thing, the music is unobtrusive rock and dance tracks whilst the announcer cheesy delivery fits the game. If I never hear the word ‘Sidewinder’ again, I’ll be happy although one can turn off all sounds and leave the sound of engines.
Unfortunately I was unable to test the multiplayer portion of Mad Riders. VVV was issued a pre-release code and only 2 people had recorded wins on the multiplayer leaderboard at time of writing this review. Techland state online of up to 12 people. System link is another option with all the game modes found in the single player available.
Mad Riders has a few annoying niggles: rider animations are average, the number of stunts can be counted on one hand, and the viewpoint is fixed behind the rider and cannot be adjusted. I encountered clipping and warping issues with the environments where my vehicle became stuck in a bridge or in foliage causing me to restart the race and some course layouts have poorly positioned jumps often leading to a crash into a wall or with an obstacle floating in the air. The contols can be laggy too; pressing the boost button sometimes resulted in delayed reaction from the game - like the turbo lag in an 1970's Porsche 930.
Mad Riders is an enjoyable experience and whilst it doesn’t redefine the off-road genre, for the asking price it’s long enough (I completed the Tournament and the Off Road Elite series in about 8 hours) to justify the modest price.
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