Back in May, Aileen wrote a preview on a very early build of nail’d which was being touted as a very fast, arcade-y racing game that took all pretences to realism and threw them into the wastebin. It was intended at the time as being the antidote for more realistic games like Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport that have become more popular as the technology has improved. At another meeting with the folks at Southpeak last week, Aileen and I finally got a chance to get some hands-on time with the game. What follows are my reasoned, jaded, professional games’ journalist opinions on what I saw:
Imagine taking Hydro Thunder, jamming an 8-ball of cocaine up its asshole, giving it a catheter of Red Bull and jolting it with a cattle prod every fifteen seconds. Put this all on dry land, and wa-la. You have nail’d.
The game is pure speed, and trying not to crash into things at said speed. One thing that was pointed out to me was that every stage feels different, due to the changing nature of the environments, and how those environments are “interactable” (read: you crash into different things each time through), and though I wasn’t able to get enough hands-on time to really verify this, I do acknowledge that there’s a lot happening in each stage. At least, that’s what I noticed while Aileen was playing; while I played, I was too busy going insanely fast and going “holy shit!”.
I was able to adjust to gameplay within seconds. You’re able to shift weight while either in the air or about to hit it, to determine if you want to get massive air, or take a line drive and get on the ground faster and with more speed. It’s oddly strategic, even more so when you make the wrong decision and, instead of careening through the air, end up face-planting an elevated piece of scenery. You gain turbo boost for hitting certain marks, such as checkpoints or shooting through rings. That’s as deep as gameplay gets, though, which is a relief for those that like arcade-style racing. My one problem was that crashing was sometimes advantageous. In order to rebalance things that you need to get speed up for, crashing in some spots results in you getting spawned ahead of the spot where you crashed. Unfortunately, it was almost instantaneous, and sometimes helped me when it should hurt. I totally get why – you don’t want one crash in a game like this to kill your chances of winning – but I gave some feedback that there should be a few seconds delay between respawns, which they seemed genuinely interested in.
The difficulty is dependent on how much you crash, and how you manage the environment. I was able to adjust to things quickly, and had no problems winning my races. Aileen, on the other hand – who I should note lives in Brooklyn and does not drive – seemed to have a magnetic attraction to things that made her go boom, on the same settings. For people like Aileen, there are various difficulty levels.
With that stated, for people like me, there are various couches I can sleep on. (Actually, you and the lawn will become quite well acquainted. – Ed.)
For people that need a little bit more to go on than “it’s REALLY FUCKING FAST”, there’s a customization option to get bikes and ATVs to do more of what you want them to do, by changing out parts for different parts. It’s all denoted by a simple meter, so there’s no changing displacement figures and wondering what the hell you’re doing like you would be in a game like Gran Turismo. Also notable is that adding parts doesn’t necessarily make your statistics better; all it does is change how it drives, not just how much better or worse your ride is.
That applies for online mode as well, which supports up to 12 players. I like this, as it doesn’t mean that online matches are simply about who’s played the most in single-player mode to get the best equipment. All races should be equal, and as there’s not much to do other than go really fast, races should all be competitive, unless you’re like some people who I happen to be engaged to and think you drive through obstacles instead of around them (have I mentioned, before she garrotes me, how beautiful, caring, and patient she is? Especially patient. Holy shit, is she patient). Another thing I’m enamoured with is that unlike other “casual” racing games that are currently out, there’s no weapons to worry about that can turn the tide of a race with one lucky bounce; it’s all about how good you are. The two things I wish this game supported were split-screen multiplayer (though there is system link support) and a first person camera. While I agree with the developer that a first person camera wouldn’t have made the game easy to play, I maintain that with as fast as the game is, I couldn’t care less if I’m in last if I’m going “HOLY CRAP THIS IS FUUUUN”. “That’s a fair point, sir!” was the response. I think we both agree I’m onto something.
nail’d comes out on October 19th for the Xbox, PlayStation 3 and PC. The MSRP has been estimated at either $50 or $60. The latter is too high, I feel, for what the game is, but $50 seems like a comfortable price point. Personally, I’m actually excited for this one, and not just because of Aubrey’s extremely infectious enthusiasm. This should be a fun time, assuming the price is right. And assuming Aileen no longer has me grounded by that time. (Don’t count on it, bub. – Ed.)