Review: nail’d (Microsoft Xbox 360)

Genre: Racing
Developer: Techland
Publisher: Deep Silver
Release Date: 11/30/10

There’s something to be said for the basic simple joy of an arcade racing game. A lot of games try to be uber-realistic or try to offer all sorts of gameplay gimmicks to keep players interested, and that’s fine, but sometimes the simple things are best. Gran Turismo and Forza have their fans, and Blur and Burnout are fun games, certainly, but for some, the days of when Jet Moto and Ridge Racer were readily seeing sequels are the days most longed for. Well, nail’d seems to understand this thing, as it’s very much a no-frills racing experience that challenges you to win races by mastering the track and your vehicle while offering an experience pretty much anyone can learn and have fun with. Featuring a robust single player experience with unlockable content and a lot of tournaments to plow through as well as online multiplayer for up to twelve players, nail’d is, at first glance, an awesome arcade-style racer with plenty to love, and as our hands on preview showed, that’s a fair assessment from the first few hours of play. Does it hold up as well throughout the whole game, however? Let’s find out.

nail’d has no story to speak of, so let us instead turn our attention to the game modes. You’ll spend most of your time in the Tournament, as that’s where you’ll unlock all of the various parts and paint jobs and such, though while said mode is quite in-depth and robust, it’s not the only thing to do. Single player also offers the ability to race through some Time Attacks, allowing you to race against the clock in various tracks, as well as the ability to simply jump into a race and go or organize your own tournament offline against the CPU. You can also head online for some multiplayer against up to twelve opponents, in either Simple Races that are your normal races against opponents, Stunt Challenges that judge your ability to make and land jumps and interesting maneuvers and give the win to the player with the most points, or Free Races where the player with the best time wins. If you pick up nail’d new, you’ll also have access to Detonator races, which have you passing a bomb between players like a high-speed hot potato. Yep. You can also check your scores on the leaderboard, jump into the garage and change your driver’s outfit and your vehicle configuration, and check out how far along you are to various achievements with little to no difficulty if you so desire. The only obvious omission is a lack of same console multiplayer, unfortunately, but aside from this, nail’d offers a pretty wide variety of game modes and options, so right from the start the experience is promising.

nail’d looks pretty solid in motion, and while it’s not quite among the visual elite for the 360, it’s not bad looking in the least. The racers animate well, whether racing or blowing up, and the various tracks are all great to look at as they whiz by. Each track set is designed in a different fashion, from desert cliffs to snowy mountains and beyond, and the tracks are all full of little details and such that bring life to the course as you rocket along. The game also employs neat visual tricks like splashing water and mud on the camera at various points as you race along, which is visually well done as well as challenging to deal with when it happens. There are some mild clipping issues here and there that pop up, but these aren’t frequent enough to be a problem. The game doesn’t have a lot of audio to show off, as there’s no voice acting or commentary to speak of, though the sound effects are all spot on and sound very nice. The soundtrack consists of various original tracks made for the game as well as popular rock tracks from bands like Queens of the Stone Age, Slipknot, and Rise Against, as well as several original tunes from people like Wayne Static of Static X, Raymond Herrera and Christian Olde Wolbers of Fear Factory and others. As such, the soundtrack features an impressive collection of interesting metal and rock tracks, and in the context of the game, they work mighty fine.

Understanding how to play nail’d is about as easy as can be. The left stick steers you around, the right trigger accelerates, the left trigger breaks and goes in reverse, X kicks in a turbo boost when needed and B can respawn you if you get into a bad spot. That’s it. There are a couple of minor additions, like holding down on the left stick to pop a wheelie or holding up to lean down a bit, but you can pick up how to play the game, in its entirety, in about ten minutes from the introductory tutorial. That said, just because the controls are simple doesn’t mean their how they are employed is, as the game isn’t just about racing and taking turns appropriately. The courses are absolutely wild, with multiple pathways to take constantly, sequences that have you rocketing along the sides of dams, down mountains or through densely populated forests, and other things that will test your capabilities as a racer by testing you to actually keep from crashing every five seconds. The game also gives you several different ways to acquire boost energy, from the more mundane ways of driving through flaming gates and rings to the more advanced methods of pulling off tricks like landing on other racers or perfectly landing jumps, giving you plenty of ways to make sure you’ve got a turbo powered advantage.

There are four different race types to choose from out of the box, depending on whether you’re playing on or offline: Simple Race, which is your standard, no-frills race to the finish; Free Race, where the person with the best lap time wins the race in online races; Time Challenge, where you race solo and try to make it to the next checkpoint before you run out of time; and Stunt Challenge, where you perform Boost Feats to earn points and the highest scoring player wins. People who purchase the game new will also get access to Detonator, which, as the name implies, involves attaching bombs to racers that go off a few seconds after they’re attached, though successful Boost Feats will get rid of said bomb. The race types can also be modified by either turning on Boost Madness, where your boost tank never depletes and you can basically careen around the track like you’re trying to die, and No Collision, which means racers cannot hit one another, thus removing the ability to crash on or into other racers. You’ll see various mixes of these race options pop up both in the tournaments and online, and you can practice with them in the various single player modes as you see fit to learn what sorts of tactics to employ as the situation merits.

You’ll also have the ability to build up a bike and racer that best suits your tastes in the Garage. Customizing your bike style and racer isn’t really going to change your performance any, mind you, but you’re given several different costume types and paint jobs with which to do this thing, which is nice at the very least. As you complete various tournament mode races, however, you’ll unlock various parts which you can attach to your vehicle, and these parts will change the performance of your vehicle, allowing you to build the bike for you. Each part will affect two or more categories: Steering on the Ground, Steering in the Air, Boost Regeneration, Boost Capacity, Acceleration, and Boost Acceleration, all of which should be fairly self-explanatory. You’ll note that “Top Speed” isn’t amongst those listings, which is because the bikes all perform at the same basic top speed, meaning that parts you’ll unlock don’t inherently make your vehicle better or worse. This is pretty cool, as it means that you can use whatever parts you wish without fear of choosing an inferior part; the parts change around the specs of the bike in equal measure, so that you can build a bike that performs to the way you race instead of having to use a top-tier bike that you’re not comfortable with. You can also choose to use ATV’s or Motorcycles, with no measurable change in performance between the two, so you can really build the vehicle that works best for you and take it out to win you some races.

The Tournament Mode offers forty nine total races (technically forty two single races and seven multi-stage races), as well as an additional five with the in-game DLC, so you’ll have a lot of work ahead of you to start with clearing out all of that. As you do so, you’ll unlock parts, costumes and paint jobs, as well as earn achievements of all sorts. You can take your customized ride online to earn more achievements and blow out other racers on the fourteen tracks on disc or the four in-game DLC tracks in the aforementioned race types, and the game also offers Leaderboards where you can track your progress against other players, as well as an in-game Achievement tracking log that shows you how far you are from unlocking everything Achievement related. You can also jump into the Time Attack mode to race against yourself or a developer ghost if you want to feel shamed at your performance, as well as set up Quick Event races to test out new bike builds or tracks or set up Custom Tournaments against the CPU for your own amusement. nail’d offers a lot to do, is what I’m trying to say here, and you’ll be working at the game for a good long while unlocking all of the content and clearing out the Achievements, and it’s fair to say that you’ll have fun doing it.

Of course, no game is flawless, and nail’d is no different. This is a simple arcade racing game, which means that fans of more involved simulation-style racing games or more involved Split/Second, Mario Kart or Blur arcade racers may find it a bit lacking in that regard. There are also some collision detection issues that pop up here and there. I’m told that the collision system works in a fashion such that if you begin to decelerate when heading face-first into an obstacle, like a tree perhaps, you’ll be able to recover without outright exploding, allowing crafty racers to avoid explosions in this manner. Fair enough, but when your bike smacks head-on into a hot-air balloon and the end result is that you come to a dead stop in mid-air, drop straight downward, land, and continue on your merry way, that’s… odd. Is it game-breaking? Nah. It is weird at first, however, and you’ll see things like that happen every few races or so, unfortunately. The lack of same-console multiplayer is also unfortunate, and while I don’t think four-person split-screen would be in any way a good idea except on a gigantic TV, two player spilt-screen would have been great, and the visuals are not so complex such that this seems as though it would have been impossible.

In a year that’s seen a few really notable racing game releases, nail’d stands out as one of the better releases, as while it might not be the most involved game on the market, it’s a fun and fast-paced racing experience everyone can enjoy, online or off. There are plenty of game modes to choose from whether you want to jump into the game alone or against others, and the game looks and sounds good while you’re in the heat of a race. The gameplay is incredibly easy to learn and understand, but thanks to the involved tracks, multiple race types and customizable vehicles, you’ll find a robust and challenging experience under the simple surface. There are plenty of things to see, do and unlock, online and off, so those who are looking for an involved game to hold their attention should also have a good amount of fun with this. This game won’t satisfy someone looking for the next Gran Turismo or Burnout on that level, however, and some collision detection issues hurt things a bit, as does a lack of offline multiplayer. nail’d doesn’t suffer much for these issues, however, as the core experience is still quite enjoyable and worth checking out, especially if you’re the sort of gamer who laments the loss of the simpler days of Wipeout, Ridge Racer and Jet Moto, and if you are, I can guarantee you this will put a smile on your face.

The Scores:
Game Modes: GREAT
Sound: GOOD
Control/Gameplay: GOOD
Replayability: GOOD
Balance: GOOD
Originality: MEDIOCRE
Addictiveness: GOOD
Appeal: GOOD
Miscellaneous: GREAT


Short Attention Span Summary:
nail’d is an unashamed, unapologetic throwback to the glory days of arcade racing, and as these sorts of games go, it’s a mighty fine example of the genre, if not a supremely involving one. There are plenty of game modes to pick from, online and off, and the game looks and sounds just fine when you’re tearing around the track. The game is mechanically sound, as the controls are very simple to learn and feel just right when you really get down to using them. Beneath the simple controls, however, are some challenging courses and race types, as well as some solid customization options for your vehicle of choice, so as to offer up an experience that’s more than just another one dimensional racer. There are plenty of things to work with, online and off, and you’ll have lots to unlock and fool around with either way, giving you plenty to have fun with as you see fit. The game obviously isn’t going to instantly impress the simulation crowd or those who have become infatuated with the more gimmick-based arcade racers on the market, and some collision detection issues and a lack of same console multiplayer hurt the game a bit. That aside, however, nail’d does exactly what it sets out to do and does so rather well, and anyone who remembers the glory days of the arcade racer with a fondness will find this a worthwhile acquisition, as it knows what you’re looking for and pretty much has you covered.



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2 responses to “Review: nail’d (Microsoft Xbox 360)”

  1. […] arcade style racing games better than realistic racing games. Games like Mario Kart, Ridge Racer, nail’d, Burnout, Blur and so on appeal to me more than things like Gran Turismo and Forza and what have […]

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