Techland learns from their failings with mediocre off-road racer Nail'd and tries again with Mad Riders
As a writer and general fan of correct spelling and grammar, Mad Riders didn't get off to a great start with me. The first loading screen provided me with the basic instructions for controlling my quad bike. Then I noticed that tapping LT would cause me to 'break'. Sure, it's a relatively minor flaw in the grand scheme of things but first impressions count and this was the spelling equivalent of burping while on a date.
Fortunately, Mad Riders redeems itself swiftly with a comprehensive tutorial. The Proving Grounds provides the first set of races in the Tournament mode and gradually ups the difficulty thus easing the player in. Controls are quite straight forward with accelerating down to pressing RT and boost requiring a tap of X. Learning to powerslide is a skill that will take racing fans no time at all to master, hold down the brake as you turn a corner, thus taking the corner tighter, faster and invoking an increase to the boost meter.
Try not to land on your head. It hurts as much as you'd think
These boosts make you quickly realise that Mad Riders owes more to something like Mario Kart than a 'serious' off-road sim. There's further arcade moments in the game's pre-occupation with performing stunts. These stunts provide further boost power and besides being fun to implement, can be vital to gaining enough speed to win a race. They're simple enough to put into effect by holding down A and pulling the left stick in any direction. Indeed, you'd better get used to them as certain sections of the Tournament mode requires a plentiful supply of stunts.
The Tournament mode comprises of 40 events in all. Five different types of race are available. There's the standard race type, a stunt race which frequently involves going around a much tighter yet more stunt focused course, Race the Clock, Arena and Ghost Challenge. Race the Clock is a race against time, requiring players to drive through numerous time gates in order that they don't run out of time. Arena is similar but without the time limit, requiring players to race others as they follow checkpoint to checkpoint. Ghost Challenge is the least interesting of the bunch involving a ghost competitor that must be outraced.
Throughout, a levelling up system provides a steady trickle of new and improved vehicles to try out. These vehicles are vital to success as often older bikes just won't cut it against some of the harder opposition. At one point, I found it impossible to get past one track then realised it was because I needed to level up and unlock a new bike. Returning to an older stage to improve my 3rd place to a victory ensured that I had the better vehicle to achieve success.
Some jumps will involve rings of fire and other implements of painful death
Variety mostly comes in the form of the different choices that can be made while racing. Each track offers multiple ways of tackling them and that's without taking into account shortcuts that are activated by a collectible. These shortcuts are reminiscent of Split Second. Activate the collectible and it's possible to avoid a certain section of the track by following a route that opens up for a brief period of time. They're immensely useful to shaving valuable seconds off a course time.
Determining the best route to take in each track comes down to how much of a risk taker you are. Frequently, the fastest route involves the most danger and chance of crashing out. The word mad is in the title of this game for a reason. Players won't just be hopping over small ramps, they'll be flying over huge statues and ravines, even a moving train at one point. Often, these routes provide the fastest driving line but only if you don't wipe out. The lack of a track layout or radar system means that the first attempt around each race is pretty risky. Mad Riders relies a little too heavily on guess work during this first run which feels quite an oversight. However, this does mean for twitch gamers, they'll love the challenge of having to react quickly to an ever changing situation.
This level of frantic fun continues in the multiplayer modes. The slightest slip up can make all the difference as to who wins here so it's good to see that I didn't notice any lag in my time of playing. Mad Riders promises multiplayer of up to 12 players at a time, something I couldn't test out at the time of writing. With less players though, there's no sign of lagginess even when playing against those from across the Atlantic.
It’s not all about gravity defying jumps though. Plenty of racing too
Multiplayer is of the drop in variety meaning even while playing single player, it's only a tap of a button away to switch over to competing against real players. Three different modes are available here. There's the standard Race and Arena modes, previously seen in the single player. But there's also Perfectionist. This is a concept that sounds like a great idea at first but quickly turns a little tedious. Players must complete a faster lap than their opponent. They get eight minutes to prove their worth meaning eight minutes of completing the same course over and over again. Given that all the tracks are designed to be relatively quick to complete, this mode gets a bit dull after a while. I found my interest waning in the last few minutes, desperate for it to be over and my opponent's and I's battle to conclude. For a game so focused on quick satisfaction, it's an awkward inclusion. A multiplayer Stunt Race mode would have fitted into the game’s style much more so, and could have provided plenty of comedy moments for friends.
Platform Played:Xbox 360
MAD RIDERS VERDICT
Mad Riders borrows a little too liberally from other titles to truly have its own identity. What is there, however, is an enjoyable enough arcade racer. It won’t take players hugely long to complete but given that it’s priced reasonably low for a downloadable release (less than a price of a pizza as the trailer will gleefully tell you), it’s long enough to feel worth the asking fee.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Having the race of your life in multiplayer and nailing every single corner and jump without any difficulty.