Such a strong core of racing mechanics over ten tracks (plus four more as free DLC to purchasers of a new copy) would be enough to make Nail’d great. But it goes further and provides additional modes, vehicle customization, and a massive campaign to battle through. The modes (known as mutators) and variations in race types seem minor, but actually affect races in startling ways. Aside from the simple races, there are Free Races, Stunt Challenges, and Detonator races (the last one coming with the DLC). In Free Races, it doesn’t matter who comes in first at the end – it only matters who had the single best lap during the specified time limit. In Stunt races, getting first place is good, but you also have to perform boost feats, which add to your score, so it becomes a different balance of going for out of the way boost gates instead of aiming for the shortest route. And Detonator races randomly attach a bomb to racers which can be passed to another racer if you perform a boost feat in a deadly game of hot potato.
Above: The yellow smiley bomb in Detonator mode can get passed back and forth in split seconds, so don't assume you're safe when you pass it off
Mutators also shake things up in neat ways. No Collision removes player-on-player collision so you can't bully your way through the pack and must succeed purely on racing merit. Our favorite, though, is Boost Madness. Everyone gets unlimited boost. While this sounds like it could turn things into a mess, it actually becomes a glorious exercise in showing you how fast Nail’d can really be, and if you thought your racing game was fast, fuhgeddaboutit. And yes, it’s possible, through the aforementioned intelligent track design, to boost nearly the entire time, requiring only occasional releases of the ultra-throttle.
The single-player tournament (the main "campaign") is a massive undertaking. It's a sweeping tour of every track, and it features varying race types and mutators, meaning there are entire events of several races in a row where you have Boost Madness and are in the Stunt race type, or there will be races with no racer collisions, etc. This means you have to switch up your racing style, and we found that tweaking the parts of our bike or ATV made a difference in certain events.
Above: This awesome track from the free DLC has you flying through gaps of an old rollercoaster and even driving on the coaster tracks for brief periods
The good thing with parts customization is that there is not really a superior way to go. Every part, from body to handlebars to shocks, affects different stats with a give-and-take - for instance, one part will give you better air control so you can steer during jumps, but it will reduce your ground steering. Playing around with these parts is fun because you can really feel the difference: our first attempt at specialization saw us focusing on parts that maximized air control over everything else, and we were practically like an airplane during jumps. Later, we focused on pure acceleration and created a virtual ground rocket that was a bitch to turn.
It's too bad that the one component of Nail'd that should really stand out is actually not user friendly: the multiplayer. There's no splitscreen available, although there is system link. The online is a bit of a mystery right now, because hardly anyone is playing. Much of the time, we have encountered not a single server available. The ones we have joined almost always end up kicking us when we win too much. The real problem with the multiplayer, though, is that the design for setting up races is kind of a mess. It's not immediately clear how it works, so most new players will end up racing on one track over and over. In order to race on different tracks, the host must pre-select a series of tracks, but these can't be altered mid-way. In fact, there's no way to change race parameters without completely quitting out of the server.
Above: Multiplayer could turn out to be awesome, but it's a pain to set up
There also isn't a way for players to join up randomly in Quick Match without other players already having set up games as hosts, so unless people are taking the time to host games, Quick Match is useless. But even if it finds games, you're at the mercy of the host instead of a standardized set of modes or even randomized modes, which would be nice. It's too bad, because the races we did get to play online got intense ina way that races against AI could not, especially when we had some serious photo-finishes.
We're hoping people do discover what a gem Nail'd is, because with a bustling online community the multiplayer could become addictive despite the game setup issues. Even so, the game is a wonderfully unique racer that really stands out even based solely on its single-player component. If you have even an inkling of interest in this type of game and want to see how fast it really can be, we doubt you will be disappointed with it.
Dec 1, 2010