Nail'd – multiplayer hands-on

We’ve played Nail’donce before in single-playerand the game’s serious sense of speed impressed us – we’d like to see actual numbers showing exactly how many virtual miles-per-hour the dirt bikes and ATVs can go, but there’s no mistake that Nail’d is really, really fast. It’s so fast that it’s a bit difficult to appreciate all the cool stuff scattered on and off the tracks, like hot air balloons carrying flaming rings, broken down train cars, and burning trees on the slope of a volcano.

Above: We think we raced on this purty course, but it's hard to say

During our multiplayer event, we got to play more tracks, but we didn’t get a huge taste of what multiplayer will really be like online because we only played in 1v1 matches, meaning the full chaos of bikes and ATVs jockeying for position and smashing the struts out of each other wasn’t part of our experience. At one point we did have our competitor land perfectly on top of our head after a long jump and neatly shatter our bones and bike, so we know the opportunity for literally destroying the competition is there. There aren’t actual attacks like punching because this isn’t a combat racer, but we did rub fenders and shove (and get shoved) into rocks and off cliffs.

Racing against a human opponent naturally makes things more intense, and Nail’d ensures the tension never leaves your mind with a nice counter on screen showing exactly how far behind or ahead you are, which was encouraging when we were behind our opponent enough that we couldn’t see him. The game also offers a few different modes besides just straightforward racing. The Free Race mode sees players racing for a set amount of time, say ten minutes, with the goal of getting the best lap time in that period, so it doesn’t matter who’s in first when the time runs out – it matters who made the fastest lap at some point.

Boost Feats aren’t exactly tricks, but they’re skillful maneuvers that earn you boost, and are also central to two multiplayer modes: Stunt Race and Detonator. Stunt Race simply assigns points to Boost Feats, so the showiest racer wins. Detonator randomly attaches a bomb to one racer’s back, and he must perform a Boost Feat to pass the bomb to another player before it explodes. So some examples of Boost Feats are: getting super big air off a jump, threading a particularly narrow path, landing perfectly parallel to the ground from a jump, and smashing other racers. So instead of standard tricks where you mechanically input various buttons while flying through the air, it’s all about racing like a total badass. Since Boost Feats provide the essential boost to make you fast, they’re the core of all competitive racing modes, even if they don’t have a direct impact on the winner as in the Stunt and Detonator modes.

Playing more tracks confirmed our previous assessment that the game is almost terrifyingly fast – a joke item they’ve created for promoting the game is White Knuckle Cream. We were too busy trying not to careen into trees to see if our knuckles were white, but the game does succeed at creating a near-dizzying sense of the edge of control. The smart part of its design is that the bikes and ATVs are unrealistically agile – you can whip from side to side in a manner that true physics would never allow, but we think it’s a great choice, because it means the game can be as fast as it wants to be.

With a more weighty physics model, you’d never make it through the obstacle-laden, swooping and branching paths. Being able to careen at blur-inducing speed and yet also make it down a narrow side-path as a split-second decision makes you feel like a superhuman racer – and frankly reminds us of the speederbike scene in Return of the Jedi – except unlike other games that have attempted such speed with a kind of on-rails quick-time event, Nail’d manages to make it that fast and leave you in complete control.

You can even direct your flight during the game's gigantic jumps, and not just a little bit. Again, it’s completely unrealistic, but it’s fun to hit a ramp at a not-quite-perfect angle and be able to save your ass instead of watching helplessly as your rider soars off into oblivion. However, oblivion very much awaits during an average lap through one of Nail’d’s tracks.

Above: Being able to steer in mid-air helps in scenarios like this

We crashed a lot during our play time. We crashed into trees and rocks, and we flew out of bounds on many of the jumps. Much of the tracks have very clearly marked turns and path branches, but sometimes the speed makes it hard to tell where you’re supposed to go, and one criticism we have is that if you go even slightly out of bounds, it’s instant wreck time. Being on a flimsy two- or four-wheeler means that glances off the environment results in crashes a car or truck would shrug off. This naturally makes the racing even more intense, but could also frustrate some players – especially those with poor reflexes. However, crashing all over a track is a staple of all racing games of this nature when you don’t know the courses yet. We won’t know how we really feel about the vulnerability of your racer and the track designs until we get extended time to thoroughly feel it out.

We learned last time we did a preview that you really need to see the game in action to get an idea of what we're talking about, so here's another video:

Nail'd is aiming for a Novemer 30 release on PS3 and 360.

Nov 10, 2010

Matthew Keast
My new approach to play all games on Hard mode straight off the bat has proven satisfying. Sure there is some frustration, but I've decided it's the lesser of two evils when weighed against the boredom of easiness that Normal difficulty has become in the era of casual gaming.