One thing any racer worth its salt needs to have nowadays is a sense of blistering speed, and Nail'd definitely delivers in that department. It's quite a rare thing not to be moving at breakneck speed, as usually when you crash, you just die. Which will probably happen quite a lot.
It's fairly easy to meet your maker in Nail'd, given you'll often be soaring through the clouds performing gravity defying jumps. Hitting a rock face will naturally see your racer turn into a fused ball of metal and human tissue, but it's when you go slightly off course, cut a corner a bit too much, that it grates.
At first, this doesn't matter so much. You'll be so far ahead of your opponents that even multiple crashes in a short period of time won't have too much effect on the race order. However, as soon as things even out a bit and you're presented with more of a challenge, touching a flat surface that isn't arbitrarily marked as being 'safe' insta-kills you, which gradually gets more annoying the more it happens.
The main issue the game has, however, isn't the level of difficulty or how often you smash into objects, it's that everything feels, well, soulless. Perhaps it's because we've all been spoiled by the likes of DIRT, GRID et al with their personalised career modes, but being presented with a tree of available races and left to get on with it isn't really good enough any more.
There's even a specific type of event that has no real explanation, a points-based race where finishing in first place isn't always enough. You'll need to perform tricks and stunts, but the game doesn't tell you how to perform them. Is it just by making good landings off jumps? Or do you have to do something in the air to get more style points? It doesn't tell you, although you soon find out it seems to just be about collecting as many power-ups and making as many landings or 'expert' jumps as you can.
As mentioned, there's no real life or connection to the career mode. It's just a basic tree with branches that unlock once you've done a few things. In essence, that's what DIRT 2 is, but it's the presentation that's key. It draws you in, makes you want to continue and delivers some kind of emotional connection that keeps you coming back for more.
Nail'd doesn't do this. When you unlock a new vehicle part or paint job, it says you've achieved plain text, not even telling what exactly you've unlocked. You have to delve into the clumsy vehicle upgrade section to manually discover just what it is you can do to your choice of wheels.
It also extends to the races themselves, with your opponents given generic names that will never make you feel like you're racing anything other than a computer algorithm. There's no competition with Travis Pastrana or any sort of artificial racing personality, it's just a position on a leaderboard with Dave, Bob and Susan filling up the slots.
And yet, it's not all doom and gloom. The actual act of racing, once you put aside all the little foibles and annoyances, is exhilarating. You really do get a sense of great speed from Nail'd and you never feel like you're fighting the game.
The controls, even on the keyboard, feel smooth and responsive. So zipping around the 14 tracks is never a chore (except when you encounter the previously mentioned arbitrary crash zones.) Track design is generally very good, full of short cuts and interesting set pieces like trucks coming straight at you in small tunnels and huge jumps through formations of hot air balloons.
It's these big stunts that are the centrepiece of Nail'd, providing the big show-off moments you may well see in trailers. Credit has to be given for creating a thrilling visual spectacle on virtually every map, with tracks ranging from traversing the insides of glacial valleys to soaring over the terracotta rooftops of a Mediterranean town.
Accompanying you along the way will be a surprisingly acceptable collection of metal tracks, featuring Backyard Babies, Rise Against and tweenage favourites Slipknot. Although not one of the acts featured on the soundtrack would make it onto my MP3 player, they work in the context of the game's adrenaline-fuelled racing.
Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a way of turning individual tracks off, so if you happen to hate Slipknot's “Duality”, tough. It's either no music at all or every track being played. There also aren't very many of them, so you'll get sick of the limited selection very quickly.
All of this griping must make you think I have a real hatred for Nail'd, but I don't (well, not too much). A lot of the moans I have are actually quite minor things, like the overuse of heat haze and how sometimes when you're in the air on a big jump, you lose track of where you're supposed to be landing.
However, the two major issues – a lack of connection to the career mode and the lack of any real impetus to continue, and the ease in which you can die when hitting certain parts of the scenery – crucially mean there's no long term reason to come back to the game and that you'll be getting very annoyed by turning into a fireball far too often.
It's all well and good having exhilarating quad bike / motocross racing action, but if you're not interested in progressing due to lack of motivation or frustration after the first round of races in each of the four locations, it's irrelevant how steep the slopes are. Your players will have switched off.
Multiplayer's not going to hold the attention for too much longer either, beyond the novelty factor of humans replacing the nondescript AI drivers. There are leaderboards and global ladders, but nothing that's not present in every other current racing title.
So Nail'd is a lightning-fast racer with death-defying leaps, insane stunts and all that pizazz. It's just not good at offering much beyond the initial wow factor. It's fun, but not for long. It's exciting, but you won't want to see the latter stages. It's very forgiving, but not for long. The definition of style over substance.
- Great sense of speed
- Vibrant vistas and stunning scenery
- Decent soundtrack...
- ...but it's not modifiable at all
- Lack of connection to the career mode
- Stupid arbitrary death places
The Short Version: Exhilirating racing with too many flaws and no real reason to play beyond the first hour.