Mad Riders comes to us from Ubisoft and developer Techland, who made Nail’d, a game where you race ATVs in a tropical setting with a great sense of speed and stunts. Honestly, Mad Riders doesn’t really feel like a giant departure from Nail’d in any way. In fact it feels like a spiritual successor, coming in as an arcade game that costs $10! In its field there are games like Dirt, Nail’d, and MX vs. ATV. In a crowded racing genre, can Mad Riders stand out from the pack, or does it just get lost in the crowd?
The game is a self explanatory racing experience. You have ATVs that you race, while doing tricks and collecting tokens to increase your boost meter. It all takes place (even online) at a very solid frame rate with an intense sensation of speed. If you are looking for realism, steer clear, as this is an arcade racer through and through. Single player consists of 8 tournaments with five different kinds of events that you will compete in. The five main race types consist of Standard Races, Stunt Races, Race the Clock (Checkpoint Race), Arena, and Ghost Challenge. They are all exactly as they sound, except for Arena, which has a race through an open circular area where riders will race from waypoint to waypoint as they pop up on the screen. It is a frantic, fast and intense experience. Overall, single player is short, and doesn’t offer much replay value. Throughout the game your player will level up and unlock new ATVs, skins for your rides, and new characters. Progression is as simple as winning races to gain stars and experience. Unlocks and player progression in both single player and multiplayer is handled in the same way, but does not carry over from single player to multiplayer, so there is an incentive to play multiplayer so you can unlock the best vehicles for online races.
"The title’s lack of track variety or anything really unique, takes away from what had the potential to be a great off-road racing experience."
ATVs can be painted with whatever color you’d like, and skins for them can also be unlocked with different patterns. Different ATVs have different statistics for traction, boost capacity, horsepower, boost power, stunt agility and air steering. Riders are mostly just generic people with helmets and different clothing, but there are a couple of really neat options that include a mummy, a gorilla and a Native American. My weapon of choice is the mummy riding the Kenny Powers inspired American Flag ATV. You can look pretty awesome riding through these jungles!
Multiplayer is good, but doesn’t really do anything new for the racing genre. If you are playing through the single player tournaments and a multiplayer game is available online, you can jump directly into a lobby with a press of the directional pad. Basically in multiplayer you can race online against other players. That’s as complex as it gets. Sorry, there isn’t much in terms of options here. You’ll get your standard races, Arena races and Perfectionist, which will pit players in an eight minute race for the best times on a certain track. There are leaderboards as well, so you can compare your times to the best in the online community. In all honesty though, I don’t expect online to really have a lot of longevity. You may find a few games every once in a while, but I don’t believe this will be consistent, which is a shame because online really has no lag issues and is serviceable if you’re looking for a straight up racing experience, but is by no means excellent.
Honestly, some of the most disappointing moments in Mad Riders are what should be the main draw for the title. Stunts are easy to perform, but really don’t involve much skill beyond a button press and a flick of the right analog stick. On top of that, you will only see six or seven stunts for the entire game, and that is being generous. Four of the stunts you’ll perform involve sliding for two seconds while turning, landing flat, landing in a designated area and using boost for four seconds. Seriously, that is the bulk of it. Giant jumps pulling back flips over hot air balloons should be difficult and entertaining, but after the first few levels, you’ve seen it all. Sure the mud spouting up from your tires is entertaining, and so is going through an ancient ruin, but not for the entire experience. Variety is the spice of life isn’t it? The game was supposed to have 40 tracks, but the tracks are comprised of smaller sections of a larger map, and often times they repeat over numerous races. It’s really disappointing. Pulling off a stunt is less rewarding than it should be, the tropical setting becomes boring and overdrawn, and the tracks have little variety. Even though the game is $10, we could have been given some variety.
As for the difficulty, it is a fair challenge most of the time. As your skills progress and you learn more moves and upgrade your ATV, the challenge will adjust to compensate. However, I did find that one checkpoint race in particular was exceedingly frustrating, and really went well above and beyond any of the previous challenges the game had on tap. For the most part the tracks and difficulty is forgiving and enjoyable, but the tough sections can be almost unbeatable. You might have to skip a level or two to progress, and come back later with a better vehicle. Another nagging issue is that sometimes your ATV will go from top speed and a dead stop for no apparent reason. The hit detection is a little off. It’s kind of like you’ve hit an invisible wall, but there isn’t anything that should be obstructing your path. You’ll clip through objects sometimes, and overall you’ll get the feeling that once you hit that break neck pace, something will happen in the game to take you out of the experience and ruin the rush of excitement and speed.
The sound and graphics really are nothing special. Besides the roar of the engines and the sound of boost, you’ll be treated to a generic, run of the mill sound track with an arcade voice unnecessarily shouting out every move that is pulled and every race’s start. The graphics suffice. The ATVs look right, and the riders are adequate. The tracks look decent, but there is no mini map on screen. With the speed of the game, the tropical jungle environments, and secrets, the abundance of green and brown can sometimes make it difficult to see the track, causing unnecessary crashes or going off course.
To put it bluntly, Mad Riders is a good game. It doesn’t really stand out at all, and some of its flaws really take away from the experience. The title’s lack of track variety or anything really unique, takes away from what had the potential to be a great off-road racing experience. Problems with difficulty in areas, some repetitive tracks and some bad physics and hit detection prevent the title from being a wholly enjoyable playing experience. What you are getting is a title for $10 with some errors, and boring sections. Overall, though it is a good game that is held back by its imperfections, lack of originality, and an overworked tropical theme that becomes a little dull towards the end. It isn’t that Mad Riders is a bad game, it’s just that it doesn’t do anything exceptionally well, or have anything that is entirely unique in this crowded off-road racing genre. DLC is planned according to the game’s menus, but if the DLC is as derivative as the core experience, will it be worth the price?
Release date : 2012-05-18
Publisher : Ubisoft
Developer : Techland
Gameplay : Racing
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