Ready, Set …
I am the first to admit that racing games are not my forte. It’s not the concept of racing that puts me off though; it’s just that most racing games don’t trigger my interest. I particularly dislike those that strive for realism, finding them monotonous. When Deep Silver claimed that nail’d will keep players on their toes, and offer a constant sensation of ultimate speed and ridiculous air, it almost felt as if they were talking to me, saying that there was fun to be had with racing games.
nail’d is an off-road racer featuring ATVs and motocross bikes that are more comfortable on ‘highways in the sky’ than on any dirt road. It is also spelled with a lower-case n, as in nail’d; not Nail’d. But that’s silly – almost as silly as flying ATVs. Of course, developer Techland (of Chrome and Call of Juarez fame) has no use for realistic physics or proper grammar; they just want to make us enjoy their race game.
The first thing you notice about nail’d is the raw speed. Throughout the game you race under fallen trees, slide along the sides of mountains and careen off the tops of cliffs. Amplifying all this power is the game’s turbo meter. Tricks like passing through rings of fire, landing safely after a big jump and even landing on an opponent’s head will fill your turbo meter fairly quickly, meaning you always have a reserve of extra speed.
Having that reserve is important given the inevitability of crashing. Techland has focused a great deal on creating vertical, jump-heavy tracks that encourage you to get as much air-time as possible. And while that air-time may be a given, landing successfully certainly isn’t. You will have to steer mid-air to keep your four-wheeler level, avoid the occasional helicopter and stay clear of anything dangerous on the ground. Oh, and another driver’s head doesn’t necessarily qualify as dangerous.
The controls are very responsive, even when your ATV’s wheels have nothing to grasp. During particularly insane jumps, on-screen indicators tell you how to keep your vehicle level and avoid a crash. If you do crash, you will be treated to a few moments of watching your ragdoll somersault through rocks and trees before its reset on the track. After that, it’s just a matter of using that boost meter to get back in the race.
The tracks are split between four distinct zones based on real-world locations, two of which are known to be Yosemite National Park and a Mediterranean coastline. Of course Techland was very liberal in recreating these locations – dizzying elevation changes don’t naturally occur as often as a nail’d driver would like.
Many side paths and shortcuts exist, some obvious and some hidden. Some are optimized for ATVs while others are more suited for motocross bikes. The tracks are so convoluted and wild, in fact, that Techland isn’t including a mini-map in the game. Instead, a vertical bar on the left of the screen will tell you how close you are to the finish line. Running each course will incorporate a lot of trial-and-error as you try to find those hidden paths with the most fire rings or insane jumps.