In a world where Grand Theft Auto could have been called ‘Petty Larceny and Fortuitous Violence’ and Super Mario Bros. could have simply been dubbed ‘Jumpy Plumbers’, comes possibly the most aptly titled game of its generation, Mad Riders. Techland, the creators of Dead Island, take another swing of the bat with an ATV racer, but have they managed to improve on 2010’s Nail’d? Read on to find out.
Game: Mad Riders
Price: 800 Microsoft Points/£7.99/$9.99
Mad Riders, at its heart, is a furiously paced arcade racing game that harks back to older racers from years gone by. Inkeeping with the promise the game’s title implies, there’s no apologies for the absence of authentic handling and real-life physics because all of the unruly mid-air stunts, massive jumps and furtive shortcuts are what makes this game what it is – madness on quad bikes. Realists and ATV fans looking for a simulation should probably leave the room now because this isn’t the game for you. Even if you squint both eyes and only press down the accelerator half way for the entirety of races, it’ll still be pretty wild and that’s okay because it’s not trying to be anything else.
Graphically, the game does take a slightly more sobering stance towards reality and there’s a lot to like about the bright visuals throughout, especially for a downloadable title. Waterfalls, jungle foliage and mountainsides will hurtle towards you at great speeds and for the most part, all look quite pleasing. There’s no frame rate issues to be seen either, even in spite of the sheer pace and plethora of dense track detail – most of which you’ll most likely end up zooming past without even noticing anyway. Sound effects, bar some overly exaggerated voice overs, are pretty solid whilst the soundtrack is a good mix of rock and techno that you’d expect from the sport.
Mad Riders offers both online multiplayer and the single player modes ‘Tournament’ and ‘Quick Race’. For the soloists out there it’s Tournament mode that will take most your time up. Here you’ll get eight groups of tracks to compete in, each which consist of five races of different types; best position races, checkpoint time runs and stunt races where you gain points through tricks all represent the main bulk of gameplay. Positioning well and collecting stars allows you to unlock further tracks and there’s XP to gain as you progress that can be spent towards new drivers or paint jobs which is all pretty trivial but is a nice little extra regardless. New stunts become available but are few and far between; it’ll all start feeling quite repetitive long before something becomes available and freshens the experience up.
The actual racing itself is as straightforward as you’re likely to find. Most of the time you’ll be pushing down the accelerator at the start and letting go of it when you hit the finishing line, but there is a lot of satisfaction in its inherent simplicity. There is a boost button which makes the racing a tiny bit more tactile as you attempt to pick up tokens littered throughout the track and perform stunts to fill the gauge that powers it. However, because of the layout of tracks and the blurring the boost causes when used, visuals become a slight mush and racing becomes slightly twitchy rather than skill orientated. Knowing the track and any shortcuts is perhaps more important than the actual driving itself for the most part, and this leaves the experience a little underwhelming.
You’ll spend most of your early play time simply crashing into things. It becomes a slight frustration, although not for the crashing itself, but for the way the screen fades off and you’re immediately placed back into another spot nearby. This all happens so quickly that you’re left slightly disorientated because of the unpredictability of courses that are not easily memorised. Even less so when you factor in multiple paths and shortcuts which can be opened by a press of a button after collecting blue tokens during races. Some of the unpredictability does work in the game’s favour when it comes to the multiplayer that offers twelve player races across all the single player tracks. There’s no local multiplayer without system link unfortunately, but like the offline modes, the variety in locations keep things fresh and the simple gameplay mechanics mean it’s easy to jump in and out of whenever you feel like a quick race or two.
There’s some surprisingly decent visuals, plenty of exhilarating speed and a fair amount of content to be found in Mad Riders. Unfortunately, the racing itself remains largely uninspiring because of over-simplicity and the dependence on trial and error to make the tracks enjoyable; there’s no local multiplayer either which feels like a missed opportunity. Overall, for those with a soft spot for retro-feel racers and those who can overlook the slight lack of charm and personality, there’s definitely some great fun to be found here, just don’t expect too much long term appeal.