Game Rant’s Anthony Taormina reviews Mad Riders
ATV racing games come in all shapes and sizes, but fundamentally they are all relatively similar. Ubisoft‘s Mad Riders, for example, takes the ATV racing genre, gives it a few clever flourishes (insane speed, high-flying stunts, and detailed locales) and hopes that will make it appealing. However, we’ve seen this type of game before, a downloadable racer that tries to mimic its retail brethren through varied modes and repeat tracks, and it doesn’t always work. Does Mad Riders break the mold?
Mad Riders can best be described as a smaller scale version of developer Techland‘s previous ATV racer Nail’d. Players must race their way through jungle-esque locales, catch big air, and try to finish in first. Zipping through the tree lines, past abandoned temples, and over the tops of hot air balloons, players will experience speed unlike they’ve ever seen before in an ATV game.
Competing across 45 markedly different tracks (made increasingly different by the game’s various modes) players must use a combination of stunts, boost, and maneuvering if they want to finish in first place. While most racing games use boost as an added bonus, it’s a must in Mad Riders — if players want to even place in the top three they must accrue it and use it liberally.
To accumulate boost, gamers must perform various stunts, from a sharp drift to a front or back flip, all whilst trying to maintain control of their ATV. It’s definitely easier said than done — balancing control while at the same time trying to execute stunts — but it’s an absolute necessity.
Boost can also be obtained through mid-race power-ups that are scattered across the tracks, but those are a secondary option to the boost earned through stunts. Along with boost power-ups, though, recharge/shortcut tokens are placed throughout the tracks, and can be stockpiled for a strategic boost recharge or to unlock a shortcut in a track. Unfortunately these tokens can only be spent at specific spots in the map, but are still extremely important for success.
Success, unfortunately, is a commodity that is not easy to come by in Mad Riders, as this game, in parts, is brutally difficult. Not difficult in the way that the competition is always nipping at the player’s heels (although they do that too) but difficult in the way that it’s near impossible to see all parts of the track and control the ATV at the same time.
The physics on the ground are loose in that type of off-road style, but get in the air and the ATV can glide from one end of the screen to the other. And when the player is not mid-jump — arguably the best and most thrilling part of the game — they’re trying to make heads or tails of the vague course markers. Heading the wrong direction or leaping inadvertently off a cliff is a regular occurrence, and when a game is as unforgiving as this it’s bad news.
Coupled with the necessity of boost, struggling to find one’s way through the tracks – and nine other ATVs that all are in the midst of their best runs possible – this game is going to make mincemeat of any casual racer, at least on the normal difficulty. It’s a given that hitting a big jump, executing several aerial stunts, and landing perfectly is extremely thrilling, but the frustration and the repetition overshadow the successes.
As can already be guessed, there isn’t much to Mad Riders as far as depth goes — there are better ATVs to be unlocked as more XP is earned – but ultimately it’s a carrot on a stick that leads to nowhere. Each vehicle is usually better than the last, but unfortunately as the player’s arsenal improves so do their opponents. It’s good for people that like a challenge, but oftentimes it’s too frustrating to be fun.
Mad Riders includes online play and several different riffs on the single player that are meant to extend the gameplay experience, but at the time of this review it was nigh impossible to find someone online with which to play. It’s easy to imagine that multiplayer would be the real bread and butter of this game since all of the mistakes and happenstance put everyone on an even playing field – and for that alone it might be worth checking out for hardcore ATV racing fans.
For the rest of us, though, Mad Riders is a bit of a mess and lacks anything in the way of balance or polish. At times the game is pretty to look at but the detail flies by so fast, and the controls fight you the entire way, that not much attention will ever be paid towards the looks. The game has the right idea, but the wrong execution, and even at a discounted, downloadable price it’s not worth the trouble.
How do you feel about the ATV off-road racing genre? Are you willing to give Mad Riders a shot despite some pretty glaring problems?
Mad Riders is out now on the PSN and releases May 30th for the Xbox Live Marketplace. Game Rant played the XBLA version for this review.