There certainly is no shortage of racing games available on any platform, so when a budget racer comes out for $40 it's unlikely to make a huge impact. Nail'd is a mild exception and stands out above the other budget titles and racers. Even though it can't compete with Need for Speed or Gran Turismo, the game is fun. There are a few problems that keep it from being a truly good racer, but for $40, some gamers may find this a viable alternative, as long as they're not expecting too much.
Nail'd isn't a traditional racer and the game proves this within one minute of starting up. The tracks included on disc are ridiculous, but the game basks in it's over-the-top style that sets it apart from the competition. The levels are absolutely massive and cover miles of in-game track, and some of the jumps spread throughout the level border on the insane.
The various racetracks present in Nail'd offer up a decent amount of variety. There are classic desert and forest tracks, but the game adds twists on almost every one of them. Traditional tracks like the desert may have plane wreckage that racers must maneuver around, and one of the forest tracks even has a lumber mill with giant saw blades to avoid. The game also has levels that take place in Greece and near a volcano, and while these are by no means revolutionary for the genre, they are still pretty enjoyable to play.
Even with the fun levels, there are a few points throughout the game that will irritate gamers to no end, and they usually occur after going off of a massive jump. Once a player has hit a jump they'll often be flying hundreds of feet through the air alongside hot air balloons, blimps, and planes. It's crazy enough maneuvering through rocks and trees while hurdling through the air at speeds over 100MPH, but give a jump a little too much NOS or approach it the wrong way and you'll end up splattered across the track.
The massive levels are made even more interesting by the blinding speed with which players fly through them. Think F-Zero is one of the fastest racing games ever? Prepare for a shock when the reality of Nail'd's speed hits you. This game requires lightning fast reflexes in order to stay competitive for the number one spot in the race, but after a lap or so most players will get the hang of the track. The speed will either be the biggest turn-on or put-off to people, because it's almost too fast. Newbies will be able to get a hold of the controls eventually, but they'll have to tolerate a lot of crashes before they will truly be able to do well in the game.
Of course, maximum speed is obtained through utilizing the boost that is built up throughout the race. Boost is granted for landing jumps and racing through fire gates that cover the tracks. The methods required to gain boost seem pretty lackluster when compared to the rest of the game. Tricks would have been a nice addition that could have been used to gain NOS, but for whatever reason there are very few included. There's a wheelie that gets pulled off accidentally from time to time, but other than that racers will just be flying through the air, not doing tricks.
Most of the time vehicles explode upon impact with an object, but on odd occasions the ATV or Dirt Bike will just bounce off of a massive rock or tree like it was made of rubber. Other times the vehicle will be ploughing through terrain without any problem, but if it nicks the edge of a boulder or lightly touches down on a branch it won't hesitate to explode. These are just a couple of the glitches that players are likely to encounter while racing, and while they aren't game breaking bugs, they pop up often enough to become a bit of an obvious problem.
The main single player option for Nail'd is the Tournament Mode, and it's pretty much as expected. The mode has a number of different cups that players will eventually be able to race for after completing several races and challenges beforehand. The only problem with this mode is that it's just too easy to really be engaging, and players with enough skill are going to be 10-15 seconds ahead of the rest of the racers the entire time. There isn't enough of a challenge to really feel like anything has been accomplished after absolutely destroying all opponents in a race. Only players who are really bad at racing games will find a challenge within the game's core, but for a vast majority of the populace, it's just too easy. The game does eventually amp up in difficulty, but it takes quite a bit of playing before that happens.
While the racing isn't the greatest, it's the challenge modes that are really just abysmal and pointless. The "Stunt Challenge" is one of the two options that appear frequently throughout the game, and serve absolutely no purpose because there are no "stunts" to perform. Players drive around and gain boosts by landing jumps, taking out other racers, and driving through rings of fire, and must try to finish the race before the computer controlled opponents or else points will be deducted for every second the player takes to cross the finish line. To have a stunt mode without stunts is just baffling.
The other challenge mode consists of a "Mutator" which gives different bonuses to the drivers depending on which mutator is active. One of the best is easily the "Boost Madness" which gives players an unlimited amount of boost, allowing them to fly through the race at lightning speeds. Another mutator, called "No Collision," takes away the ability to collide with other racers. There really is no point to this mode, since players will blow past the other racers within a lap.
The further one progresses through Tournament mode, the more vehicle parts are unlocked. These parts can be used to customize the ATV or dirt bike that players use to race. The option to customize the vehicles is actually a nice touch, and while the customization options aren't nearly as extensive as in other games, it's an addition that is appreciated. Certain parts will lower the vehicles stats in some places and increase stats in others, so customization is really about balancing the vehicle's stats more that anything else.
Nail'd has a decent system for online multiplayer which supports up to 12 racers simultaneously. Players can create their own match, hop in to a random quick match, or look for a certain match. The one problem with the online mode is that there are almost never any people playing. I searched for a game several times and repeatedly received a message that read "NO GAME SESSION FOUND AT THIS TIME." I eventually found a match after giving the game some time, but it's currently tough to find anyone playing online. I'm not sure if this is a console specific problem for the Xbox 360 (which is the system I played the game on), but it's sad that others aren't giving the game's online a chance.
Nail'd may have its flaws, but it's by no means an awful game. The levels are massive and while the lack of stunts should be considered worrisome, there is enough content to keep players entertained. The soundtrack is actually pretty decent and is filled with awesome music from bands such as Rise Against, Queens of Stone Age, and Slipknot, just to name a few. Players expecting something breathtakingly awesome should look elsewhere, but for those who want a fast and mildly fun $40 game that involves ATVs and Motocross, Nail'd fits the bill.
Nail'd is available now for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.