I wanted to like this game, I really did. One of the things that sucks about being a hardcore console gamer is that you rarely get a chance to truly support the little guy on a major console release. While platforms like Xbox Live Arcade, the iPhone, and even the PC have been a fruitful breeding ground for excellent independent and lower budgeted games, it's extremely rare to find a full retail release on major consoles that will keep your interest over more celebrated AAA fare from well known publishers.
Nail'd is just another one of those obscure games that will be finding its way to a bargain bin near you.
I think part of the problem is the niche that Nail'd is trying to appeal to. The game is something of a combination between ATV Offroad Fury and Motorstorm, with more than just a tip of the hat to the whole EXTREME Mountain Dew niche that I thought was a dead and buried phenomenon sometime around 2004. Leave it to Nail'd to prove me right, for as in your face as the game tries to be, it comes off as tired and bland.
On the surface, Nail'd is an average racer with an intense sense of speed. You're given a choice between dirt bikes and ATVs, and are given the opportunity to take these rides out onto off road tracks that completely defy the laws of physics. The tracks loop and bend like you'd expect a roller coaster at six flags to. Considering how ridiculously fast you are right off the bat, any challenge in the game stems more from finding the fastest path to the finish line than any driving skills you possess. There are some nice design choices on the tracks like having you go sideways along a hydro-electric dam, or swerving through train tracks avoiding locomotives. These diversions are fun for a while, but soon just become another obstacle to overcome.
Like Burnout and countless other racers before it, you're given boost by doing stunts and successfully navigating through flaming checkpoints. You're already faster than anybody on the track without boost, and using it will create such a gap between you and the pack as to make your only true opponents the track itself and the clock.
I say stunts, but Nail'd doesn't do stunts in the typical, "no-hands" or "backflips" kind of way. Stunts are measured as "boost feats", which essentially boil down to smooth landings, defying gravity by driving on steep surfaces or going upside down, using boost efficiently without hitting anything, making huge jumps, or knocking your opponents out. This makes the advertised "stunt mode" an exercise in futility, as success is measured more by what opportunities the track offers than your skills with a controller.
You get boost feats by smashing your opponents off the track, but this is almost impossible. The racers are too small, the tracks too hectic, and the racer AI too pathetic to get into melees with each other. The AI racers pose no challenge whatsoever, and your bike is so overpowered off the get go, than you'll easily win any race, no matter your skill level. I won one race in the third tournament of the game with a 15 second margin despite crashing well over a dozen times. I thought maybe this would be the case for the first few races of the game, but the AI stayed slow and stupid throughout my entire play time.
There is no punishment for crashing, ever. The game will instantly respawn you whenever you crash or fall off your bike, and instantly throw you back on the track. Considering your bikes have the same acceleration level that I do when I run into an ex-girlfriend on the street, crashing becomes entirely meaningless. There are also some annoying bugs in the game that will respawn you in mid jump. You will be soaring through the air, certain that you've lined up your landing perfectly, only to have the game tell you that you've crashed and the respawn you ahead of where you would have landed anyway.
The physics are arcadey to the EXTREME (this is where you chug your dew). Brakes are never needed, as the generous respawn system will actually slow you down less than actually hitting the brakes. You can steer your bike through nearly any obstacle without slowing down at all, and you can adjust your rider in midair to your liking. As stated above, the goofy physics are great for those who want a quick fix, but those looking for any sort of depth will be bored. TO THE EXTREME.
There are lots of tournaments and events to enter, but since there are only a handful of modes (all focused on going really fast, even the stunt mode), and 14 tracks, they'll all start to bleed together quickly. This is a big problem, because the menus don't tell you which events you've already participated in. The events are organized in tiers, and a small indicator will tell you how many events you've won in that tier. However, once you select a tier, the menu doesn't tell you which of those events you've already played. If you have the memory of a goldfish like I do, you'll end up replaying lots of events because of this irritating oversight.
By winning events you'll gain points to upgrade various portions of your ride, but this is pointless. I won every single event in the first four tiers without even touching this system. The game is already too fast from the get go, and the upgrades don't make much of a noticeable difference.
Perhaps the upgrades are more useful against human opponents, but I couldn't find a match. Not one. The servers are completely deserted, not two weeks after its release. On several occasions, the game would not find a match for me, and it's obvious why. A quick look at the leaderboards shows that only 2924 players are ranked worldwide as of this writing. The closest I came to getting an online game going was creating my own game. One lonely player joined my game in the lobby before bailing a few seconds later. Forget about multiplayer.
The graphics in Nail'd are average at best. The game puts on a distracting blur filter that helps increase the sense of speed, but makes identifying upcoming obstacles a chore. Riders are poorly detailed and stiffly animated, especially the AI racers. The environments generally look pretty good, which is the easily the strength of the Chrome engine that has powered such "heavy hitters" like Call of Juarez 2 and Sniper: Ghost Warrior. Like other Chrome engine games, the environments look great from a distance, with no pop in to speak of. Up close, however, you'll encounter jittery textures and low resolution objects. There's also a ton of clipping errors that will randomly have your racer hurtling through poles, trees, track barriers, and other obstacles. It's really weird that you'll crash by flying through the air, but pass right through a sign with no problems. It's not a constant issue, but it certainly happens often enough to be noticeable and irritating. I guess that's what happens when you shoehorn an engine designed for first person action games into an EXTREME racing game.
The sound design is what you'd expect from a game like this. There's an EXTREME soundtrack featuring songs from bands like Slipknot and Queens of the Stone Age, but the songs are all at least half a decade old. What? Was Rob Zombie's Dragula unavailable? The soundtrack is not entirely unpleasant, but the thrashing chords and heavy metal stylings are not for everyone. The rest of the game is punctuated by the bassy sounds of the dirtbikes and ATVs, which sound more like 1970s muscle cars than nimble offroad vehicles.
In a strange way, I respect the intent behind a game like Nail'd, and I don't generally like tearing down the hard work of a smaller publisher. Unfortunately, shallow gameplay, a myriad of glitches, boring and repetitive objectives, a non-existent online community, average at best graphics all conspire to make Nail'd a game destined to be forgotten in the bargain bin of your local games store. Now that's EXTREME.