Mad Riders Review

by on May 29, 2012

Mad-Riders-ReviewGame: Mad Riders

Developer: Techland

Publisher: Ubisoft

Available on: Xbox LIVE Arcade, Sony Entertainment Network (Reviewed on Xbox LIVE Arcade)

Techland have become rather well known in the games industry for one thing; the quality of their trailers. After all, they made what is often considered the magnum opus of video game trailers for their previous game, Dead Island. Promising an interesting take on the already saturated niche of including zombies in video-games, the trailer amazed viewers when it first hit. The trailer for the Xbox LIVE Arcade title, Mad Riders, is similarly impressive, parodying and satirizing the cliches of modern game trailers. All it needed was some dubstep.

However, whilst they’re great with trailers, Techland are often hit and miss with the games they produce. Although the first two Call of Juarez titles were excellent, the third – Call of Juarez: The Cartel – was exasperatingly poor. Similarly, when Dead Island released, it was great fun, but too buggy to be classed as a modern classic (despite the announcement of a Game of The Year edition). However, promising a lot of content for just 800 Microsoft Points, does Mad Riders fall into the trap of promising much but failing to deliver as well?

The spiritual successor to 2011’s Nail’d, Mad Riders is an off-road arcade racer, where you compete with other ATVs and Buggies in order to win the race and advance your ranking in the tournaments. However, Mad Riders – as the name suggests – does not take itself seriously. Much like its contemporaries such as Pure, there is an emphasis on performing stunts in order to fill the boost bar. In Mad Riders, the emphasis is very much on speed, and the boost is an integral part of this.

The main body of the game is to be found in the Tournament mode, where you spend your time competing in 48 races over 5 categories. As well as the standard race, there are also several variations including Stunt Races, where your position in racing terms does not matter as much as your stunt score, Ghost Challenges, where you race against a ghost of a professional racer on a track and aim to beat their time, Arena races, where you have to race around a circular arena going through checkpoints fastest and Race the Clock, where you have to beat a certain time. Spread across 48 races, there is a lot of racing to do, with plenty of vehicles to unlock as well. To inject some more wackiness into the game, you also unlock new drivers, including a gorilla and a zombie, to drive those vehicles.

Each race earns you a certain amount of stars, up to a maximum of 3. Once you earn 10 stars per ‘stage’ of 5 races, you unlock the next stage of 5. As well as that, you also unlock Off Road Elite races, which are separate from the main races. With a slightly higher difficulty (in concept), the Off-road Elite stages serve as a chance to unlock better vehicles to use by completing the challenges they present. All in all, there are several hours worth of gameplay in Tournament mode and even more if you strive to get all 3 stars on every stage. Every race result and stunt earns you XP, which contributes to new drivers and vehicles every time you reach a higher level.

The multiplayer portion of the game also has an XP system for unlocking vehicles, but it’s a separate beast from the single-player, allowing all multiplayer competitors to start off on an equal footing. As you compete in tournaments between drivers, you’ll gain XP from placing high and performing stunts, which levels your character up. It’s fun, and even when racing against people from the other side of the world there is minimal lag. However, the offline multiplayer is a disappointing offering in comparison, with no split-screen feature included and only a system link option.

If you’d prefer to carry on playing solo, then there is a quick race option for you to retry any of the 48 races you unlocked in tournament mode, as well as the promise of more tracks coming via downloadable content in the form of Platinum tracks, which promise to add at least 2 new championship and 10 new races in a new environment to go alongside the 9 existing environments in the game. Safe to say, if you’re so inclined there is plenty to do in Mad Riders.

As with many racers, the difficulty curve isn’t very steep as long as you use appropriately powerful vehicles in order to compete. Only the checkpoint-reliant Race Against The Clock stages possess any real challenge when trying for 3 stars, as they require you to finish with 6 seconds remaining on the clock at least. Any difficulty you encounter in the game generally isn’t the result of a difficult track, as your vehicle tends to bounce or respawn rather easily after going off course, even if sometimes the game prefers to automatically respawn you when you don’t wish it to.

The main cause of the difficulty is instead the hit-and-miss physics engine. Much like Nail’d, Mad Riders has some problems that result in eccentric reactions to jumps and collisions. Though not always obvious, there will occasionally be a jump where your vehicle simply seems to ignore it is there. It’s only a minor gripe, but it can cause a lot of frustration, particularly in the checkpoint races when it causes you to miss out on that illusive 3rd star.

The presentation is strong, if unspectacular. Although the vehicles and environments look nice enough, compared to the likes of Motorstorm, they feel average. The mud doesn’t churn up, and there are some occasional texture issues. Also, unlike Nail’d, Mad Riders does not feature a licensed soundtrack this time around, which is a bit of a shame as the generic rock that replaces it does the job solidly, though it’s a little unspectacular.

VERDICT: All in all, there’s enough here on paper for a full-price release, but you can see where costs have been cut with regards to lack of a licensed soundtrack and no split-screen multiplayer. For an Xbox LIVE Arcade game there’s a considerable amount to do, with fun and frantic gameplay to boot. However, with a few physics problems and nothing new being brought to the table, Mad Riders will satiate your appetite for racing, it just doesn’t do anything particularly spectacular outside being excellently priced.

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