Review: Mad Riders (PS3)

Title: Mad Riders
Format: PlayStation Network Download (1285 MB)
Release Date: May 30, 2012
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Techland
Original MSRP: $9.99 (US), £6.80 (UK)
ESRB Rating: E
Mad Riders is also available on Xbox Live Arcade and PC.
The PlayStation Network Download version was used for this review.

A few years back, Techland released Nail’d, an off-road racer built on the premise of extreme, death-defying jumps and nostril-flaring speed. Mad Riders could essentially be seen as a sequel of sorts. It takes the original idea, and sets it in a luscious, tropical environment, with a few improvements. Unfortunately, Mad Riders falls in a couple large potholes, really holding back an otherwise fun arcade racer.

Mad Riders is all about taking things to the extreme, and that’s where the game shines. The sheer amount of speed in the game is unreal and almost everything you do revolves around your boost meter. That includes performing various tricks mid-air and gathering colored tokens scattered throughout the track. And once your boost is ready, you shoot across the course at break-neck speeds, drifting around corners, and flying by opponents. Physics takes a back seat when you soar off a jump and into the air. The hang times for some of the jumps are incredible, allowing for some creative obstacles and numerous trick opportunities.

Sadly, these massive jumps are tempered by a rather finicky reset system. In the air, you are given a lot of freedom, which allows for you to easily get sidetracked if you aren’t familiar with the course. There were a number of times that I would lose track of where I was and land somewhere I wasn’t supposed to be, resetting my driver and causing me to relinquish my lead and lose all my momentum. There were even moments, after losing it during a jump, when I felt I could maintain my speed and continue, but the system reset me. This was the cause of a lot of frustration. A game built upon unrelenting speed and gigantic jumps can’t expect the player to be so precise in their control.

The racing in Mad Riders is nothing special. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad. But you won’t see anything unique. Mad Riders provides plenty of alternate routes to take and a few shortcuts on every track, but overall, the courses felt rather narrow. I’d bounce from wall to wall, tree to tree, barely controlling my driver. There would be other times when I’d be going so fast that I’d miss my turn altogether and go careening off course, causing another reset. These problems lessened as I became more familiar with the tracks, but still allowed for plenty of early groans.

There is a lot of content in Mad Riders. There is the usual suspect of racing modes, including time trial, stunt race, and normal race. Tournament mode breaks down to be something of a campaign, allowing you to earn XP to get new racers and ATV’s. The game provides some creative costume designs for the characters, but eventually the ATV’s started to mesh together and the stat variations became less important. That being said, there is still a lot to do. The tournament mode is long, featuring various courses and race types. If you are a perfectionist, returning to each track to get three stars adds to the replay value. Once you are done with tournament mode, there is a nice multiplayer component. There are literally hours upon hours of content in Mad Riders.

The game looks nice. The tropical forest is full of bright, vibrant colors. But with the game’s focus on speed, the motion-blur during most of the race really takes the focus off the environment.

The animations for the ATV’s and drivers are spot on and I didn’t really notice any problems. When you land a jump, your character braces himself. When you drift around a corner, your character shifts his weight. It is all very well done. The tricks are a little blah, nothing spectacular like you would see in an SSX, but it gets the job done. Overall, the visuals won’t blow you away, but they won’t detract from the experience either.

The music in Mad Riders is boring. It is your run-of-the-mill, generic rock music. During the race, I found myself listening to my own music through my iPhone. The engine and ATV sounds sounded good though, really helping you feel that sense of speed. The announcer is probably one of the worst parts of the game. Every time you do a trick, he’ll announce it to the world. This isn’t bad, but by the tenth time I heard “Sidewinder!” when drifting around a corner, I’d had enough. Luckily, you can turn him off in the menu. I highly suggest you do.

The online multiplayer was fun, featuring the same tracks and modes found in the singe player modes. Up to 12 people can participate, but more often than not, I found myself racing with 3 or 4 other people. The experience was pretty good though. I had very few laggy moments and the frame rate kept up. I got disconnected once, but that isn’t too bad, all things considered. I’d say if you are a fan of the single player campaign, there is no reason you wouldn’t have fun in the multiplayer.

I want to like Mad Riders. It is a fun, speedy, arcade racer. The jumps in this game are jaw-dropping and can provide for some very exciting moments. But Mad Riders does nothing to make itself stand out in the genre. It is filled with generic ATV’s, generic racing, generic music, and average graphics. I can’t say that this game is bad, despite it’s terrible reset system, but the game isn’t great. At the end of the day, I’d say it’s an average racer. If you are a fan of the genre, check it out. If you’re not, then you might want to try the demo first.


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