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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Nail'd (Playstation 3)

Bringing arcade-style off-road racing to the PS3, Nail'd delivers an exhilarating adrenaline rush for gamers who want something fast and challenging. Driving ATVs over massive, multi-branching tracks with incredible jumps, huge gaps and twisting courses, the sheer intensity and speed it creates is impressive. Add speed-boosts and massive crash animations and Nail'd delivers an enjoyable racing experience. Several modes including tournaments, stunt modes and tons of upgrades give the game more depth. However, the racing field is quite crowded these days, and the question is whether Nail'd has enough in the tank to outpace the competition.

On the surface, Nail'd is a decent racer that delivers quite an adrenaline rush. The developers at Deep River have aimed squarely at the arcade market and it's definitely more in the mold of Motorstorm or Split Second. This action-oriented play is implemented effectively because there's no sense of realism in its physics or controls. Track layouts are massive and over-the-top. Its all about arcade-style thrills and speed. While the bikes control somewhat rationally in the context of arcade racing, its physics model is exaggerated. This allows for massive jumps over huge gaps plus the ability to ride on the sides of walls or even upside down in certain sections for extra points. Its structure is straightforward and there are several modes of play including standard single race events, time attack modes and stunt challenge sections. Players can choose to play either a single race or can go a bit deeper and play in extended tournaments that unfold over several races. Once you win a few races, customization options are available that allow you to change you're bike's appearance. You can also change you rider's outfit and the paint jobs on your bike. More importantly, you can upgrade various components of your bike including tires, handlebars, engine, and other aspects. This increases performance incrementally, but these small changes which increase your grip, turning ability and extend your air time make a huge difference. Races unfold in fairly straightforward fashion with the objective of winning the races obvious, but Nail'd adds a boost meter which increases speed dramatically for a short time - it's limited in duration but you can add to it by running through the rings of fire and other checkpoints along the route. There's another way to add boost, which is to perform stunts and tricks, which adds more to your meter. This minor strategy aside, the most important thing you need to do is push down on the accelerator and let it rip, Nail'd rewards absolute speed above all else.

There's plenty of courses to master with 15 tracks included in all, with most featuring branching paths and alternate routs. Learning which ones are the fastest and where the short-cuts are is a key element in winning races. Playing through the time attack mode helps you learn the layout, though some are more complex than others. The more straightforward tracks don't require much practice, but the game's tricky jumps can take several attempts to master. Once you get on the race track, you'll be competing against 11 other racers who are just as persistent and aggressive as you are. Using your boosts effectively and avoiding crashing into objects is the main thrust of the game, but there are other things to worry about. The tracks have moving obstacles such as trains and different types of terrain, such as mud and dirt. Certain sections of track in Nail'd are also tricky since there are sudden drops and missing sections of track that can knock you right out of the race instantly. The twisting courses also lead to blind spots in some sections, and you'll slam into walls or other objects if you aren't careful. All this makes for an extremely challenging game that requires some pretty good reflexes and timing to beat. The game's courses are expansive and varied in terms of layout and structure. This along with the AI competition makes for surprisingly challenging racing action.

There is definitely a fast rush, arcade-style gameplay in Nail'd, but this approach comes with a few minor annoyances. Initially, the game can be difficult with frequent crashes and some occasionally deceptive course layouts. These layouts can makes things more frustrating than you'd expect early on, but if you have persistence the game becomes a lot easier. Another unfortunate aspect of Nail'd comes in its somewhat clunky respawn mechanic. Instead of watching your bike crash in real time, the screen goes blank after a collision and reboots several seconds later. You watch a white screen and an indicator fill up before you respawn, which isn't the most effective implementation. Not only is this disorienting, since you usually end up in a slightly different section of the track, its also frustrating. Crashing usually results in losing several positions in the ranking, and the Nail'd has AI opponents that rarely make mistakes. This means its difficult to make up ground and catch up even if you only crash once, which makes some races lost causes even on the first or second lap. You definitely don't have a lot of margin for error in Nail'd and its level of difficulty is surprising. The long levels usually means it takes around 5 minutes or so to complete a full-length race, which means they can drag on for awhile. Its not too terribly difficult, but there are some stages that seem a little bit more polished than others in terms of layout and presentation, which makes for an uneven experience in terms of visuals and excitement.

The game's tournament structure is a bit too challenging and makes unlocking additional courses and levels take a bit longer than it should. However, this is balanced off by the extensive customization options that allow you to turbo-charge your bike, letting you dominate the competition in some stages. Its visuals are quite impressive in terms of speed, if not detail. Certain areas of the game scream by at an incredible pace with some truly massive jumps on huge ramps over massive gaps. This lets you look down on the world and sometimes your opponents while screaming towards the finish line. Nail'd can be a little dizzying at times because of this and it can make things a little bit disorienting at times. You can alleviate this by going through practice runs and learning the layout of each track. Knowing the location of the fiery speed boosts is another way to keep you at the head of the pack. Its difficult to keep pace with the other racers without crashing, and you definitely need to keep concentration levels high throughout. However, the rewards of additional tracks and upgrades should be enough to keep you motivated for the first few levels. Unfortunately, while Nail'd offers a quick speed boost, it doesn't have enough depth underneath to really make it stand out from the pack.

Comparing Nail'd against a number of excellent racers like Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, Split Second, Blur or, Motorstom: Pacific Rift, shows that while the game is decent, it doesn't really measure up against the others in terms of polish or depth. For the most part, Nail'd delivers what you'd expect from the extreme sports genre, and doesn't really offer much new. It's a fun and challenging title, but most of what it does has been done better in the aforementioned titles. Its somewhat glitchy respawn system gets old in a hurry and the punishingly difficult AI makes things more frustrating than they need to be. Even the music, with its extreme heavy metal feels a little bit redundant and grating. Fortunately, there's an option to turn it off which improves the game many times over. While Nail'd delivers a quick boost of speed and excitement, once the novelty wears off, it's just another average extreme-sports racer that lacks the polish or special effects to really stand out from the crowded racing field.

- Michael Palisano 

Grade: C

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Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit (Playstation 3)
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