Nail’d Preview

If a tree falls in the forest, will you hit it with your face?

Informally, internally (and at least so far, unofficially) tagged by the people at Southpeak as "the game that makes physics its bitch", the high-energy off-road racer Nail’d is just about as wholeheartedly, unashamedly arcade-ish as they come. Dirt bikes and ATVs are already mud-clotted, competitive cousins by nature in the real world, and Nail’d thows them together, willy-nilly, and on the same race courses in a game that happily chucks all but the most noncommittal nods to ‘realism’ over a cliff. A cliff somewhere in Yosemite, in fact, judging by what we’ve seen so far.

[image1]Any racing game worth its caked-on salt aspires to be ‘fast’, but Nail’d looks like it takes the illusion of speed as its core mission-statement, as almost anything the player does ‘right’ will only end up contributing to the game’s overall sense of speed. The off-road tracks are littered with helpful course-defining rings of fire—not always necessarily on the ground—passage through any one of which will automatically provide an additional bit of turbo-boost. Likewise, the boost meter can also be upped by performing all manner of tricks, whether on the ground or, more likely, in the air.

And ‘in the air’ is precisely where players will spend much of their time, if they’re doing things right. Even for a supremely goofy, "throttle first, physics later" sort of video game, Nail’d is conspicuously awash in ridiculously, marvelously-epic jumps that show off the game’s sprawling, vertically-oriented, winding race-courses. In the real world, even sunlight can hardly fall this far without taking damage, but your only concern in undertaking a quarter-mile or so of air-time at one go is making sure that you stick—or Nail, if you prefer—a halfway-decent landing. Bonus points—and boost-metery kudos in addition—if you can actually manage to come down smack-ass atop some other hapless racer; why do you think they settled on a name like “Nail’d”?

Conducive to such air-to-ground shenanigans is the fact that the game’s gleeful disregard for physics extends not only to sheer screen-blurring apparent speed and the negation of most fall-damage, but also to the player’s ability to maneuver when still in the air. If you take a particularly-spectacular Wile E. Coyote off one of Yosemite’s more elevated photo-spots and the rapidly-approaching track below you seems a bit more off to the left than you’d anticipated, you’ll be able to adjust the drift and approach of your airborne bike or ATV even as you hurtle downward. Just in case, Nail’d offers an onscreen indicator to aid airborne players in keeping their wheels more or less level once they hit the ground again; the game seems pretty forgiving in this aspect, but really augering in badly naturally results in a suitably ugly (and of course, time-killing) crash.

[image2]Remember that scene in Pirates of the Caribbean, where the (un)dead captain Barbossa refers to the legendary Pirate Code as “more what you’d call guidelines than actual Rules”? Well, that’s sort of the approach that Nail’d seems to be taking with its actual race courses. While there are of course clearly-delineated dirt tracks brutally carved out of Yosemite’s sprawling greenery, there are also lots of opportunities to go zooming out into the less-traveled, tree-studded boonies—at your peril.

This might be your chance to go whanging off into a wooded short-cut between switchbacks—or to find a well-placed jump that can instantly launch you several turns ahead of the competition. Or it might be your chance to plow face-first into an unfortunately-placed tree that is sure to ruin your lap time, as your straight-arrow foes stick to the obvious road. You live by the pines, you die by the pines.

The game’s boost-metered pace is already hectic enough, but you can add to that urgency a plethora of other time-saving opportunities. Smashing through fences (Is that wooden barrier you’re hurtling toward actually gonna break when you hit it?), sliding under and/or down felled trees-cum-impromptu ramps, or skidding crabwise down the less-than-totally-race-approved slopes of mountains.

[image3]In addition to the single-player races — set on tracks based on real-world locales in North America and abroad, although we’ve only had eyes-on with the Yosemite tracks thus far — Nail’d will support up to up to 12 competitors in multiplayer, and will offer thorough leaderboards as well; post-race, players will be able to watch the full race from different perspectives.

Finally, thankfully, the game will also offer a track-editor—even more chances to ramp your ATV into cliff-ringed oblivion, or to muscle a fellow motocross-rider into a solidly-convenient tree-trunk on a crucial turn. Nail’d is slated to ship later this year. Remember, kids, don’t try any of this at home—and you sure as hell probably shouldn’t try any of it at Yosemite.

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