Mad Riders (XBLA)
Game titles often give a significant clue about the content... Max Payne was never going to be about fluffy bunnies was it? Or Space Invaders a game about a paperboy completing his route. For that reason it should be clear that Mad Riders isn't going to be a game focusing on F1 2011 levels of racing detail.
What we have in Techland's Mad Riders is a game designed to pack in as much action, speed, thrills and spills into downloadable title (Xbox Live/PSN/PC) as is possible for the price of a pizza. Can it compete with the likes of Dirt Showdown for our hard earned cash? Let's find out...
Mad Riders follows a reasonably traditional racing formula. On this occasion we take control of various off road vehicles (ATV/Buggy) in a mad dash to complete various races/events using left/right trigger to accelerate/brake, left stick to steer and the thumb buttons to execute actions such as speed boost. Achieving this goal of a high placed finish results in stars being awarded and set numbers of stars in any tournament (group of races) unlocks the next tournament.
Along the way we have XP being gathered for our performance, be that race position or stunts performed and through progression of each we unlock additional vehicles and moves. For example as we begin the first race our key stunt is the back flip, this then gets more complex with the need to hit a landing target while performing complex, stunt filled jumps with further skills following. Also worth noting is that as we perform stunts an collect pickups along the way our boost bar fills which allows us to turbo for limited distance.
With a mix of extreme speed and tracks which are more often than not placed on Everest like mountains with massive cliffs part of the skill is knowing when to execute tricks and jumps or focus on speed and accuracy to catch and overtake the other racers. Getting the balance perfect isn't critical though because the developers have taken the decision to almost instantly drop us back into the action, with only a 1-2 second penalty rather than the usual lengthy impact mistakes have in other racing games.
Interestingly given this choice for near instant resets to track Mad Racers takes a different approach to crashes than other games. In most titles with assists on we hit a wall and carry on, hit a solid object in Mad Racers and we need not reverse and turn to return to the racing line, the game resets us back to track and off we go again.
In addition to the single player tournament and quick race gameplay we also have multiplayer gaming where we can race players from across the globe via PSN or Xbox Live. Games can include up to 12 players and quick match functionality sets us up with opponents with ease.
Further adding to the gameplay are the usual mix of achievements/trophies and the ability to download additional tracks and items for more of our Microsoft/Sony points and cash.
Graphics and Audio
As with the gameplay Techland have gone against ultra-realism for the graphics in Mad Riders. Instead what we get is a reasonable representation of the vehicles, riders and environment. There is plenty going on across the various tracks with bucket loads of trees, bushes and race related items. View distance is also good and there are some decent lighting effects and motion blur present.
This decision to stay away from realism for a more arcade feel was a wise one though as it allows the game to run with high framerates. We noticed no slowdown during our testing, a rarity in modern gaming.
Audio wise we get a pretty traditional race game soundtrack with the usual mix of engine noises, simple and functional. Added to these are voiceovers for various in-game events. They fit well, even if some are overused... "Sidewinder" being one that immediately jumps to mind.
Overall Mad Racers is a whole load of fun, though it is not without a few niggling faults. First up is that the tracks do feature some areas which require complete guess work to negotiate on our first play though. Maybe it is a conscious design decision but for the most part games should reward skill and areas which are too crowded to tell where we should be turning take away from enjoyment. In addition to this we also found that on occasion the game would make an assumption that we were about to crash in a way that would fire off a reset to track when it wasn't that cut and dry with, we feel, potential to manoeuvre our way out of danger.
Minor issues aside the positives far, far outweigh the negatives and the end result is a game which finds a great balance of decent graphics and audio mixed with fast, fun gameplay and plenty of variation. With 45 tracks at launch and more via DLC combined with achievements, unlocks and multiplayer action there is a lot to keep players coming back to improve their level, or personal best.