Mad Riders review

Mad Riders review

There’s very little that’s mad about Mad Riders, despite the vain attempts of its self-mocking launch trailer to convince you otherwise. Its track design comes closest to living up to the game's title: perhaps three seconds per lap will be spent racing across flat terrain, while the rest is a haphazard mess of near-vertical inclines, vertiginous drops and blind corners. One particular ramp is positioned such that approaching it from a seemingly optimal angle will see you hurtle into a wall, while the trackside is so busily furnished that it’s often difficult to gauge quite where a corner is until a white splash screen rudely interrupts the action to let you know you’ve crashed and you respawn a little further down the track. Apparently aware of how difficult to read the tracks are, Techland helpfully ensures you have a guide by having its AI riders race ahead on lap one, before obligingly – and rather patronisingly – slowing down to let you pass. 

There were similar issues with Techland’s Nail’d, a mostly competent but ultimately forgettable off-road racer to which this could charitably be described as a spiritual successor. Again, the developer has prioritised speed over visual fidelity, regularly handing you boost opportunities so the scenery whizzes by at a pace where the cracks aren’t so visible. Even a simple drift is treated as a stunt to further top up your meter, and while this ensures the action maintains a ferocious pace, the downside is the announcer booming “sidewinder!” perhaps a dozen times per lap. Blue collectibles, meanwhile, unlock shortcuts or trigger recharge points which spawn yet more boost tokens.

The convincing sense of speed is dulled by a lack of weight to the handling, while collisions betray some erratic physics: you can easily be shunted into a respawn by other racers, yet left relatively unscathed by a head-on smash into trees. These aren’t the only inconsistencies: you’ll occasionally be prompted to respawn simply by taking a corner too wide, or the game will do the job for you while you're airborne and seemingly headed for a perfectly acceptable landing. Such idiosyncrasies are easier to forgive amid the knockabout chaos of multiplayer, and there’s an appreciable level of content for a downloadable release, but this is merely cheaper, not better, than Nail’d.

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