There is something to be said for a straightforward game that both knows exactly what it is, and delivers exactly that. There’s uncomplicated, flat out racing. Boost tokens that help you get big air. Flips and tailwhips, unlockable drivers, and easy to find online races. That’s Mad Riders. The new ATV racing game from Techland, the developers who gave us the off road racer Nail’d and the zombie basher Dead Island.
While a lack of imagination and innovation may be its only downside, that and no two-player split-screen, Mad Riders lets you jump straight into full throttle racing. As soon as the flag drops on your first race, your finger will not leave the throttle. If you’re jockeying for position in a pack of ATVs, bouncing off fairly forgiving walls, or nailing big air tricks, you’ll barely have time to relax in any of the forty different races.
Starting with the Proving Grounds Tournament, Mad Riders eases you into the racing. You collect experience points for drifting and performing tricks to level up and unlock bikes, drivers, and paint-jobs, while podium finishes unlock subsequent tournaments and tracks
After the first tournament, different race types begin to be included. There are events where you have to collect the most experience points, solo runs where you just need to beat the clock, and open arena races where you go from checkpoint to checkpoint the fastest way you can. While we’ve seen the race types before, everything looks good enough, and - more importantly - it all plays well enough, to keep the energy and excitement levels up.
Also thrown into the mix red and blue tokens that you collect mid-race. Driving through a red token fills up your boost, and you’ll need to constantly be boosting to finish first, while blue tokens open up shortcuts as well as giving you access to even more red tokens.
By now you’ll have a good idea of what kind of game you’re getting with Mad Riders. You choose your bike and rider, start the race, drive through a couple of red tokens, boost off a jump, pull off a back flip, and get extra points for a perfect landing. You get into the lead, miss a turn because it’s the first time you’ve raced on the course, and fly off into a misty ravine. Then you respawn in eighth place, hit a blue token so you get access to a short-cut full of red tokens. Then you can boost your way back to first place, collect your experience points, and unlock a new bike and rider for the next race.
So, it’s nothing that we haven’t seen before. But, it’s all done well. Although the commentary gets repetitive and annoying very quickly. Also, the courses lack a bit of variety, even though they look good and are fairly busy with alternate routes and unlockable short-cuts. Some courses take a few tries to get familiar with, too, so you will crash a few times, miss the odd corner, or jump into oblivion or at a stone wall. But, you can steer when you’re in mid-air, so not every bad take-off leads to a fatal bail. And even if you do crash the game is pretty friendly so you can generally get back to the front with a clean lap.
Online, the game is just as good. From the lobby you can join a quick game of up to twelve racers. But, perhaps the best part of the entire game is that even if there isn’t a game to join, you can play a single player race and a pop-up will notify you the an online race is starting. So, with a press of the d-pad you can jump straight to the start of the online race.
In the end, Mad Riders is a good, solid game. Looks good, plays good, is good. But, if you’ve bought any racing game in the last few years, any game at all, Mad Riders probably doesn’t offer anything you haven’t got already. That said, it’s fast, cheap, and can keep you entertained on a cold winter weekend.