Mad Riders review
I spent a good chunk of time playing THQ's MX vs. ATV: Alive last year. That game, while not without a few noticeable quirks, was a splendid blend of high-speed racing and beautiful environments. I'm very happy to say that Techland's own ATV racer, Mad Riders, also provides high octane thrills and a rich visual experience. That said, it's not without a few issues of its own.
It actually took me a while to really get into Mad Riders. My first hour or so with the game wasn't all that fun. This was due in part to the game's difficulty, which is pretty imposing right from the get-go. Mad Riders isn't the most inviting game because it presents a formidable challenge right away, but once you get the hang of it, and once you start unlocking better ATVs to race with, the game quickly becomes a lot more enjoyable, and it delivers a great deal of fun.
The racing in Mad Riders is very fast-paced and arcade-like. You'll be speeding through a number of environments as you take on other racers. Despite the fact that the AI is pretty stiff and constantly has a leg up on you, there are several tactics you can employ to eke out a victory. Mad Riders features a trick system that's intuitive and rewarding. Pulling off tricks is easy and fills your boost meter, which grants you a nice burst of speed with the press of a button. Performing back flips, front flips, and sliding all add to your boost meter, and you can even unlock new tricks the more you play. Because there are plenty of joyfully unrealistic jumps in Mad Riders, the opportunities to pull off these tricks are plentiful.
Tokens are scattered around the various maps, and these serve to further increase your boost meter. Additionally, you can collect special tokens that unlock more boost tokens along the way, as well as shortcuts. Your AI opponents aren't just riding on a set path, though. If they see a shortcut or a line of tokens, they'll head for them, too. These elements add a nice variety to Mad Riders, and that variety certainly helps, as there are moments where the game can be pretty dull. As a matter of fact, that's another issue this racer suffers from early on: The variety is just not there at times. My initial races were not only tough, but they were far too straightforward and even a little boring.
Something Mad Riders really succeeds in is capturing a pleasing sense of speed. This game is fast, and if you're constantly replenishing that boost meter (which you should do if winning is something that interests you), it goes even faster. If you're not careful, the racing in Mad Riders can get a bit too fast, and you may catch yourself going out of bounds too often. Unfortunately, even if you're not going super fast, you'll probably go out of bounds anyway. And yes, it's pretty annoying. My biggest gripe was crashing into a tall structure as I raced off a ramp and started performing tricks mid-air.
The single-player Tournament mode is a great place for beginners to practice. The different game modes are introduced here, and if you want to stand a chance against human opponents, you'll want to familiarize yourself with the tracks, modes, and mechanics. Mad Riders features standard lap-based races, checkpoint rallies, trick races, ghost races, and timed events. Personally, I really dug the trick and checkpoint events, but the timed races were a total pain in the ass.
If you're looking for some real competition, Mad Riders' online multiplayer has what you're looking for. You can race in 12-player races across 45 different tracks. Again, this variety does a great job of rounding out Mad Riders nicely. Sadly, there's no local multiplayer aside from a system link option, which means if you want to take on a buddy in split-screen multiplayer, you're going to be greatly disappointed by the lack of such a feature.
Visually, Mad Riders is absolutely gorgeous. The game's many environments are bold and vibrant. Everything looks pretty great — not that you'll have time to look around and take it all in on account of how freakin' fast you're going. But even then, the constant motion blur is just another visual treat that keeps Mad Riders' graphical presentation at a high level of quality. The sound design, on the other hand, is decent, but the commentary dude can get annoying, especially when he says, "Sidewinder!" every 15 seconds whenever you slide.
At 800 Microsoft Points, Mad Riders is a pretty damn good value. Tournament mode offers a steep challenge, but it's also a lot of fun. And while there's no split-screen multiplayer, the online component should deliver what you're looking for if you're feeling competitive. What makes Mad Riders a good game is its sense of speed. Great tracks with plenty of turns and jumps make this game worth playing. And while it's not without a few flaws, this is certainly an enjoyable arcade racer for gamers who need a fast-paced thrill ride.
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