When it comes to off-road racing games the criminally overlooked Pure is right at the front of the pack. Its combination of thrilling arcade gameplay, exhilarating steep drops and great sense of speed make it by far the most entertaining ATV game I've ever played, and with a passing glance Nail'd looks like more of the same. It's extremely fast, features plenty of ridiculous leaps of faith and has a boost system. Whereas Pure took time to master, though, in Nail'd your ATV or bike feels slightly disconnected from the road and as a result more of a rollercoaster ride than an arcade racer.
Driving very fast around hugely undulating environments is the name of the game here. Whether you're in Arizona, Yosemite, Greece, or Andes, the tracks all feature scenery that seems to hug the track (which shoots off in various different routes), meaning the sense of speed is even more pronounced. At times the course layout resembles a corkscrew, with your vehicle seemingly spiralling round and round through increasingly narrow paths.
Boost is awarded for performing certain tasks, such as successfully driving through gates and rings of fire, while clean landings will also fill your meter. Boosting, as you might expect, makes the game even faster, although the black and white filter doesn't really help increase the sensation while making the game look less visually appealing.
Speed is undeniably a good thing when it comes to racers, but it needs to be paired with a tactile connection to the road or else the sensation of driving off-road just isn't there. Games like SEGA Rally and the previously mentioned Pure managed to deliver the essential sensation of your vehicle churning through mud and gravel, its tyres struggling to gain grip as you powerslide round corners. This is where Nail'd comes unstuck.
For the majority of the time with Nail'd you don't need to worry about braking - it's just not something that crosses your mind. For the casual racer who really only wants to mess about for a few minutes here and there, this is fine, but for anyone who wants a challenge it's a real deal breaker. You glide around the tracks almost as if the course itself takes you along on a wave. Yes, sawing through the sky in between spinning blades of wind turbines is exciting, but a smattering of visual spectacles doesn't suddenly make the game something that is consistently fun to play.
Things aren't helped by a fairly dull Tournament mode which takes far too long to get going. Progression through to new tracks seems to take ages, and without any real need to learn the early courses seeing new things is all that's keeping you going. There's also a series of stunt challenge events, but considering this aspect of Nail'd is by far the weakest, making an entire mode out seems a little misguided.
Upgrades can be made to your vehicle, unlocked as you play, but it's slightly confusing as the game doesn't let you know what has been unlocked and what items are new since your last visit to the upgrades menu. 12-player online racing is available and works well in the handful of events I was able to play. Although the game's been out for some time the PC servers aren't exactly buzzing with competitors at the moment.
On even a modest PC Nail'd looks very pretty, although the permanent fisheye lens type effect might put off some gamers. The environments are densely populated with trees, foliage and other items, while the frame rate was consistently smooth even on my ageing rig. The big leaps into the sky are Nail'd's crowning glory, with the glorious looking Mist track being my highlight, but these giant jumps alone don't make a good game. Crashes lack impact and your vehicle regularly rebounds off the environment in odd ways, while the black and white effect doesn't really enhance the sensation of speed at all.
The soundtrack is perfectly fitting, though, with tracks created especially for the game by members of a handful of metal bands - both instrumental and lyrical tracks, voiced by Wayne Static from Static X if you must know. These have been packaged alongside well-known tracks from the likes of Slipknot and Queens of the Stone Age, so you're never going to be wishing for more metal.
Nail'd impresses in its opening moments and is fun to hop into for a quick burst, but once you've seen a few of the sights you're left with a game that struggles to excite where it really matters. The vehicles don't have the required connection with the road, which ultimately makes for a shallow racing experience.