You probably best know developer Techland for the zombie survival game “Dead Island,” which featured perhaps the greatest trailer for a video game ever made. “Dead Island” was a technically flawed game that still managed to garner interest past its incredible preview due to a few unique game ideas (and a well-designed game world) that gave the hint that somewhere below all the bugs and somewhat stiff gameplay, there was a truly great game waiting to bust out.
People were anxious to see what Techland’s next project would be, and what they had learned from “Dead Island,” and that game is a downloadable, online ATV racer called “Mad Riders.” It’s actually a bit of a homecoming for developer Techland, because well before “Dead Island,” their main business was banging out a series of unremarkable racing titles, and that’s exactly what “Mad Riders” is.
I don’t mean to sound harsh towards the game. Truthfully, I loved “Mad Riders” when I first booted it up, because the speed of the races was just insane, and the controls were nice and loose in that proper, ATV racing game kind of way. However, things slowly started to unravel as my playtime went on. For one thing, while the game has over 40 tracks to its name, many of them range from okay to very dull, with only a few standouts. The game promises you stunts, but the tracks rarely allow more than a backflip or sharp “sidewinder” turn, and the contradictions continue in the unlock department. The game has the usual array of unlockable and customizable vehicles, riders, modes and tournaments, but none of it is particularly inspiring or worth going out of your way for.
Even the game’s best attribute — the blisteringly insane speed — becomes a problem after a while. That’s because your biggest opponent isn’t the other riders, who don’t present a challenge until later in the tournament, but the tracks themselves. There are all manners of cliffs, crevices and obstacles that will cause you to lose the race, and you’ll become intimately familiar with all of them. Of course, the game contradicts itself once more by always managing to reset you in a friendly position after you make a mistake, and I don’t remember ever once losing any ground because of this feature. Even more annoying is the shortcuts on the tracks. Any divergent path in the road will either lead to a) a road without a ramp; b) a road with a ramp that puts you at about the same place as the one without the ramp; or c) shortcuts where you have to pass through an appropriate gate and hit the Y button at the right time to access. It’s more than a little apathetic.
“Mad Riders” ends up being the polar opposite of “Dead Island.” It’s technically proficient in most ways, but completely lacking in the X-factor department. It’s only 800 Microsoft Points, so there’s an argument to be made for it if you’re jonesing for a semi-competent multiplayer ATV title on a budget, but it isn’t a strong one. Because in the end, “Mad Riders” isn’t dressed up and has nowhere to go, but for some reason is in a ridiculous hurry to get there. And that’s just sad.