A game that describes itself as “mad” in its title usually makes the average avid gamer grin a little. Surprisingly, Mad Riders makes justifiable use of the adjective, with death-defying jumps, crazy stunts and stupid speeds featuring throughout. Techland are known for their action games with the Call of Juarez series, and more recently Dead Island, providing good examples, and unsurprisingly Mad Riders draws from the action-orientated roots of its developers. The first thing that will hit you when you boot up this ATV-racer is the incredible sense of speed which brings this arcade racer to life right from the off.
Like all adrenaline rushes, however, this feeling is temporary and whilst Mad Riders is an impressive enough package it suffers from many flaws that ensure it never meets the standards of its already established competitors like Motorstorm and MX vs ATV.
There’s no narrative to speak of here, though considering this is a racing game, which have notoriously poor form here, that’s probably for the best. The core of Mad Riders is the Tournament mode, which gives the player five events to race in. You’ll have to play at least four of these events, which come in the form of time trials, ghost races, ‘arena’ races and standard races, in order to progress. You’ll then repeat this process eight times in order to complete the Tournament, and whilst there’s a lot of races to take part in it becomes incredibly tedious, mostly due to the repetitive track design and easy difficulty. I don’t mean to boast, but I played through the whole tournament mode without having to re-try a single race, and whilst some occasional time trials had me worried I never really found any challenge at all in the game.
Each track is full of large jumps, and whilst this is enjoyable at first the sheer amount of these ‘epic’ moments mean that they lose all impact on the player, thus adding to the overall tedium of Mad Riders. Techland’s games are known to be particularly aesthetically pleasing and whilst Mad Riders looks decent enough the visual style doesn’t stand out and some of the textures look a little shabby up close – not to mention the environments could also be a lot more varied.
Mad Riders contains a levelling system that grants you new levels from earning experience points. This experience is gained by winning races and doing stunts, and each time you level up you’ll earn new vehicles and customisation options. You can customise both your racer and ATV, by changing the colour of each specific car part to your liking. There’s no option to add parts that affect performance, but there’s still reasonable detail in the customisation options.
As for races, the run smoothly with controls that are necessarily responsive. Steering is simple and you’ll never feel the need to brake as its easy enough to steer or power slide around corners without crashing. Therefore there’s very little skill involved in Mad Riders, you’ll simply be holding down the button for acceleration and testing your reactions by dodging incoming objects. Techland’s ATV-racer ends up coming across as rather simplistic, and whilst I appreciate the ‘pick-up-and-play’ nature of the game, as a fan of the genre I would have wanted a bit more depth.
Also rather simplistic is the way you react with other racers. There’s no real tactics involved here, you can’t bash other racers to send them off course and they make no effort to stop you from overtaking them, meaning that in many races I hardly saw any of my competitors. Ultimately the A.I. come across as dumb and don’t put up much of a fight. There’s also very little feeling of impact on the rare occasions when you do collide with your competitors. Unlike other racers Mad Riders doesn’t really give you any feeling of danger; even when you do crash, there’s no impressive MotorStorm-esqe crash sequence showcasing the extent of your mistake.
A lot of my complaints are forgivable on the grounds that Techland have created an arcade-racer and nothing else. The core of Mad Riders is strong enough, and there’s plenty to keep you going. Online racing is available and is impressively easy to use for a downloadable game. All game modes are available and human competition allows Mad Riders to shine. For all its content, however, Mad Riders get pretty dull fast. It’s not a bad game by any stretch of the imagination; it’s flawed in some aspects sure, but for just eight pounds you’re getting a competent arcade-racer packed full of content. I appreciate what Techland are offering here, but it’s impossible to look past the fact that Mad Riders brings nothing new to the table.
By all means download Mad Riders if you’re looking for some quick fun at a low-cost, as that’s exactly what Mad Riders provides. Just don’t go expecting anything particularly unique or inspired, as Techland’s latest foray into racing doesn’t bring anything new to the table.