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Review: Mad Tracks

Racing on the Xbox Live Arcade is something of a niche market. There isn’t much on offer, although Micro Machines could easily fill the void. Up steps Mad Tracks then, a game similar to Micro Machines but with a very different approach. Does Mad Tracks successfully fill the void, or will gamers have to wait for something more complete?

Firing up Mad Tracks is a pleasure gamers across the globe have been waiting for. What with previews and a constant flow of news about the game, the day when the game would finally be made available couldn’t come quick enough. With hype surrounding the game reaching unseen heights for an XBLA game, it had to be something special. It’s a shame then that the feeling of anticipation immediately turns into disappointment at the realisation that contained within Adventure mode are only fifteen races and mini games. Broken down, that makes six races and nine minigames.

Saving presumably the best until last, opting for the minigames is the first port of call. Ranging from pool games to table football, to bashing things off the edge to avoiding rubber balls, at least one minigame out of the nine should be fun and enjoyable. Not so. Pool is a horrible minigame that just builds up frustration within your inner self. The camera angle never quite works, and potting more than one ball (which you’ll have to do if you want to win the game) becomes a tedious chore that you won’t want to play again. Similarly for “Beastie Balls”. Here rubber balls ping around a bowl which players have to try and avoid whilst also driving around. Without even trying, getting Gold is all too easy, regardless of difficulty level. The only thing that makes the minigames hard is the ludicrous requirements for a Gold medal.

Winning a game of Table Football 3-0 is incredibly hard, thanks mainly to the impossibility of hitting the ball in the required direction. Couple that with an AI partner intent on smashing into your car, and the frustration builds up all over again. Beastie Balls was by far the easiest of the minigames to get a Gold on, with Pool or Table Football fighting it out for the hardest. For a gold medal in Pool, the AI has to pot only one ball, with the player potting seven. This is harder than it sounds thanks to a camera that doesn’t want to play ball and would rather find the most useless position available to you.

Enough of the minigames. Some proper racing to be had is on the cards after the less-than-enjoyable stab at the supposedly fun small games. Fortunately, this is one area where the game shines. Not as bright as the sun or the moon, but it’s certainly a highlight. Most races see four other AI opponents racing for the finish line after two or three laps, depending on which race you do. Dotted about each track are pickups which hold all manner of different weapons that can be utilised to blow other racers up, or used to enhance your own car with speed increases. You can store up to five different types of weapon at a time, and each of the five can hold a countless amount of ammo. Switching between the weapons is easily done with X or B. The developers have been clever with the weapons, because thanks to the huge amount of ammo that is possible to collect, some might hope to fire off all rockets like a semi-automatic rifle. Thankfully a longer than average reload time is in place which may seem annoying at first, but more races prove that it is definitely needed.

The racing itself is quite fun. The tracks are cleverly designed and give a very competitive feel to them. None of them feel too long or too short, thanks to the maximum number of laps being just right. Throughout each race a frantic battle will normally ensue for the coveted number one spot. The game is best played on Hard difficulty though, because anything else and the races tend to become a bit too easy. If you manage to learn each course after a few plays through then race again on Medium or Easy, there should be no challenge in coming first. Hard makes it more enjoyable; the AI are more intelligent and they seem to use better weapon choices depending on their individual status in the race.

There are however two noticeable problems with the racing though. It doesn’t matter whether you have come down a massive ramp or are going up one, there seems to be no sense of speed at all. Unless you switch to first person view, it feels as if the car is doing the same speed with or without acceleration. You’ll notice this more thanks to the second annoying feature. Because you drive toy cars, they have a spring. This spring needs recharging every so often so racers have to release the Right Trigger and stop accelerating. Whether this idea was to be innovative and create something different is anyone’s guess, but it’s about as fun as racing through Burnout only to find you have run out of fuel ten yards from the finish line. If you don’t realise this at the beginning, then when you do realise, frustration builds up all over again. It adds nothing to the game when you just want to get on and race. But even when you release the RT to build the spring back up, you won’t be able to tell that some speed has been lost anyway, it’s just annoying. Especially when you never see the AI let up on the gas at all. Perhaps they do, but it isn’t noticeable.

Thankfully AI isn’t the only competition. Mad Tracks allows up to four people to play on the same machine via splitscreen, or up to four people across Xbox Live. Racing games in splitscreen are very rarely a problem, and this is no different. It works how it should and generally it’s fun. Xbox Live works just as it should too. There was no lag at all, whether it was a minigame or a race. Hardly anyone will talk during the XBL session, but that’s not a problem unless you play a minigame that requires team work. The biggest fault online is the lack of a post-game lobby. After every race or minigame, you get booted back to a menu where a new group of temporary friends has to be found. This is annoying when attempting to play with friends, because although it doesn’t take an age to set up a game, it’s a hassle inviting everyone back in. Post-game lobbies should be standard in any unranked multiplayer mode, but sadly Mad Tracks is lacking there. Racing with friends is undeniably fun, and it is online where Mad Tracks really shines, as it should. With no lag whatsoever it makes for a generally flowing game so long as no-one drops out half way through. And thanks to the shortness of most races, no-one does.

Lag-less online play seems to have come at a cost though. The graphics are less than flattering. The graphics don’t affect a great deal since there is little time to look at scenery anyway, but the car models don’t look anywhere near as good as perhaps you might expect. The choice of cars is nice though. There are twelve to choose from, but you can’t use all of them in any race you want. There are three classes of cars; the Sport, the Light and the Heavy. Sports nip around the track; Lights take corners brilliantly; Heavy are good for pushing things but not so much turning. Within the three classes you can change the model of your car by selecting a different country before the game starts. There isn’t any noticeable difference between cars except the class, but it’s nice to have a variety of different choices.

There is also an Arcade option for the customising fans out there away from the online mode. Distancing itself from the Adventure mode, Arcade mode allows you to choose any of the events and have up to seven other opponents (or team mates) racing with you. Other things selectable are the type of cars you can use as well as the AI difficulty (that’s also found in the Adventure mode). It’s a nice addition that, should you have no online access, should see you through.

The Achievements are also nice to have in this game. None will strike you as impossible, but there are some that are very challenging. Finding all five golden flags on Blackout is a real challenge, because it won’t be immediately obvious to you where they are. Nonetheless it’s good fun trying to find them, although several guides will help you on the internet if need be. The different Achievements will also ensure that the minigames get played. Trying to win Pool without potting the black is a challenge worth going for.

But alas, Achievements cannot hide the shallowness that is Mad Tracks. It is true that in a few months, two new add-on packs will be available, but they come at an extra cost and aren’t included in the version being judged here. Mad Tracks goes to show the limitations and constraints Microsoft put on XBLA developers with the 50 MB limit, which sadly Mad Tracks had to comply with. And you can tell. Six races and nine rather less-than-stellar minigames won’t keep many entertained for long. Playing the game in a one hour session will see all fifteen events at least have a medal by their corresponding picture, at the very least. The minigames are better served for an online audience, and six races won’t be enough of a single player experience for most. The online works as it should, but the lack of a lobby and the lack of variety means it becomes tiresome quickly. It won’t take long before the void that once seemed certain to be filled is quickly uncovered again, with XBLA gamers still waiting for the clinical racing game. Sadly, Mad Tracks just isn’t what we thought it would be.

Final Score: 5 out of 10 - Below Average (How do we rate games?)

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69 comments on 'Review: Mad Tracks'

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Comment by UKJAY on 2007-06-04 12:36:14 | Reply

I have to agree with that score… below average is spot on. It is just another one of those games you play for a week then move on…

Comment by UKJAY on 2007-06-04 12:36:42 | Reply

and was that the longest written review to date???

Comment by Karel_ende on 2007-06-04 12:41:17 | Reply

A 5 is actually quite high… Im happy to see that you didn’t give the game a high rating!

Comment by Lotus 111s on 2007-06-04 12:44:48 | Reply

Yup i agree with most points in this review, especially the mini-games which on the whole are not that great after you have played them several times. The online racing is great but as is said desperately needs an improved lobby system. I would hope that they keep the price low on the add-ons, i may then be willing to part with my cash for them to bulk up this quite skinny game. Overall i think this is a good game that just needs to concentrate on the racing side of things.

The add-ons will be priced 350MP to my knowledge.

Comment by UKJAY on 2007-06-04 12:53:10 | Reply

Im not going to buy any add-ons…didn’t like what I saw already, so wouldn’t buy more of it…

Comment by Dirty Duck on 2007-06-04 13:47:30 | Reply

Nice to see it only got a 5. I was thinking this may have got a little higher score from xboxic!!

I brought the game of all the hype which surrounded it but wish i hadnt now.

It would have been so much better if it was just racing and not little mini games which to me ruin the experience of the actual game.

I think the title for the game should of been Mad Mini Games as to me the name mad tracks means tracks, not mini golf holes nor mini pool table.

Good review thou

Comment by UKJAY on 2007-06-04 14:07:52 | Reply

yeah that was my point on the forums. The golf and skill stuff is so pointless. I got it because of the hype. So I guess we all still want a 3d racing game on xbla

Comment by Studley on 2007-06-04 14:17:24 | Reply

but… but… Mad Tracks rules :(

Ross needs a serious injection of fun up the bum.

Comment by The_Glovner on 2007-06-04 14:31:55 | Reply

I kinda like it to.

Comment by UKJAY on 2007-06-04 14:33:12 | Reply

:) I really like the last unlocked level where its a big racing track…I’d like a DLC pack of just races. Hopefully they’ll consider more racing tracks

Comment by The_Glovner on 2007-06-04 17:55:47 | Reply

I would agree with that too though. More races would be nice.

But hey, for £8 I think it’s okay. Fills a 30 minute gap which is what I think these games should be for, ain’t ever going to get something on XBLA that will rival the likes of Oblivion. So if I take it for what it is I ain’t got any problems.

A track editor would kick as

Comment by SneakySnake on 2007-06-05 05:59:37 | Reply

extreme ass!

Comment by InsaneBastard on 2007-06-04 14:34:49 | Reply

battery? Can’t you see it’s a spring? :-D

Comment by nofear360 on 2007-06-04 14:43:33 | Reply

Great review Ross!

One typo though:
4th paragraph: “For a gol(d) medal in Pool” ;)

Comment by Studley on 2007-06-04 14:50:32 | Reply

Sadly, Mad Tracks just isn’t what we thought it would be.

So what DID you think it would be, seeing as the PC version’s been out for two years and a near-final build was previewed by Xboxic about nine months ago?

Below Average seems very harsh. As much as I’m a fanboy for it, 6 would’ve been much fairer: “Well it does what it promises to do, nothing more nothing less. If you are in the market for a product of this type, you could be getting much worse things than this. But also better.”

It’s still comfortably the best driving game on the arcade, although it’s only up against Novadrome and Rally-X at the moment. And Novadrome got a 6. Giving this a 5 is just criminal in comparison.

It’s not perfect, but it gives an experience which XBLA has been crying out for. Sure it has its flaws, but if it’s enough to stimulate some debate and leads to even better games in the future (how about a 360-exclusive Mad Tracks 2, with separate Race and Minigame campaigns?) then that can only be a good thing.

Comment by SneakySnake on 2007-06-05 06:01:46 | Reply

well stated my friend. definitely wasnt wow’d by the game in the least, but i had a reasonable amount of fun on it, though im not as sure if would have bought it knowing how the whole game is after playing it now.

Comment by nofear360 on 2007-06-04 14:50:47 | Reply

Another one :P:
“a new group of temporary friends have to found.” should be: “a new group of temporary friends has to be found.”

Comment by Thryon on 2007-06-04 15:12:57 | Reply

I agree, the game coul dhave been much better if they just included all the races in the first release, and then release a mini-games add-on later.

I played it for about an hours, and that is it.

Comment by SilentAssassn87 on 2007-06-04 15:16:27 | Reply

A 5…damn lol. I actually enjoy this game alot. It is alot of fun and I like the variety it offers. Maybe im the only one, but I think I spent my points wisely.

Comment by George Podge on 2007-06-04 15:50:22 | Reply

yeh good review, I wish it was just racing drop the pointless mini games, give me a lobby and the ability to choose the numbers of laps and then it’s 7/10

Comment by mass9 on 2007-06-04 16:16:19 | Reply

I guess that’s what trials are for.
But really, as mentioned above, the PC version has been out for ages. Did anyone really expect any different?

Its not great, but its not the worst thing on XBLA. Middle of the road. The 5 is justified IMO.

The PC version isn’t hampered by the only-15-tracks problem, nor the Xbox Live limitations.

Comment by mass9 on 2007-06-05 06:20:57 | Reply

this size limitation is completely bullshit.

Comment by SneakySnake on 2007-06-05 16:19:16 | Reply

ya its ruined/degraded so many arcade titles that wouldve been good games. i cant see any point to it either. the fact that they have raised it for other games in the past is dumb too because it just shows that they can easily do it if they wanted to. if they did it for castlevania they definitely should’ve done it for mad tracks due to the hype and all that. doesnt make MS look very good, screwing over games that people are all amped up for.

Comment by UKJAY on 2007-06-04 16:48:11 | Reply

Lots of people saying great review on this…Ross should win a prize…lol

Comment by Hoffer on 2007-06-04 16:59:17 | Reply

My biggest complaint is the online. I just wanted a little arcade racing game. Problem is that the races and mini-games are all mixed together. Granted, after a while I’d learn the event names and know which is a race. I just wish things were split out.

Plus, the lack of a lobby is just awful. Not to mention, as soon as the race is done, all communication is cut. Having to reinvite people is just lame.

The racing seemed kinda unbalanced as well online. There would always be a little battle at the start of the race. One person would make it through and he’d remain at the head of the race. Most races, I’d never even see another car. Makes all those weapons useless if you can’t use them.

I didn’t hate the game and think a 5 is an acceptable score. I played it for 2-3 hours the first night I got it and haven’t booted it up again since. I have a feeling, when the first DLC comes out in 30 days, I’ll have long lost interest.

Comment by TristUK on 2007-06-04 17:10:18 | Reply

I’m with Studley. 5/10 seems overly harsh to me, but hey it’s all about different opinions isn’t it!

I’m enjoying it, sod the rest of you grumpy gits ;0

Next up… SWOS please

Comment by slowjo on 2007-06-04 20:34:35 | Reply

they should include the addons for free as the game is so dissappointing :-(

I really think the internet should be age restricted.

Comment by StGermain on 2007-06-04 23:05:11 | Reply

If anybody gets this far down in the thread: What most people wanted and expected was a ReVolt clone… and that is exactly what XBL need.

Now be nice and behave :)

Comment by Leen on 2007-06-05 00:00:01 | Reply

I said it before, this side is going downhill with all these stupid comments.

Comment by UKJAY on 2007-06-05 02:37:00 | Reply

yeah ive said it too..

Comment by SneakySnake on 2007-06-05 06:08:44 | Reply

then how bout you stop feeding trolls?

Comment by The_Glovner on 2007-06-05 16:14:16 | Reply

Read again.

Comment by SneakySnake on 2007-06-05 06:10:08 | Reply

i want to know where xboxic’s catan review is. do you guys only review mediocre to decent games? i think you guys are affraid to review something worthy of a 9. catan is awesome.

Comment by The_Glovner on 2007-06-05 12:39:14 | Reply

I got Catan, partly because of you lot praising it in the forums.

Wish I had waited on a review (which I would have gave it 1-10 because it is so fucking boring)

Comment by SneakySnake on 2007-06-05 16:23:01 | Reply

well i suppose that’s your opinion, but as far as game design and features and all that i dont see how anyone can complain. its exactly like the board game pretty much and actually even nicer in a lot of ways, with all the stats, turn timers and all that.

Comment by UKJAY on 2007-06-05 16:17:00 | Reply

Catan is by far the best game I’ve played on XBLA. At first I was a bit confused but when you get you head round that it’s similar to monopoly with sheep…

but I like the trading idea, and it is fun. Seems like a game that could have vision cam eventually..

Comment by SneakySnake on 2007-06-05 16:21:05 | Reply

i really hope not. it would easily turn into uno but almost worst since games take a considerable amount of time.

We just couldn’t get anyone that could do it justice *shrug*

Comment by Worms on 2007-06-05 20:03:29 | Reply

How about you play it and give your opinion of it? It’s called reviewing. We won’t flame you to much if you have the wrong opinion haha.

There’s just more releases than we always have people available. Last few weeks we’ve been short due to exams, and reviews are first to suffer then. Happens :)

Comment by tom on 2007-06-05 06:51:05 | Reply

I thought the game was fun, not sure what all the complaints are about.

Comment by ghost on 2007-06-05 18:20:07 | Reply

its crap.looks crap,feels crap, is crap.

Comment by The_Glovner on 2007-06-05 18:26:01 | Reply

Just me? or did the number of posts suddenly get shorter?

Comment by UKJAY on 2007-06-05 19:22:02 | Reply

People start each other off.

I trashed a truckload of bullcrap.

I have to say 5 is harsh but having read the review I can see how Ross came to the conclusion. IMO I feel MT is one of the better XBLA games and for £8 i.e a budget game its a lot of bang for your buck, I wouldn’t like to score on it but for me its higher than 5.

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