When it comes to racing games Iíve always parked my car in one garage. The explosive kind. If you can smash it, crash through it or blow the **** out of it Iíll buckle up and go along for the ride. Given the above disclaimer it would be a safe bet to say the Ridge Racer series hasnít exactly twixt my nethers. Sure, itís playable enough but has always been missing that certain something to take it to the next level. It was just a little too vanilla for my taste.
Bugbear Entertainment must have had a crack team of psychics on the payroll as it heard my manly brain crying out for a little more boom, boom, boom and adjusted the franchise accordingly. Yep, thatís totally what happened with the latest addition, Ridge Racer Unbounded. It may still have that hint of vanilla, but it also has sprinkles, lashings of syrup and a whole lotta nuts (phrasing) this time around.
Glossing over that the title is currently tied for the top spot of silly game names with Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (seriously what are developers thinking?), Ridge Racer Unbounded is a necessary departure from its franchise brethren. The racing genre has stagnated and developers have been taking chances to breath new life into four-wheeled mayhem to get it off life support. Weíve seen out of body experiences in Driver: San Francisco, route changing demolition in Split/Second and Need for Speed getting the Criterion touch as the most successful tweaks to the burn rubber formula of recent memory.
Ridge Racer Unbounded adds equal parts Burnout and Split/Second to the mix and walks the line as some sort of hybrid favouring neither simulation nor wanton destruction too heavily. Impressively, it manages to find that super sweet spot hovering in the middle of the road as well as offering a strategic element as you trade off when to boost, take a shortcut or eliminate the competition.
The set-up is (thankfully) wafer thin. You are a street racer taking on scores and scores of likeminded nitrous burning peers, the Unbounded, through various urban districts at the mysterious Kara Shindoís pleasure. To this end youíll send opposing racers to the junkyard, floor it past them, find your own shortcuts and wreak all manner of collateral damage in the process.
The level of destructibility has been significantly bolstered with anything smaller than your vehicle fair game. Itís a little jarring at first as you clip or smash through pylons and short walls fully prepared for a crash animation with none in sight, but with a little practice you can use these to your advantage. The traditional form of a tap-tap-taperoo boost is replaced by a full burn boost that you can use to make up lost time, crash or Ďfragí an opponent or to cut a path through buildings as a shortcut.
You earn boost by tailgating, drifting, grabbing airtime or demolishing stuff and picking the opportune moments to take out other racers, a building or to just make up lost ground adds a tactical element that can often be the difference between grabbing the chequered flag or trailing far, far behind.
Bugbear Entertainment has definitely taken its cues from Criterion with a solid nod to Burnout in the looks department especially in regard to car modelling and crash animations. This is enhanced by the absolutely gorgeous lighting effects with races taking place at sunset particularly stunning as vibrant streams of orange infused sunlight peek through the cityscape. It really is quite striking.
Race types vary from the traditional (first to cross the line variety) to frag-fests to stunt races and the ever exhilarating/frustrating time attacks. The time attacks have an interesting slant as you outrun the boys in blue in a specific time period rather than just attempting to hit an arbitrary time for no apparent reason. It gives you a sense of purpose, which warrants taking extreme speed risks. Alternately, the frag-fests will have you decimating score upon scores of cop cars Blues Brothers style in a Big-Rig behemoth or taking a more elegant, precise route behind the wheel of a slick muscle car. As much fun as these modes were, they paled in comparison to the - far too infrequent for my liking - stunt races.
These require you to negotiate your way through a specific track (without traffic) as you careen off all manner of jumps to grab massive air, hit half-pipes and put the pedal to the metal like a bat out of hell to get the quickest time possible. Littered throughout each track are tokens which, when collected, stop the clock for a precious few seconds allowing you to get even closer to that elusive gold medal time. I found myself revisiting these tracks over and over again (even after garnering the gold) just for the hell of it. I just wish there were a greater number of them to plow through in the single player component.
A few things did have my burner stalling though. When opponents are coming up/boosting behind you there is little if not no warning that they are about to Ďfragí you. Other than a slight red tinge on the bottom edges of the screen thereís no indication of impending doom or any precise way to gauge how close they are to impact.
Some final corners in races lead to extreme AI prickishness (which Iíll happily call bullshit on) with as many as two to three crashes in the space of a ten second block often pushing you from a competing podium spot to the wooden spoon. Iím all for tough AI and have no problem in being taken down, it just adds to the experience, but moments like the one I just described make you feel like the gameís taking the piss at your expense. This is far from the norm, but it did leave the bitter taste of unfair defeat lingering.
Fragging can be a bit imprecise as well. I had countless instances where I was sure Iíd double and even triple-fragged a group of adversaries to only result in a single takedown and others where Iíd clip one and the reverse occurred. The balancing was just a tad off at times, much like the aforementioned AI issues. These sporadic hiccups were almost always overcome with a race retry, but when youíre in the zone and feeling the rhythm they can be fleetingly jarring and frustrating.
I threw Ridge Racer Unbounded into my console with little to low (even no) expectations and was more than pleasantly surprised. This departure from the franchise is an invigorating reboot that should satisfy both racing enthusiasts and action junkies alike while the decidedly robust track creation system should have the community upping the ante for months to come. Frag, destroy, create and decimate - itís all on the cards in Ridge Racer Unbounded.
Ridge Racer PS3 is great fun for me as I play 75% driving games. Ridge Racer Unbounded also reminded me of The FlatOut Series.I find drifting the hardest of the modes & I find fragging vehices is pretty good fun. The secret to fragging is mostly pressing the X button as soon as you frag & sometimes it's waiting just long enough for your vehicle to make a sharp coner & hit the X button again. I give it a 3.5 out of 5 or 8 out of 10. The pc version on the other hand has a gamepad recognition prob. as of patch 1.06 it still wasn't corrected. Other than that I can use the keyboard, but my hand cramps after a short while