Since its release back on the original PlayStation, Namco’s Ridge Racer racing series has went from strength to strength. The series has stood the test of time and has seen many releases attached to its name on various consoles. From the Nintendo centric Ridge Racer 64 to the Xbox 360 launch title Ridge Racer 6, Namco has brought the fun arcade racing style to the consumer for years and now it’s got a new title cooking up at Bugbear Entertainment.
Ridge Racer Unbounded is the latest in the series and brings a whole new level of frantic to your arcade driving experience. Flaunting slick visuals, thrilling destruction, and an inspiring create mode this title ticks all the right boxes, but does it drift past its rivals to take the chequered flag?
The word Unbounded is there for a reason. This new title takes off the shackles of previous titles and brings in a number of changes, for the better. Set in the fictional city of Shatter bay, Ridge Racer Unbounded takes the player through the many districts within the city, showing off impressive city landscapes, urban environments, and pedestrian friendly areas. Players are greeted with a map of Shutter Bay and have several districts to choose from, these range from busy traffic littered streets to back alleys and side streets in China town. The city map presented within the menus has a distinctive artistic style which is pleasing on the eye, as you hover over the many districts a yellowish tint embraces that particular zone and brings it to life.
Within Ridge Racer Unbounded are 4 distinctive game modes to choose from, Drive, Destroy, Dominate, and Create. Drive serves as the main single player aspect of Ridge Racer. Once in this mode you pick a district from Shutter Bay, pick a challenge and go racing. Each district has various challenges which give a range and variety of race scenarios. To begin with you have your typical racer where you get from A to B with the aim of crossing the finishing line first, you also have your typical nitrous to give you a speed boost. The other race types however aren’t as simple as that. Frag has you eliminate as many opposition cars as you can before the time limit runs out, to eliminate enemies you ram them until their health depletes or unleash a full power bar to put them to sleep in an instant. The most explosive and probably the best race mode is the Domination race, this is where all the action happens. As you’re racing through the city you’re encouraged to cause destruction wherever possible, whether it be destroying walls, bumping into other cars or destroying city landscapes, for a full on race we implore you to check out this race type as much as possible. Other race types include drift modes and survival modes.
Once the campaign mode has tickled your fancy the Dominate game mode should be your next stop. Within this mode is your passport to you being able to wreck your friends or if you’re not good at the game get wrecked yourself. Here you’ll be able to challenge friends in whatever parameters you see fit and go racing for bragging rights and glory. Aside from this, Dominate also includes a challenge mode where you compete as you fight for high scores amongst your friends and global opposition in race types such as Frag and Survival.
The experience within Ridge Racer Unbounded can leave you shaken at times. Gameplay is relentless within the world of Shutter Bay. AI cars unreservedly attempt to waste you into an upcoming wall or shatter your hopes of first place by ramming you into oncoming traffic. However, mastering Ridge Racer is not a journey too far. Simple controls allow you to out manoeuvre any AI punk willing to end you prematurely. Saying that, the game feels like the original Ridge Racer, when going round corners you can go into massive drifts just like the good ole days. With that being said, racing through each track is different with the inclusion of destructible parts of the city. When racing along a prompt will pop up giving you the option to bash through walls or fences and cause major destruction, especially if you have a full power meter, although this not just a showcase of carnage as when coming back round on another lap that path of destruction has just become a new shortcut or racing line through the track. Most of these shortcuts are predetermined before the race starts, but it would have been nice if some destruction events were dynamic and appeared during the race.
Finally, new to the series is a create mode. This mode allows you create tracks and more tracks until you have them coming out of your ears. Once in the editor you’re greeted with a grid where you can place blocks of different shapes which in turn will make up your track. You can pick different parts from each district in Shutter Bay, if you liked the right hand turn on the east side and want to link it with the dual carriageway from a central part of the city you can do so. The only limitation coming in the form of budget, each block you press down fills the budget bar so to pick blocks is a wise skill in itself. Once you’ve finished you can of course upload it and set a high score for your friend and people around the world to beat.
Ridge Racer Unbounded seems like a solid racing experience that gets a lot of things right, it’s also a great experience to play and enjoy. The track editor has hours of value to it while the multiplayer modes will more that keep you entertained while you dominate.
Ridge Racer Unbounded is out on March 30 on PS3, 360 and PC. You can pre-order your copy here (PS3), here (Xbox 360), here (PC).