It’s Ridge Racer by name, but not by nature. That about sums up my thoughts on Namco’s latest entry into the series. I have my own theories as to why Bugbear’s city based racer has the Ridge Racer name planted in front of it, after all, many similar games before it, such as Blur and Split/Second, have failed to ignite public interest, despite critical acclaim. So it makes sense to me that if you have a decent racer then you should give the public something familiar to relate it to and although those expecting a ridge racer game might be in for a surprise when they load up this latest title, at least it’ll be a good one.
So what is so different about Ridge Racer: Unbounded? Everything. The best way to describe it is by saying it’s a mixture of Need for Speed, Burnout, Flatout and Motorstorm Apocalypse, all meshed into one package and placed on a shiny disc. The handling of your car is different from any Ridge Racer you’ll know of, no longer do you tap the button to drift around the large sweeping corners care-free, instead you’re negotiating tight turns and to get around them you need to put some muscle into your drifts; too much and you’ll spin, too little and you’ll be eating brick. Whereas the Ridge Racer series generally requires a laid back approach, Unbounded has you thinking about the race, remembering the turns and having you time them to perfection.
It’s Ridge Racer by name, but not by nature.
Based in Shutter City, the main campaign has you play over multiple areas, each of which are locked until you dominate each of the areas on offer. In most areas there are seven events to play through, which are generally locked until you gain the target score in the previous events. It’s not always essential to finish first, as I managed to unlock event number seven with a mixture of first to third place finishes.
As you unlock and dominate events, you’ll then gain access to other areas of Shutter Bay along with the various events which come with them. The events are quite varied and don’t necessarily offer a rinse and repeat style of gameplay. These events include the ‘dominate’ races which have you powering around the track and causing destruction with the aim of gaining first place. You’ll also take part in drifting events, time trials and frag races, where you try your best to take out as many opponents as possible. You’ll even be able to get hold of a truck and smash as many police cars as you can within a set time limit.
While the events are generally of your standard fair, the action at least is not. A lot has been made of the destructive elements of the game, although perhaps this hype is a little unjustified. As you drift around tracks you’ll gain boost and power and at set points in the race you’ll get the chance to use this thanks to targets appearing, showing you the way to both destroy something and find a shortcut at the same time. What generally follows once you lock onto these targets is a cut-scene showing your path of destruction and your car flying through the air from a new found path. You can smash through walls and other obstacles on the track without power, however this feels slightly misjudged as there is no resistance and seems to take some of the challenge away from avoiding these stationary hazards.
Keeping note of how well you are doing is fairly simple thanks to your position being plastered over all of the scenery. As you race around the track this information will change real-time, telling you vital information such as how far you are ahead or behind. It’s a pretty unique way of doing things, however it certainly works well.
When you finish in the top three of an event, you’ll find yourself rewarded thanks to the included level-up system. Gaining experience and therefore levels, will see you unlock new vehicles and parts for the track editor. As briefly mentioned, you’ll also gain a score at the end of each race which will count towards your running total for that area. The higher your points, the more events you’ll unlock.
It has to be said that the tracks are very well designed, although couldn’t be any further from those of the Ridge Racer series if they tried. There’s plenty of sharp bends, ramps and jumps, while the large sweeping corners of previous games are nowhere to be seen. The tracks also look great in motion, although perhaps aren’t as polished as they could have been, oh and they’re a little too orange.
Away from the single player campaign there are plenty of options to keep you busy. One such area is the Create Mode, which allows you to create your own tracks for yourself and others to race on. Once in the editor you’re greeted with a grid where you can place blocks of different shapes. You can use any parts you like here, including those you have previously unlocked in the main campaign. You can also add in jumps, obstacles and set objectives. The only limit is your budget, therefore if you use this up, you’ll not be able to finish up your track. The create mode is a pretty decent addition to the game and certainly offers up something a little different from most other racers of this type.
Ridge Racer Unbounded is a good attempt at providing a street racer with something different to offer but it’s certainly far from perfect.
As far as online goes. This is split into three parts. First you have the domination mode, which allows you to rip up the tracks against friends. This is also accompanied by a quick race mode, if you are pressed for time. Elsewhere, there are various challenges you can take part in, which it seems will change every hour, six hours and 24 hours. Finally, there is also a World Cities mode. Here you’re able to go into tracks uploaded by another user and take part in numerous events. The overall package provides a pretty comprehensive online mode, with the ability to race on other’s tracks helping to keep things fresh.
Ridge Racer Unbounded is a good attempt at providing a street racer with something different to offer but it’s certainly far from perfect. The races can feel quite familiar after a while and the promised destruction isn’t really that much to get excited about. Perhaps it would have been better if Unbounded didn’t borrow from competitors so much and instead tried something new. As it is though, there’s not really anything here that we haven’t seen before.
Rating: GoodReview Policy(version tested: Xbox 360)
Ridge Racer Unbounded is out on March 30 on PS3, 360 and PC. You can order your copy here (PS3), here (Xbox 360), here (PC).