Developed by Flatout developer, Bug Bear, Ridge Racer Unbounded has some new blood driving the experience, and it shows. The focus has shifted to take downs, the cheesy announcer has disappeared, and drifting through city streets has never felt so alien.
In Ridge Racer Unbounded the boost metre is your ticket to victory. Fuelled by drifting, totalling opponents, driving in the wake of other vehicles, and generally destroying obstacles and buildings, the boost allows you to simply boost, instantly destroy opponents, and demolish targeted buildings to create new shortcuts. It’s not quite “destroy everything” as the title’s tagline suggests but this new way of playing Ridge Racer is certainly fresh experience for the brand.
Unfortunately it’s not so fresh in comparison to its contemporaries. The celebrated innovation Ridge Racer titles so often tout is missing, making this latest title a fairly average iteration.
You’re let loose in Shatter Bay, a city split into nine districts with seven events to complete in each. An event will earn you points to unlock more cars, locations and future events, and even if you fail the one you’re currently on you’ll still earn the points you’ve collected from feats completed in a race, giving a great sense of purpose and momentum to soldiering on.
Event types switch between Shindo races – which are traditional competitions to the finish line – drift challenges and time attacks on ramp laden courses, frag attacks that challenge you to destroy as many opponents as possible - often in lorry cabs - and domination events – which make up the majority of your time on the road. Domination events incorporate traditional racing with the destruction of opponents and scenery helping you gain the upper hand. This is where the destruction plays a big part, however, it lacks the thrills found in titles such as the Burnout series or Need for Speed Hot Pursuit. It’s far too restrictive; both in terms of what can be destroyed and how racing works mechanically.
It’s not always easy to tell what is destructible. You can plough through on-coming traffic with little consequence but features hit a building whilst not boosting and you’ll bounce off it considerably worse for wear. Features like walls are mostly destructible but on odd occasions are solid obstructions. The damage on your car looks good though, and seeing your chassis barely hanging on to the frame looks great and is surprisingly and brilliantly disorientating when trying to position yourself on the road.
The crash cam can make for some cheap loses and tricks. Whilst you’re watching the crash mayhem your car is put into autopilot and frequently loses momentum. However, in autopilot you make corners near perfectly, so triggering a takedown at the right time can give you the advantage. It’s best to turn the option off.
Drifting is the primary way you’ll earn boost and it controls very differently to other racers. Controlling your drift is a tricky proposition, requiring you to feather touch your brakes around each corner. It is satisfying, however, when it all comes together and you pull off that perfect slide but it takes far too long to master.
The AI will give you very little chance to experiment. They’re aggressive and fast, proving to be just a competent and competitive a racer as any human opponent. It certainly makes for some hair-raising and frantic competition, until you get them on a custom track, where you’ll see AI cars drive straight into obstacles and fall from the sky having missed the top half of a loop.
The new creation mode allows you to build your own tracks. It has limited scope but the simplicity does make creating a course a breeze. You are given blocks to place which contain a section of track – be it a straight, corner, tunnel or bridge – all with the background scenery and destructible buildings already filled in. Once you have a loop you can then add additional features such as ramps, bushes, explosives and walls. The amount of features and blocks you can add to a track, however, are limited by a resource pool, so you’ll have to keep a close eye on what you’re building. Unfortunately it soon becomes apparent that the default courses share the same design limitations as user created ones. You’ll see the same corners time and time again despite which area of the city you’re visiting. It’s disorientating and disappointing, making the city feel small and unimaginative.
The multiplayer for Ridge Racer Unbounded is also a little disappointing and sparse – with no online or offline split screen or lobby browsing. You’re given the options of setting up a race for friends or quick races on user created or default tracks. The player base is also fairly limited and the race start timer begins to count down as soon as a second player enters a lobby, leading to far too many one-on-one scenarios.
Overall Ridge Racer Unbounded should be commended for entering new territory with the focus on destruction but it fails to re-invent it. It’s certainly still fun and challenging but it’s neither the best in the series or a real contender to its rivals.
MLG Rating: 6/10 Platform: Xbox 360/ PS3/ PC Release Date: 30/03/2012
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a physical copy of Ridge Racer Unbounded by the promoter for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of two weeks on an Xbox 360. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.