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RIDE

Score: 75%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: BANDAI NAMCO Games America, Inc.
Developer: Milestone
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 2; 2 - 12 (Online)
Genre: Racing/ Simulation/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

RIDE works. Days of wracking my brain to come up with some kind of blanket statement to apply to Milestone S.r.l. and Bandai Namcoís motorcycle simulation game have been nearly fruitless. The game works, and apart from that, it doesnít really engender any strong feelings from me, positive or negative. Itís functional, if not solid, but it doesnít really become anything more. If youíre a fan of games like Tourist Trophy or MotoGP, RIDE might be the game for you. It definitely fills a niche in the Xbox Oneís library that needed filling, but it doesnít do so with any degree of aplomb or incompetence. For the most part, it just is.

RIDE doesnít put its best foot forward when it comes to visuals. Its most lingering and lasting impression is a most dubious one Ė it has some of the longest load times Iíve been subjected to in a good while. And while the actual racing action looks just fine, there are better-looking games whose load times arenít even half of RIDEís. When youíre in motion, you donít have too much time to admire the scenery or the attention to detail. But even if you choose to slow down, thereís not all that much to admire. Customization options include cosmetics, but these arenít particularly deep, and the texture work isnít great.

Motorcycle sounds have been somewhat stigmatized for me, since most of my commutes involve at least one instance of a crotch rocket rider weaving dangerously through traffic while going well over 90 mph. But I know when to separate that from review work. RIDE sounds just fine. Itís not great on the ears, but itís not offensive. Bikes sound appropriate to their weight class, and though running with the pack can sound something like an angry swarm of hornets, that glorious moment when you find a hole and punch through to the lead is ever more satisfying when all you hear is the voice of your own metal steed.


Gameplay:

Simulation racing genres are usually populated by a heavy-hitter or two, and a smattering of lesser efforts around them. Take cars. Always running at the forefront is Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo, but there are still games like Driveclub to bring up the rear. RIDE is a strange, middling breed in that respect. Iím not sure I like it as much as Milestoneís own Moto GP games, but its racing model is certainly no slouch.

Modes in RIDE donít even flirt with the possibility of innovation, and though simulation racers rarely aim to be radical, itís still here that the game feels most like something of a missed opportunity. It features World Tour, Quick Race, and online play.

As youíd expect, World Tour is where youíll spend most of your time. You start off with naked lightweight bikes and test your mettle against a series of other bikers as you vie for dominance across a variety of events. And as you go, you'll find yourself in possession of several specialty bikes, from superbikes to even historical bikes.

Event types are standard for racers; thereís not a whole lot of creativity. But then again, this is a simulation, which tends to err on the side of realism over pure gaming fun. Standard closed circuit races are the norm, but other racing staples join the mix. Time trials, overtake challenges, drag races, and endurance runs test your biker's limits to the max. So nothing spectacular, but it doesn't really skimp.


Difficulty:

If youíre a parent in despair over your childís recently announced intentions to get a motorcycle, RIDE is the game to buy him/her. Its learning curve is steep, and though it includes a few mechanics to help minimize failure on the track, the truth remains: bikes donít control anything like cars. Thereís much more to keep track of, and a momentary loss of concentration can be the difference between maintaining your precarious perch and becoming suddenly and violently intimate with Mother Earth.

As with all simulation racing games, however, thereís a moment in RIDE in which everything clicks into place. Muscle memory takes over, and certain maneuvers and operations that once seemed daunting and unnatural suddenly become second nature. Tucking, shifting weight, and correctly using front and rear brakes in tandem with each other starts to flow together, and from there, the game opens up. This is particularly true if you want to tinker around with your bikeís performance.


Game Mechanics:

Thereís more to motorcycle riding than there is to operating most automobiles. Itís a more physical, modular discipline than operating two or three pedals and a manual transmission. Not only do you have to keep tabs on your speed and driving line, but you must move with the bike, unless you want your good old friend inertia to get the better of you.

But beneath all of the elements that are exclusive to motorcycle racing is a fairly standard racer at its core. Acceleration, deceleration, and turning are the three pillars upon which RIDE builds its content. And as I mentioned before, it works. Controls are generally responsive, though it is difficult to learn the nuances involved in making minute adjustments to your angle; twitchy thumbs are punished rather severely here.

Assists abound in RIDE if you want to make use of them. Driving lines are extremely useful if youíre learning the lay of the land and the curvature of each track. If you donít know when to coast, when to gun it and tuck, or when to use the front brakes and/or the rear brakes, RIDE does a good job of teaching you. And when all else fails, you can opt to just use rewinds instead.

If youíre into motorcycle culture, RIDE is a pretty easy buy at this point, if only because thereís not much current-gen competition at the moment. It plays really well and generally achieves what it sets out to deliver. But if youíre hoping for something with the same painstaking attention to detail and the deluge of content that the best simulation racers offer, you might be left wanting. And those load times are unacceptable. In the end, if youíre into bike racing, this is the game for you. For everyone else, RIDE is probably more of a weekend rental.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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