Eurogamer Expo 2011: Ridge Racer Unbounded Hands-On Preview
There are a few racing games that have been around long enough to gain themselves a very specific type of fan base. Gran Turismo has the people that enjoy a relatively realistic driving experience, and games such as Ridge Racer have the arcade racers, the people that still enjoy the realism to a certain degree but also enjoy powersliding around corners at speeds that are likely to make an astronaut pass out. I’m neither of those players, I much prefer to race around an open world city, dodging and weaving between traffic and trying my best to avoid everyday objects such as pedestrians and cars.
I didn’t know anything about Ridge Racer Unbounded, except that it had a word in it’s title that I was pretty sure wasn’t a word, I’ve played Ridge Racer games before (mostly in the arcade where the sound of “RRRRRRIIIDGE RACER!!” was pretty much the calling sign of my youth) and I’ve enjoyed them to a certain extent, when they turn into games where you’ve got to drive around the same track way too many times I switch off but, like I said, I knew nothing about Ridge Racer Unbounded, after having played it let me say one thing; it’s absolutely nothing like any other Ridge Racer game that anyone will have ever seen before.
The crux of the gameplay revolves around building up a meter that appears in the bottom right hand corner of the screen, this meter is the energy that you’ll use in order to break through certain objects that need a little bit more brute force to allow you to get through them. To collect energy you have to drift your car around corners wide and small, the longer the drift the more energy you’re able to collect and the sooner you’ll be able to drive through one of the many areas that are destructible.
Once you’ve got enough of the energy bar filled up, simply press the A button (on the Xbox 360 controller at least) to boost. If you’ve timed it right, and you’ve positioned your car in a spot to take advantage of the boost, then you may very well go straight through a wall, a windows or even just take down an entire tunnel in order to make a very handy little ramp for you to shoot yourself skyward and towards that illustrious first place position. The ability to smash through objects in order to gain an advantage in the race is very reminiscent of Split/Second; except with a little more “realism”. I say it like that because even though it’s not as far fetched as rigging an area of docklands with high explosives just to get a single position further towards the front, Ridge Racer Unbounded is still very unrealistic. But at least you’re actually using the energy that you’re collecting to smash through stuff instead of triggering seemingly random explosions.
One random comparison, considering that Ridge Racer is obviously a racing game, is that there are parts which are very reminiscent of Splinter Cell: Conviction. Let me explain – while you’re racing through the streets you’ll notice words and numbers on the sides of buildings, tunnels and other architecture dotted around the town. These are your score and position within the race, all instead of a normal race HUD. Very similar to how Sam’s mission objectives would appear as a light on the side of buildings in the latest Splinter Cell game.
The driving aspect of the title feels a lot like the Burnout series of games, especially with the serious competitive nature of each race, racing through normal streets with normal people still driving on them, making them moving road hazards. The Burnout games have controls that are fairly well adapted to what you’re going to be doing in the game, and you’re going to be spending a lot of time dodging and weaving between traffic, stopping quickly or changing direction, amongst other things. With that in mind the controls of Burnout are quite twitchy, allowing you to do everything that you’re going to need to do at a moment’s notice. Ridge Racer Unbounded doesn’t feel like that at all. The controls (for the most part) felt fine, but when it came to turning corners it felt as if you were trying to move a HGV around. The game requires that you powerslide around every single corner that you happen to come across in order to build up the energy needed to discover the special routes.
When performing the said powerslides it’s practically impossible (unless you slow down, at which point you’re not doing a big enough powerslide to earn the points that you want) to get around a corner without smashing into the opposing wall, losing yourself valuable seconds and even more valuable positions. It’s still a while until the game comes out so they’ve still got plenty of time to do those fairly minor tweaks to the way that the cars feel around corners, you never know though, the demo car may have been the wrong car for that particular track, we won’t know until the final game comes out towards the start of next year.
Overall Ridge Racer Unbounded is a game that takes its obvious inspiration from many games of the current generation and it doesn’t seem phased about it. There are tropes in there from all of the games I mentioned as well as a little bit of Motorstorm: Apocalypse, some Destruction Derby and many others. Either way it was a fun game to play, I’m not sure why people would play it over something such as the Burnout games which are a little better due to their more responsive controls, but maybe the Ridge Racer name will make it a popular game however “floaty” the controls feel. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Ridge Racer Unbounded is currently set for a 2012 release on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.