There may still be a market for 360 gamers, however the transition to current gen platforms makes me no longer want to play the 360 or PS3 simply because I know how outdated newly released games would feel. Ride pretty much confirms my theory. Strangely, this motorbike racing simulator doesn’t do half a bad job with its racing mechanics. It’s not as if I’ve ever ridden a motorbike before, but I have had plenty of experience with the old Moto GP games that were once considered as the pinnacle of motorbike racing titles.
Bike races are not only require you to think about the forthcoming corner, but also the next one or two afterwards. It greatly rewards you for thinking ahead since your approach in one corner will often massively determine the approach of the next one. Such is the nature of some of the tracks where bikes have to do nothing but sweep from left to right at 150mph. When you manage to time a series of corners to perfection without almost having to brake too much, it gives you a huge feeling of reward. This is one of Ride’s greatest qualities. In fact, it does such a great job with respect to racing mechanics and cornering, that the game is enjoyed more when you play alone than against other AI opponents who only serve to slow you down.
Yes, Ride is better when you race against your own lap times than when you compete against others. When riding a motorbike, I didn’t want anyone else intruding. I didn’t want anyone else getting in my way to slow me down. It felt more rewarding beating my own lap times than coming in first place against a bunch of AI racers.
However, this also ends up being the biggest issue for the game. It is after all, a racing game. It is designed for you to compete against other bikers and try to win events. When you don’t want to do that, it’s a cause for concern. The main reason why I didn’t enjoy racing against the AI is because I kept on getting the impression that the AI was scripted to be at a higher advantage than you on the harder difficulties. It’s as if the higher the difficulty, the faster their bikes are. You can overlap them by cornering better, but then suddenly they will just whiz past you. This is not how the difficulty should increase. The developers should have learned from other racing game makers. Usually, the higher the difficulty, the better the AI is at cornering and choosing racing lines. It’s extremely frustrating watching the AI just race past you because your bike is the only one that seems to be without some sort of nitrous boost.
The game contains a variety of race types ranging from standard track events to drag races. I suppose this adds longevity to the game, but no mode pops out as innovative or unique. Ride simply doesn’t have anything that it can claim as a unique selling point. If it does, I have clearly missed it. As you complete races and win, you earn in-game cash that lets you purchase even more powerful bikes. Again, it’s not something that screams out innovation.
Motorbike enthusiasts will be pleased to know that at least some licensed brands exist including Ducati and Kawasaki. There are over 100 bikes to choose from and they are all purchasable through the in-game currency system. If you love bikes, Ride does a great job at modelling them and making them look realistic. They look particularly authentic when you get close up camera shots of them from many angles. It seems that the developers were more interested in creating a game that simulates the buying and test driving of a bike! The process of looking through the catalogue, buying one and then taking it for a spin on your own is much more enjoyable than racing against others.
Unfortunately (and perhaps this is due to old-gen technology), the environments are just not up to par with other games. I cannot entirely blame the 360 for this since other games on that platform such as Forza had beautiful tracks with even more gorgeous settings. A lot of the backdrops are repeated and it was clearly another afterthought. It would be unfair to compare the background visuals to the likes of Horizon 2 or Project CARS, but the game doesn’t even live up to the standards of other 360 titles in this aspect.
Considering this is a simulator, it’s very easy to pick up and play. Games like Moto GP were much harder to get used to. I suppose this is due to the World Tour mode, which doesn’t just put you into a superbike immediately. Instead, you are given very low powered bikes that give you more time to think about your racing lines and cornering. It’s also much harder to fall off them, most likely because you’re going slower. To be honest, any racer would fall of his/her bike even if they crash at 30mph, so Ride isn’t entirely realistic even in this sense. However I am happy with this trade off. I am all for realism but there needs to be a fine balance. I don’t want to constantly fall off my bike every time I hit something. I will leave that to the likes of Road Rash!
The game also gives you the standard assist options such as racing lines and brake assistance for novice players. What I do like is how the controller is used extremely well to give you as much control of your bike as possible. There is a trigger for the front brake and a separate trigger for the rear one. You can tuck your rider so that he lessens the wind resistance when going very fast. Each bike almost has a mind of its own and being able to master corners with them gives you a huge sense of achievement. The control mechanics are by far the best aspect of Ride.
Ultimately, Ride is a racing game, but it felt as everything but that. Instead, Ride is an appreciation of motorbikes. It is made by a bunch of people who perhaps got too carried away with their love for bikes and forgot that there are other aspects to a racing game that make it successful, such as impartial races! They focused heavily on the actual bikes and tuning the riding experience as much as possible, which is why the game is very suitably named. If you are so passionate about bikes to the point that you want to buy one in the future, Ride may be a great purchase to have as an enthusiast. Otherwise, I’d give it a miss.
Review copy courtesy of Xbox