Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Review: Ridge Racer Unbounded (360)


Ridge Racer has a long history in the racing genre, but has seemingly always taken a backseat to racing franchises like Need For Speed, Gran Turismo, Burnout and Forza Motorsport. Although it hasn’t been as popular as its contemporaries, even in 2012, the franchise has plenty of gas left in the tank with the newest Ridge Racer title, Unbounded, a good but ultimately average copycat racing game.

While it has had its own identity throughout its history, Ridge Racer Unbounded is clearly committing identity theft from a few other racers, including Need For Speed but most obviously Burnout. From the types of vehicles to the speed burst power-ups to the car-crashing mayhem on wheels to both the other cars racing to the destructible environments, Ridge Racer Unbounded is very, very “inspired” by the Burnout franchise. That’s not entirely something to be ashamed of, however, for Ridge Racer Unbounded is at least a good Burnout imitator.

Using one huge city as its racing playground, Ridge Racer Unbounded is filled with plenty of individual racing events in a collection of similar-but-different-enough urban landscapes to roar through. There are straight races, with the goal to finish in the top 3, but there are also time races and drifting events (unlocked through a “points system” by doing well in other races). But the best event is the “burnout” inspired fragfest, where gamers get behind the wheel of a badass big rig truck and try and take out a specific number of police cruisers before time runs out (police cruisers that are more intent in avoiding your diesel-fueled destruction than actually stopping your vehicular carslaughter, for whatever reason).

Racing is fast and very furious, with almost three dozen vehicles that are entirely fabricated but obviously inspired by real-world beauties such as exotic Lamborghinis to muscle monsters like the old-school and new Dodge Challengers, among others.

All of the nicely rendered vehicles are scorching and swift during races, with power-ups that boost the turbo power even more, allowing gamers for a short time to be able to burst through environmental shortcuts with impressively explosive results. Gamers have to learn that timing well, too, because Ridge Racer Unbounded has a devious little habit of running out of destructive power at just the wrong time, causing what could have been a building-bursting shortcut into a twisted pile of mangled metal. Smashing the hell out of anything and everything is encouraged enthusiastically, as so many of the objects throughout each individual track are smashable, even some that seemingly shouldn’t be.

That causes some confusion, because after torpedoing vehicles gleefully through brick walls and buildings, gamers will get a tad upset that some other walls and building sides will wreck their vehicles instead, never providing an entirely comfortable feeling when trying to slam through unfamiliar objects.

One of Unbounded’s biggest assets is how good the controls are, opting more for arcade-style handling. That’s especially important when drifting around sharp city curves and in the individual drifting events. But although the game does well with providing plenty of races in a variety of events along with a leveling-up element, where Ridge Racer Unbounded blows its gasket is in its completely and lamely awful attempt at some kind of backstory for its single-player racing.

Trying its hand at Need For Speed story involvement into its racing formula, Ridge Racer Unbounded has a story that is so laughably bad and nonsensical. So there’s this made-up land of Shatter Bay with a corrupt, oppressive, run-by-the-rich government. The Unbounded are a rebellious group determined to shake their fists at the ruling class. How? By ripping through the streets of Shatter Bay and laying ruin throughout, all courtesy of their high-octane rage-on-wheels. But those “rival” cars gamers are completely encouraged to collide with and run off the road? Yeah, they’re fellow fist-shakers, so what’s the point in destroying those vehicles of your supposed compatriots? No matter how bad the ruling class is, how much unity is someone going to have with someone that just turned them into a fiery inferno, rolling and tumbling down the roadway? Really, really idiotic.

Gamers might be spending the majority of their time in the single-player story, because there’s a scarcity of fellow Ridge Racer Unbounded gamers online to race against. It could take a long, long time just to enter into an online event against others. However, those impatient with waiting may want to just spend their time with the level editor.

By winning races, gamers unlock more pieces that can be used to create custom raceways. It will take a lot of time to create really impressive tracks, but for simple and quick creations, it is very easy to make a track and then upload it for others to race online. While it doesn’t completely atone for the pitiful plot and less-than-populated multiplayer, the level editor is a nice consolation prize.

It looks real good, and there are plenty of levels across Shatter Bay to race with a variety of hot and super-fast cars. But ultimately Ridge Racer Unbounded is a just-average racing game that imitates the gameplay of too many other successful racing franchises with a ridiculously lame single-player story and desolate multiplayer.

- Lee Cieniawa

The Good:
- While not original in its Burnout imitation, still tons of fun smashing into other cars and through explosively breakable objects during high-speed races
- Although not based on “real-world” cars, the vehicles are amazingly detailed and visually stunning

The Bad:
- If gamers don’t use proper timing, the power meter has a bad habit of running out just as they’re ready to smash through breakable objects
- Very hard to find other online Ridge racers to compete against
- Attempt at some sort of story a la Need For Speed is ridiculously awful
- Vehicles are super hot and adrenaline fueled, but like Burnout there’s no actual real cars

Score: 8.0 / 10