Review: Xbox 360: Ridge Racer Unbounded

It’s been a while since we’ve seen the name Ridge Racer surface, and when it did I bet a lot of gamers, including myself had some fond memories to whizz through before we sat down to play it. As soon as you’ve completed just one race you’ll start to recognize some similarities to the style of racing from other next-gen titles; the fact you can smash through most of the environments round the track to fill your action bar reflects the spirit of Split Second and even a bit of Burnout, but that’s not Ridge Racers defining quality.

Ridge Racer Unbounded is a game that stands on its own two feet, sporting its own racing colours and waving its own flag – and to be honest I wasn’t really expecting anything less. Unbounded is definitely not a game to underestimate; even at the beginning of the game It takes time to figure out what Namco are trying to get you to achieve: fluidly working with several driving balances alongside the destructible elements of the game. The game stubbornly doesn’t give everything away to you in the first couple of hours but persevere and eventually it will give you every button and feature you need. You will need to get to know Ridge Racer inside out once again if you want to master it and utilize the multiplayer aspects.

Boot up the game and there’s a nice, clean menu design to greet you but no tutorial in sight, anywhere! It makes for a peachy change if you’ve been playing video games for longer than you can remember but for everyone else – just take your time, it’s not going to drive away without you. And in the long run tutorials don’t make a huge amount of difference, only helping you in the short term to initially grasp the control scheme so you don’t seem like such a novice when you begin a game.

The single player mode has you racing through Shatter Bay and inside this racy city you’ll experience the games various race types. The first handful of vehicles are a little on the slow side but you’ll unlock more as you earn XP. There are no models of actual licensed cars though you can still pick out certain influences from their real life counterparts – that’s if you want to stop to take in detail like that. If not, don’t despair! There’s a plethora of different vehicles to unlock and use across all race types alongside other odds and ends to unlock through the XP bar to keep your mind on the road.

There are several modes to enjoy including Domination Race, Drift Attack, Shindo Racing, Time Attack and Frag Attack. All of these differ greatly from each other which makes a sizable change from the usual types of tournament or exhibition races you see in other games. Domination is the standard race set up for Unbounded: you’ll use your action bar quite a bit to frag and create shortcuts while you race. Drift Attack will need some mastering as you will need to use the drift button (B button) nailing the art of entering drifts at the right speed. Anything below or above this speed will cost you drift points and maybe even a place as you mess up a bend and slam straight into a wall.

Shindo Racing just has the nitro boost, with no short cuts, no anything, just a clean race set-up. The A.I will still test you but it’s a much fairer race for those who deal more in sportsmanship than huge amounts of car-crashing catastrophe. Time Attack and Frag Attack sell themselves and are massive bundles of fun. Time Attacks are set on levels with some interesting hurdles and designs. You’ll need to pick up the blue floating tokens for extra time and plot right through to the end. With this type of assault course in front of you the Time Attacks don’t get heavily repetitive, in fact you’ll be much more inclined to complete them even if you’re not a fan of this type of race. Frag Attack is super destructive so just be prepared to take a hammering while you’re handing them out yourself. The A.I. are stupid brutes too which is bad news for you, but it does makes it easier to take them out and you can have heaps of devastating fun in this race type.

When you’ve raced through a good few streets and courses you’re much more able to hold your own especially when you make friends with that drift button, learning to not brake but drift. Namco have tried to bring this drift element out, they really did well to incorporate more of this against the other overdone dimensions you can usually find in action orientated racing games. You can smash right through some walls and buildings, these are Rider Racers short cuts – try and find as many as you can to be in a better standing to beat your rivals. The short cuts are placed all around the tracks and you will be notified of them when your full action bar is ready but there are one or two that are craftily placed so you can’t really become too complacent.

It’s not a particularly easy game to complete either, often you’ll end up in fragging fights almost deadly sure you’re in the clear just to get taken out by some plucky A.I with a grudge. As I mentioned the A.I can be a right pain and is either bashing the life out of you or getting stuck on various things but most times this brings the game to life by creating possibilities you can’t really plan for; chaos ensues but you still have fun. That’s the awesome thing about Ridge Racer, it starts to put other elements in front of you while you play like fragging, drifting, smashing into shortcuts and other XP and point related objectives till you’re not just racing – you’re also trying to hit all these targets.

The experience bar will hold a lot of the items, cars and extra bits of track for you. You can gain experience in several ways too; event placing, event goal bonus, frags, collateral damage (damage to the environment), and target awards (smashing through certain target buildings). As you progress through the game most unlockables come free and easy, you just have to keep wrecking your way through anything and everything you can get your rubber on. Everything breaks apart rather effectively in Unbounded bar the odd physics mishap; objects can sometimes get stuck on or around your vehicle but this doesn’t reduce your speed or affect your view point. The streets are designed relatively well, there aren’t loads of edges you can crash into or get caught on. They’re generally interesting too and have plenty of colour and points of interest which also help you mind map the tracks better.

Multiplayer mode ‘The World’ is a well balanced online experience offering a rounded off structure that keeps the multiplayer action bubbling away. Basic multiplayer play consists of Quick Match, Domination Match and Create Friend Match. In Quick Match you play in Shatter Bay tracks while Domination Match is played in user created cities. Both are enjoyable and it’s easy enough to get into matches online. Gameplay can be a bit harder to handle with the A.I players replaced with human players as they can kick a lot harder than the A.I. You can get into some right fights too; once you have a rival to revenge you pretty much revenge everyone else till you get that one racer back. It’s a rather lively one to tame online but worth it for just for the japes.

World Cities allows you to play on user created cities. Scroll through thousands of published cities and have a good root around for the best challenges, there are some very smart designs but some are, frankly broken. You can get some terrible tracks where users have thrown all sorts together and these can clutter your experience and dampen those good multiplayer vibes. Unbounded will also offer up 1, 6 and 24 hour challenges, these changing once the timer runs out with the winner receiving XP.

Create mode eases the hardship for a bit of customization. You’ll get to build your own tracks here in your own customized city. Name your city first, place some blocks on the grid and browse through the different pieces of track that you have accumulated. As long as your track loops you can publish it; there’s a tutorial that will guide you through all of this and some extras when you unlock highway blocks or elevated sections for bigger, more impressive tracks. The Advanced Editor section enables you to add jumps or other smaller obstacles for some sweet tweaks – all these elements adding up into a rather enjoyable track creator giving you time to steady your nerves before the next round of wasting begins. Create Mode also ties in with the online multiplayer side of the game as you can choose to visit other players cities to challenge them on their own turf or have them challenge you on yours.

Overall Ridge Racer is a bit deceptive, you think it’s not going to work before you grasp that drift button but when you do the game just shines right through. Features work well along with the friendly menu system and opens up the multiplayer cities element really well, maps circulate and players have fun. There are a couple of issues to watch out for: hitting walls and corners can be devastating, especially when you were screaming along in first place. There isn’t too much you can do about this apart from improve your game but I feel that’s still not fully acceptable and this is Ridge Racers true weakness. Otherwise it clears the way for a much cleaner and fuller action orientated racing game.

Score: 7/10


Xbox 360 Review: Dodonpachi Resurrection Deluxe Edition

Dodonpatchi Resurrection is the fifth title in the DonPachi series originally created by Cave a Japanese video games developer. Cave have a bit of a thing for side scrolling shooters as they have extensive experience in the arcade games industry back when amusement centres where hubs of activity for gamers around the world. The studio consists of mostly Toaplan employees who were successful with their ventures, producing games like Batsugun and Truxton. Cave now also produce similar games for ISO platforms which have often over-shadowed efforts from other Japanese studios, they are a damn reliable bet when it comes to scoring with this shrinking niche as they’ve also had success with their more newer titles Progear and Nin2-Jump.

This installment comes with several modes along with the arcade original for you to enjoy in the Play menu section. It also includes Score Attack mode which makes use of the Xbox 360’s Xbox Live feature so you can compete with the world, Training mode for the rookie flyers and even an option to reel over your Replay Data. There’s also the added benefit of additional content in the Downloadable Content menu section which gives the game a lot more relevance to be picked up today. This is what a lot of the ports extra features stem from along with an intertwined arcade design and feel which overall creates a well rounded experience.

Dodonpatchi Resurrection is a rather lively side scrolling shooter game with tons of sounds, animations and action stuffed in. The story revolves round the past wars that the human race had got themselves into with the A.I in the DonPachi universe. Something surfaces and is creating a war in the past as the humans won the war in the future, this thing is a virus. This virus is a left over bit of the program which the humans destroyed and has infected human technology in the future to send huge amounts of materials and resources back to certain points to create these gigantic robotic space dolls that you end up fighting. The aim of the game is to cut right through the onslaught of enemy waves while you crank up the points till you get to the end of level boss which will be one of five dolls that were originally created to serve mankind. There’s for modes within the Arcade mode and there’s the Score Attack mode to try and master, both with have you upping your game often as Dodonpatchi one of the easier side scrollers to get into thanks to its fluid layout and structure.

When you’ve chosen a mode to play you’ll select a ship and power and/or even bring in a friend for more military strength! There’s three to choose from; Type A is a light faster fighter, Type B is your mid-range ship and Type C is your heavy option, all have changeable Shot Styles which have unique abilities and strengths associated with them. These options can help you set up strategies to overcome the harder waves of the game you might have trouble with, also enemy ships and units do attack differently and in different patterns on every level to try throw you off balance. The game plays very well this way, very smooth but also lively enough to keep you focused and enjoying the bit trip. You also have the Hyper Counter System and the Counter Lazer attacks to utilize along the way once you’ve filled you Hyper Meter. Basically the Counter system takes care of the spray and pray the A.I. can sometimes throw at you, it’s normally the smaller units on the ground and is very effective against them. Your Lazer attack is much stronger though and can stop the bigger harder hitters from firing at you and you can change between these two firing modes anyway to distinguish patterns that work against ones that don’t. The controls are incredibly simple and there’s the Training mode anyway just incase your not feeling your usual kickass self.  Obviously Dodonpatchi is really fun and stratifying to just play this way, it gives you enough of that itch to scratch without screwing up its original rhythm. This is a great strength for a game to have and it also has these accessible learning curves to do with the A.I. patterns and new attack options, this opens up other variations of play for gamers when they start to improve which is actually admirable for such an old port.

All of these details and structure change in each of the arcade mode creating different obstacles to overcome; plotting you way through or all out destruction. The game also has a built in Invisible Multiplier and rises in level once you’ve brought all of the basics together to get those higher combo chains. This is when the competition will heat up and is a really good way of nailing some amazing scores to challenge other gamers with around the world, it also can be very rewarding when you whiz right through a stage you’ve already excelled in and have created strategies for. Dodonpatchi has hours of play assembled around this and all it takes is a bit of time invested with its old and the new features… and then heaps of practice! That’s the thing about side scrollers, someone always has a better score that you. It’s quite a hard feeling or urge to describe if you haven’t felt challenged by someone online; to put all of your skills together to get that amazing run through can just feel so simply rewarding.

When you begin to play if you’re new to this niche you’ll probably find Dodonpatchi confusing or disorientating to play as there’s a barrages of bullets and lazers heading for you and of course the enemy units on and off the ground to watch out for. Don’t worry! We’ve all been there and the way to play these games anyway is to keep your eyes focused mainly to the middle of the screen and gauge the gaps in the bullets, ships and lazers to get your ship through them. You can only take so many hits as well until you pop your little space ship and use a life up to respawn with full equipment but no Hyper Attack bar, you’ll pick these little rules and tricks up in your first few attempts but be prepared to stick some effort in to really squeeze all combos and points you possibly can. Dodonpatchi is a really competitive game too due to the nature of it, it’s fast paced, unpredictable and fun which all together can get you hooked for a good few hours in one sitting – if you can stomach it that is. That’s the deal with arcade games, they just suck you in and then… BANG! An hour has just vanished before your eyes! But because they’re so simple and ultimately fun from any angle it can get most gamers itching to stick a high score up, Dodonpatchi is no different and has Xbox Live Leaderboard functionality for extra arcade excitement.  

After you completed a full run and have stopped the rewiring of time, you’ll get some small story boards to look over. They aren’t anything incredible just some tail ends of storylines to do with alternate or parallel outcomes. In the Xbox 360 version you also get a soundtrack CD which is great to stick on while you play, you can get some very calming and nostalgic vibes coming through all 23 tracks. There’s also different versions of Arrange A, B, Black Label and version 1.51 available for download which adds more paths and modes to voyage through. Dodonpatchi is limited when it comes to any bigger features, the downloads themselves are different versions of the modes you already have and it ultimately doesn’t bring anything super new and exciting to you for your MSP. This is really the only disappointment in Dodonpatchi, it’s really hard to expect so much from a port that’s had success and changing it too much could have be fatal. The fifth installment offer players a great experience with added features that tie in with Xbox Live, it also offers alternative modes amongst its original modes which is a great comparison to play with it just doesn’t offer anything more, nor does it lie about what it is.

If you like a challenge, Dodonpatchi has it. It’s one of the better organized side scrollers, offering better customization options than most other titles which gives the gameplay a good stir whenever you need it. It’s many mode ensures hours and hours of play and the Leaderboard functionality give the player something to aim for while firing lazers like its no body’s business. The pace is fast enough and it’s hard enough to get the pros sweating too, additional items and attacks also have you learning and executing patterns and tactics with ease. Overall it’s one for your arcade collection (If you have one) and will keep any side scrolling urges under control, no problem.