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

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