Sunday, 20 November 2016

Ride 2

Motorbike games are usually notable for three things: (a) they’re keen to be as realistic as possible, (b) they’re not friendly to that much-maligned beast The Casual Gamer, and (c) they tend to be developed by Milestone S.r.l. Ride 2 puts a big fat tick in all three boxes.

The official Valentino Rossi game (also developed by Milestone, of course) doubled up as this year’s licensed MotoGP title, with the result that Ride 2 doesn’t enjoy the bells and whistles of official riders, teams, and tournaments. That’s not to say that the realism is dampened by a lack of licensing/advertising; far from it. There’s a whole bunch of real-life tracks to repeatedly fall off your bike on, including shorter/alternate versions of the circuits where relevant. The bikes themselves are all fully licensed, with carefully recreated in-game models and greatly varying performance. This is clearly a game first and foremost made by, and for, people who take their motorised biking seriously.

Offline, the structure is a bit... I’m going to say “higgledy-piggledy”, mainly because I think it’s a great phrase. There’s loads of content, so no complaints there. The way in which it’s presented and unlocked, however, is neither linear nor clearly explained. There are classes of races within classes of races, and you’ll be going to and fro between them as you slowly gather the wins, cash, and ranking that you need to gain access to new races and vehicles. It’s likely that you’ll have to repeat some races in order to get what you need and, even then, this isn’t quite all you need to understand in order to progress.

When Ride 2 says “customise”, it means “upgrade”. When customisation of your bike is casually mentioned, therefore, those less familiar with the machines will be forgiven if they ignore the option completely (because I’m nice like that). Especially because the game makes no effort to explain the fact that customisation becomes very important very quickly. Sets of offline races are sorted not only by bike category, but also by power. Theoretically, this means that the only factor deciding the winners is skill. It’s not long, however, before the power of your bike is equally important. If/when everybody else has increased their bikes’ speed and braking above the base level and you haven’t, you don’t really stand much of a chance.
As I’ve said, this isn’t a game interested in easing you in gently. Although it goes through the motions of catering to the less skilled – adjustable AI difficulty, various levels of assists, and even a rewind feature better than that you’ll find in any other racer – people without a significant reserve of experience, skill, or patience will quickly wish the game offered autopilot and stabilisers. Even with everything set up for the game to help you as much as possible, corners are very difficult to take at speed and the ideal racing line is often tricky to stick to. Plus, of course, you’ll still need to bung loads of new bits and pieces into your bikes in order to keep up.

I say “bikes” plural because there are well over a hundred in Ride 2, all officially licensed and lovingly recreated... and very expensive. Earning in-game cash is painfully slow, and bikes are painfully expensive. You can build up a garage full of bikes – eventually – but it will only be thanks to hours of what is essentially grinding. This is a problem even for those used to the demands of bike racers, as you’re not able to immediately nab a powerful bike and take it through a tournament. 

So it’s ultimately a game for the hardcore audience, which is also reflected in the online community. It’s not too hard to find an online game, but it’s almost impossible to find a full lobby (though the host can make up the numbers with AI). Players are either terrifying experts or comically prone to crashes, with very little in-between. Brownie points for offline split-screen for two people; but Ride 2’s appeal is limited, and even dedicated petrolheads may be frustrated by the slow and scattered distribution of content. Good, but not quite the ride stuff. 3/5


Luke Kemp

Ride 2 CeX

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