Thursday, 5 November 2020

RIDE 4 ★★★☆☆

In the grand scheme of things, RIDE is a relative newcomer to the motorbike racing genre, compared to more established franchises like the MotoGP series. First debuting in 2015, it offered a more accessible option for newer players. 

RIDE 4 looks to continue this trend, promising the most impressive outing yet to close out this console generation. Full disclosure, this is this reviewer’s first time playing a RIDE game, but I was interested to see how it would fare with a fresh perspective. Would it be welcoming for a newbie like me? Watch on to find out…

Firstly, there is indeed a lot of variety on offer for how you can approach the game. You can customise the weather, the time of day you want to race and naturally the difficulty of the AI racers. The weather specifically has a huge impact on how your bike controls, with rain making everything more slick and that bit more difficult to control. Not only does this add a welcome sense of realism, but makes you think more strategically rather than flooring the gas. 

You can also control the game’s physics, ranging from basic to realistic, and unfortunately this is where things fall a tad flat. On the more basic settings, we found our bike tended to drift out of line, even at slower speeds. This doesn’t seem to be an issue with realistic physics, which feels a lot more responsive. Yet as you can imagine, on this setting the slightest mistake is punished, which isn’t fun for players still finding their feet. Even with the racing line indicators turned on, you’ll need to carefully manage not just your speed, but also your positioning to make sure you clip the apex on corners. It’s mastering these lines which will win or cost you the race.

But if you’re going to spend a significant amount of time with this game, then it’s definitely worth practising with realistic settings, it’ll be far less frustrating in the long run. At least if you mess up, you know it’s your own fault, and not the result of janky controls.

And once you do get the hang of the harder difficulty, you’ll find plenty of game modes to sink your teeth into, including career, single race, time attack, endurance and of course online multiplayer. Personally, I had the most fun with endurance mode, which has you on much longer races. It has a much more tactical feel to it, as you have to consider your fuel and tyres, your riding style, and more. It won’t be for everyone, but it offers a different challenge compared to a regular race.

The career mode is a much more traditional affair. It sees you work up from local competitions to the big leagues, allowing you to sign deals with different manufacturers to gain exclusive upgrades. There’s by no means anything wrong with it, but it also didn’t do anything that we haven’t seen before in most other racing games. Moving on to aesthetics, RIDE 4 looks brilliant, easily on par with Forza, Gran Turismo or any other Triple A title. Each of the over 175 licensed bikes has been recreated in stunning detail, thanks to laser and drone scans. At a glance, you’d hard-pressed to distinguish it from the real thing. 

It’s also definitely worth trying it out in first person, as this view offers the most immersive experience, and one that feels all the more exhilarating than a car racer. With nothing separating you from the road aside from your visor, it’s especially intense. Thankfully, the sound quality matches the visuals. Each bike has a distinct roar, from the low gutturals of a Harley Davidson to the high-pitched shriek of a tuned Yamaha, it’s a small detail that goes a long way to add to the sense of authenticity. 

To wrap up, RIDE 4 isn’t without its faults. The more accessible settings feel a little broken, and the realistic physics while functional, prove to be a huge barrier to entry for those not used to this calibre of game. But for those who take the time to *ahem* ‘git gud’, you’ll find one of the most satisfying, faithful racing sims on the market. It looks good, it feels good, and damn it if it doesn’t sound good too.

Tom Baker

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