When I was 16, I took the money that I had been saving for a year and bought myself a Yamaha MR 50cc scrambler. I loved that bike despite the fact that it broke down more than I was actually able to ride it and even though I haven’t owned a motorcycle in a little over 12 years, my love for bikes still remains strong. Booting up Ride for the first time brought back all of those fond memories… at first.
A PS2 game for the PS4
Graphically, the game is a very strange juxtaposition of really good and really bad visuals. The road, your bike and your clothes are beautifully animated to the point where they are almost photo-realistic. You can see every individual stone in the road, every thread in your jacket and the bike gleams in the sunlight making it look like a display model from a bike magazine. Everything else, however, just looks awful. The locales are bland and uninteresting to drive through, the foliage looks like cardboard cut-outs and the people (spectators especially, though your own character model is pretty bad too mind you) look like they would be right at home on a PlayStation 2. That isn’t hyperbole. The faces and bodies are very angular and bare of any real expression other than the type of creepy smiles that look like they may start chanting, “One of Us! One of Us!” The loading screens are also very long, both before and after a race, and they can last anywhere from 20 seconds up to a full minute long.
One my favourite aspects of racing games is that most of them have a great soundtrack. There are often licensed songs and they fit well with the general tone of racing. Ride, however, has one of the worst soundtracks of any racing game I have ever played. The songs consist of repetitive, and often annoying, mild dubsteb as well as music that seems like it would fit right into an ‘80s cop show starring a heavily moustached man sporting a very impressive mullet. Unless you were particularly fond of shows like Tropical Heat or the original Miami Vice, I would recommend using the music player function and making a playlist of your own.
What’s important to remember is that because this game is about bikes, handling is very different to what you may be used to if you tend to play more car-racers. There is a lot of emphasis on shifting your weight as you turn, and planning your approach into a corner is essential. The difficulty settings are quite detailed and they include reducing or increasing the AI of the other racers as well as 3 types of physics ranging from very realistic to a more arcade style of balance and movement. On the higher difficulties, front and back brakes are controlled independently and a thorough understanding of the Traction Control System (TCS) is essential, especially because many of the tracks are made up of extremely tight corners. As you upgrade your bikes, you are presented with more customisation options in terms of fine-tuning your gear ratios and suspension, which really helps shave off seconds in time-trials as well as beating the AI on the higher difficulty settings. With all the settings on low, however, the game becomes far more forgiving. You are given assisted braking as well as automatic crouching on straights to become more aerodynamic. There is also a rewind function which is incredibly helpful when you misjudge a turn or cut a corner and incur a time penalty.
SO MANY CHOICES!
There is nothing worse than a racing game that offers very little in the way of choice of vehicles but fortunately, Ride is not one of them. There are over a hundred bikes available which are spread across a number of categories which range from naked bikes all the way up to Pro-Circuit racers and all of them can be customized both visually and in terms of performance. Although the aesthetic upgrades do very little in terms of the overall performance, certain upgrades such as rims can affect the bike’s weight, which will obviously have an effect on your best time. The performance upgrades include engine parts, air filters, tyres, chains, suspension and a number of others but your choice of parts is quite limited. The upgrades are also quite cheap and selling an upgraded bike will easily net you enough for the next bike as well as a number of upgrades to get you started in the next category.
The single-player campaign, the World Tour, is exactly what you would want from a racing game and offers a great sense of variety. Your goal is to work your way up through the world rankings with you starting in 301st place. The World Tour is divided into 8 categories: Naked Bikes Middleweight, Naked Bikes Heavyweight, Superports, Historic Superbikes, Modern Superbikes, Pro-Circuit, Premium Events and Open Category. Each of those categories is then further broken up into sub-categories based on the bike’s limitations and number of cylinders. Each of those sub-categories is then made up of an average of 5 or so races. The types of races available also boast a fair amount of the variety. There are 6 types of events available in the World Tour Mode: Single Race, Head-to-Head, Time Attack, Drag Race, Track Day, Team Race, Championship and Endurance. There are also Elite Trophy Events which are unlocked as you progress and winning these events unlocks more bikes to use in the World Tour. As you can see, there is definitely no shortage of content here. The tracks themselves all feel fresh and can be quite challenging even if the background and surrounding areas are quite bland.
Other than the World Tour Mode, there is also a Quick Mode that gives you a choice of 3 events: Quick race; where you choose a bike, track and number of laps; Time Trial; where you compete against your ghostly form to beat your best time; and Split-Screen; for some old-school, offline co-op fun. There is also an online option but I found it to be quite lacklustre, only offering you a choice between a single race and championship. It is immensely satisfying, however, if you like tinkering with the fine-tuning of the bike and seeing how it stacks up against other riders from around the world.
My biggest gripe is that although the game has been out for about 2 weeks, there are still a number of game-breaking bugs and still no word about a patch. The first one that I encountered left me in a perpetual load screen and required a hard-reset. The most annoying one by far, however, is the fact that there is a very high chance that your game data will get corrupted at some point during the single player campaign. When this happens, you fortunately keep your bikes and cash but your ranking is reset back to 301st place on the table and all of your medals will be gone.
Despite its numerous faults, the racing is still quite fun and mastering the different physics levels can be quite challenging. That said, however, I expected more from a game that many were expecting to be Gran Turismo for motorcycles.