Namco Bandai Games is back with a brand new addition to the world renowned Ridge Racer franchise. Developed by Bugbear Entertainment who wanted to really refresh the Ridge Racer image, the new addition ‘Ridge Racer: Unbounded’ see’s the game heading in a whole new direction, while still sticking with its roots keeping that arcade feel that saw it become a hit back when it was first released in 1993. For die-hard Ridge Racer fans this revamp could be possibly disastrous, for those new to the franchise or who haven’t really followed the series then you’re in for one hell of a ride. I should also note before I go on that for this review I’ve been playing the game on the PS3 so what I have experienced may differ from those of you who play it on the Xbox 360 or PC.
Next in my review I’d usually begin talking about the story, but this time there isn’t one really. The closest thing you have is a short cinematic clip at the beginning of the game. The official website does try to say you have a mission asking you to “join the Unbounded team, a group of lawless badass racers, terrorizing the streets of Shatter Bay” (http://www.ridgeracer.com/site.php?hl=uk) with the aim of expanding your territory. However if you don’t check out the site you’d never really know this was the case; you’d be tricked into thinking it was just another racing game where the more races you win, the more you unlock new cars and tracks. But that doesn’t matter because the game doesn’t need a story to get you hooked, as it’s just plain old fashioned fun that keeps you glued.
So what additions have Bugbear Entertainment introduced to give this game a new facelift I hear you ask? Well the graphics are similar to the old games, they have that arcade game look about them but they have stepped away from the usual backdrops where you’d drive down long winding roads, passing through mountains, looking on to luminous city skylines and racing alongside beach piers under glorious sunsets. Instead Ridge Racer: Unbounded replaces these stunning views by racing through rundown cities, passing under motorway slip roads and driving through buildings to create your own shortcuts. That’s right; I said you drive through buildings. This is one of the main additions that give the long-running franchise a kick up the backside to restore some vitality to Ridge Racer and to make it more exciting.
The whole new drive and destroy philosophy allows you to smash into almost everything that sits in your path, and forge shortcuts through new areas that would normally seem off limits. To open up the shortcuts you’ll need to crash into scenery, drift round corners and bang up your opponents to raise the level of your power bar. When full you’ll be notified with a crosshair where shortcuts are and activating your power bar will unleash a boost of speed launching your car through buildings, shaping the track to how you want it. The problem is as I will mention later in the article there is a lack of a tutorial that makes you aware of all this. Nevertheless the mayhem doesn’t stop with your environment; you can also take out your opponents, which in the game is known as Fragging. But beware the AI in this game unlike others really is intelligent and it’s out for blood. Your car is like a magnet to them and with the same access to the power bar they aren’t afraid to ram into you out of nowhere and frag you.
But what are all the rewards for getting rowdy and smashing things up? Points of course; and what do points make? Prizes! Sorry for the cheesiness but it had to be said. Anyway the points; you get them for demolishing your environment and taking out your opponents, as well as for placing on the podium at the end of a race. The points then reward you by unlocking new tracks and giving you XP which as you rank up, gives you more unlocks in the form of cars to help you progress through the game.
In addition the points you receive will also unlock new track parts; I bet you’re wondering what I mean by this. Well it’s related to the second new addition that Bugbear Entertainment have introduced to Ridge Racer: Unbounded, and that is the ability to design and create your own tracks. You start off with basic elements to design your track, and will unlock more the further you get in the game. However they are limited, it’s more just the scenery that changes rather than the shape of the track itself, and the interface can be tricky at times, but once you get the hang of it you can make an unlimited number of unique tracks. Once finished, you can then share your creations online with friends and other racers from around the world. And if people suspect you of designing your tracks to suit you, fixing it so that you win every time, then you can dominate and race against others on an endless supply of user created maps aiming to beat their high scores and fastest times.
There are some negative changes that have been made to the game though, the lack of any real tutorial means you don’t really find out what all the controls are. Instead you have to pretty much guess which buttons do what; the usual accelerate and brake buttons are the same as any other game. In addition to that point the ridiculously over-the-top power slides that we’re used to seeing in Ridge Racer games have disappeared and been replaced by a new really annoying mechanism that is difficult to master. When first trying to master the skill you’ll no doubt, as I did, slam into walls which on rare occasion destroyed my car but mainly just slows you down, which isn’t what you need when trying to win a race. In fact until you get the hang of it (which will take some time) you’ll likely find yourself doing what we all did as children and restarting the race when we’re losing after taking a few bad corners.
However there is one thing that has stayed constant with the older editions in the Ridge Racer series other than having that arcade feel, and that is the upbeat sound tracks you have on in the background while driving round which sees a few familiar tracks from older games. There is one other similarity with the older games too and that is the race modes; you have the likes of your typical time-trial races to get on the leader board and multiplayer head-to-head races to take on friends and claim bragging rights. In addition you will also have domination races, a new mode which takes up the majority of your campaign, and see’s you smacking around your opponents as you race to the finish line.
Overall this is a game that will no doubt have mixed feelings from the gamers who play it. For me it is definitely a successful revamp, enjoyable to play both off and online, with very few negatives aspects. Ok it isn’t the prettiest game having stepped away from the usual backdrops Ridge Racer fans are used to, but it does keep that brilliant style you’d associate with playing a racing game down at the local arcade. The controls at times can also be exasperating until you manage to master them and drift round right angle corners without a hitch, in which they then become enjoyable. On the other hand for a game that is being completely redesigned it seems to have worked great and is incredible fun, although some fans of the original style will probably disagree. But there will be others that think a change like this was needed, to rejuvenate the franchises image and draw in a whole host of new gamers to keep more titles coming in the future. Definitely worth a try.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.