Ridge Racer Review | Worth Playing in 2023?

In recent times, the Ridge Racer series has managed to sustain itself as the sole racing game for newly launched consoles.

Once a notable and admired franchise, it has lately become challenging to regard new installments seriously. The recent five-year output of Ridge Racer hasn’t been particularly remarkable. Like a beleaguered wrestler reaching out for a fresh partner in a tag-team match, Namco brought in the Helsinki-based Bugbear Entertainment to develop the game, which resulted in Ridge Racer Unbounded.

About Ridge Racer Developers

ridge racer

Unbounded is nearly what you’d predict from Bugbear. They’re well-known for the successful Flatout series, celebrated for its damage and collision simulations. This emphasis on demolition was incorporated into the Ridge Racer style of fast-paced drifting and bouncing physics in Unbounded, and it integrates surprisingly well. Essentially, it’s Burnout with the route alterations of Split/Second, filling a much-missed gap in the arcade racing genre.

Unbounded’s single-player mode consists of sixty races across nine districts of Shatter City. The primary race modes available are Domination and Shindo, with a few “attack” modes to add more content. Domination uncovers everything that Bugbear added to the series; environmental damage, vehicle takedowns combined with high-speed drifting and turbo boosts. Shindo is closer to a traditional Ridge Racer experience – tracks underscore sharp turns and drifting with no destruction.

The two modes don’t differ significantly on the surface, except for the absence of destruction. Both require different types of vehicles. In Domination, players need to think about the vehicle’s resilience. Ramming through destructible objects and into other vehicles at high speeds damages your car and can leave you susceptible to being destroyed by a rival. Shindo prioritizes smooth handling through turns. Tracks are quicker and require drifting, focusing on wide turns and straight stretches. The number of racers is also less, with 12 racers participating in Domination, but only 8 in Shindo.

Best Thing About Ridge Racer

The game’s greatest accomplishment is AI. It remains challenging throughout and is fair. I never felt the game was tricking me when I was overtaken or lost a close race.

Rivals make mistakes, crash into walls, and use their boosts too soon. But they also stay close to earn power and aggressively push you aside if you attempt to overtake them. From the initial races to the very last, the AI always provides a challenge – one you can only conquer through perseverance and flawless driving.

The driving in the game is exactly what you anticipate when you start a Ridge Racer game – it’s easy to slip into ludicrous drifts that last for an unusually long time. The sensation of speed is also outstanding, and I was especially taken with the sound. Dubstep replaces the traditional Ridge Racer techno soundtrack to great effect, and the roaring engines truly help enhance a fantastic sense of speed.

The newly designed HUD is great, minimizing screen clutter and using in-game overlays to display relevant information, but I did miss having an on-screen map to help navigate corners.

As you complete races, experience is earned depending on performance. Additional experience is gained for opening shortcuts, destroying objects, taking down opponents, and more, in addition to the experience earned from your finishing position. This game tracks everything, so if you like collecting in-game medals, Unbounded is one of the best. Although some may argue this is gamification at its worst, it works well because it makes any finish productive. In many other racers, there’s little value to finishing anywhere but first. In Unbounded, I frequently finished races that I would have quit in any other game.

Shatter City offers nine districts for players to progress through. Initially, one district is accessible, and as you earn experience others are unlocked. The game starts with a slow progression through industrial districts. There isn’t enough variety between the first few districts to make it feel like you’re seeing anything new, which made me initially feel lukewarm towards the game. However, when I finally unlocked some of the other districts, particularly City Center, the game became much more visually appealing.

Ridge Racer Track Editor

The track editor is what attracted me the most to Unbounded. I was excited to recreate the streets around my house that I often dream of racing down. Although the track editor is certainly functional, I wasn’t able to achieve quite what I wanted to. You begin by viewing a top-down grid and then selecting specific set pieces themed around the game’s district. You string these along until the ends connect and then you can enter a more detailed mode that allows you to place explosives, jumps, and the like. The options for customization are limited, and I was disappointed that I couldn’t modify elevation, which apparently was also a limitation for Bugbear since every track in the game is flat.

This means no significant hill climbs, no steep descents and no high-banked turns. After creating a few events, I stopped investing time in the editor, although there are many user-created tracks available to check out. Unbounded also offers online racing across all modes. The online population wasn’t huge, but I found several competitive races and the mode generally works well, though a few of my races were marred by lag and stuttering.

The Ridge Racer franchise was in need of a refresh, and I’m pleased to say that this is now in the past. The series has truly taken a turn for the better. Ridge Racer Unbounded is not only the best Ridge Racer game in years, but also an excellent racing game overall. It is a challenging game that requires precision and patience to master, but in return, it delivers exciting, thrilling races. It isn’t perfect, but it’s a significant step in the right direction for the franchise.

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