Google+

Ridge Racer Unbounded review

Mediocre
Shares
AT A GLANCE
  • Solid, crunchy driving physics
  • AI that’s actually fun to race
  • The instant, no-load restarts
  • Other games do it all better
  • No one’s playing online
  • The multiplayer menu crashing

It’s tough to argue that Ridge Racer isn’t in the middle of a slow, possibly permanent slide into irrelevance. It's having a hard time finding its footing in a genre dominated by realistic sims like Gran Turismo and Forza, and where even the most arcade-y new games enjoy some combination of sophisticated physics, detailed damage modeling, and wanton carnage. So it’s easy to see where Namco’s coming from with Ridge Racer Unbounded - this is its attempt to make Ridge Racer relevant again.

Unbounded takes its cue from games like Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit and developer Bugbear’s own FlatOut racers, emphasizing adrenaline-fueled, macho braggadocio and brutal, smashmouth tactics over the blue skies, easy goin’ vibe of Namco’s ‘90s racers. (The game is so gritty and dark that it’s sometimes difficult to see the road.) Unbounded’s brief talky bits straight-up instruct you to destroy, demolish, and “dominate” your opponents, which in alpha-wolf lingo apparently means “getting first place in an event.”

Your hunting ground is the city of Shatter Bay, apparently named by the same folks who brought us products like Axe Body Detailer. It’s split into nine districts, each of which offers seven underground racing events. You only need to place third in any given event to proceed, but place first in all seven and you’ll “dominate” the district, which may or may not involve peeing on the fire hydrants. This is all tied together with a hilariously perfunctory fiction about an underclass uprising by...recklessly racing cars? Something like that. Rest assured that you’ll never hear of this silliness after the intro.

That’s just as well, because it lets you focus on what actually matters: the racing. Bugbear is an old hand at this, which is immediately evidenced by the weighty feel of the driving physics and the aggressive, intelligent-feeling AI opponents. Unbounded successfully sells the illusion that you’re piloting several thousand pounds of metal and plastic at 150 mph, and the collisions - be it with walls or other cars - feel nearly as meaty as those in FlatOut and Burnout.

Of particular note is the sensitive, slightly odd-feeling handbrake, which facilitates the corner-spanning drifts for which Ridge Racer used to be famous. The feel here is completely different, to the point that we spent our first couple hours just trying to get a handle on how to successfully drift in Unbounded’s strange new world of physics. Once we got the idea it was fine, but the learning curve may be substantial if you come in expecting typical Ridge Racer physics.

The learning curve’s tough in other ways, too. It took us the better part of an hour just to place in the first race, and we briefly wondered if we’d bitten off more than we could chew. You win experience points just for racing, though, so continual play eventually unlocks better cars to help you over the hump. The AI (thankfully) falls short of the ferociousness seen in FlatOut 2, but it’s definitely playing to win. Once you get used to it you’ll appreciate its aggressive edge and lack of cheat-y “rubberbanding.” It’s tough but fair.

In addition to the normal 12-car races, there are high-speed races, drifting contests, halfpipe-laden time trials, and cop-smashing semi-truck rampage events. While these add much-needed variation, Unbounded is at its best when you’re racing 11 other cars. The time trials in particular are just annoying, with each stunt ramp threatening to send you careening into a run-ending wall. Despite the great AI and respectable carnage, single-player starts wearing thin around the third district; there simply isn’t enough variety in tracks or environments. Early races had our hearts beating hard as we struggled to preserve our one-second leads; this intense feeling faded as familiarity took hold.

Unfortunately multiplayer may not fill the gap, as Unbounded’s online game feels like a ghost town. We’d wait upwards of 10 minutes just to find another player, much less the seven needed for a full race. There are well over 1,000 player-made “cities” (collections of up to five custom courses) available online - which you can download and race in - but it seems difficult to actually find many people playing in them. It’s neat that you can make your own courses, but it’s not much more than a novelty when you’re the only one driving laps.

Ridge Racer Unbounded almost works - it’s so close. Bugbear clearly knows what it’s doing, but seems hampered by the odd, shoehorned-in license and a repetitive single-player campaign. Unbounded’s testosterone-drenched theme and crazy destruction might appeal to the mainstream, but its considerable difficulty and lack of extras will send them packing just as quickly. Only enthusiast racing fans who appreciate Bugbear’s FlatOut legacy will have a chance at dialing into this one, and even then they’ll know that FlatOut 2 and Burnout do the destructive racing shtick better. Who is Unbounded for, then? It’s unfortunate, but our best guess is the bargain bins.

This game was reviewed on Xbox 360 as the lead platform. We also played through sections of the PS3 version to see if there were any distinct differences, and we found no technical shortcomings during our playtime.

More Info

Available Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, PS3

13 comments

  • The_Boz - April 17, 2012 9:26 a.m.

    Bit disappointed with the review, as I am now 78% of the way through Forza 4, I am now waiting for the next racing game to come out, anything that isn't from the over rated terrible Need for Speed stable.
  • viberunner - April 14, 2012 6:14 a.m.

    Is this the same Alexandra Hall who had an affair with Jeremy Clarkson? Anyway, if Alex is a girl that explains why they cannot get or play this game competently. Girls should stick to easy racing games... mostly time runs between the School Run and The Mall. RRU is a MAN'S game.
  • samsneeze - April 14, 2012 10:14 a.m.

    Not sure if trolling or just stupid... Maybe... you're being sarcastic?
  • NimbleJimble - April 14, 2012 2:29 a.m.

    I think this is the first time I've been compelled to (and probably the last time I'll) leave a comment on this site, and, whilst opinion is indeed opinion, I have to say that (for Bugbear's sake) this review is plain wrong. By that I mean that the reviewer appears to have been playing the game incorrectly, or simply missed the finer points of gameplay clearly present in all game modes of this title. There is without doubt a very steep learning curve (a dynamic that never stops rewarding the player through and through the game), but I cannot see how the first level could take an hour to complete. Some levels do take a long time to master, and, with practice and by honing your skills eventually you reap the rewards. The repetition of the street layout and structure is the genius of this game (not to mention the level-editor), and not some lazy rehash of elements or lack of imagination on the part of the developer. The game requires you learn the tracks, to remember the order that the city blocks appear in - the omission of a map is clear indication of the intended gameplay. The action is heart-pounding (in a hyper-drifting, fragging a rival through an exploding concrete wall kind of way) and each game mode is satisfying and substantial. To say that the Time-trial levels are 'annoying, with each stunt ramp threatening to send you careening into a run-ending wall' is mind-boggling. The levels require you to navigate the obstacle course by connecting the dots of the time-adding and boost-supplementing pick ups. It takes a Tony Hawk-esque level of concentration and level-mastering to achieve three star passes and I'm stunned that the gameplay merits were not spotted here by the reviewer. The game does indeed take cues from Burnout (especially Burnout 3), but it's mostly the aggressive nature and slow-mo crash cam. The gameplay and mechanics on offer are without question Bugbear's own - and damn fine they are too. I've been playing this non-stop since launch a fortnite ago and regard it as one of the most enjoyable and rewarding action-racers of the last few years. To claim that this title is aimed at the bargain-bins is ludicrous on so many levels. Not only insulting to your readers but to the developers (and lazy writing at best). I'm just about ready to dismount from my high horse. As I say though, probably the first and last time for me here after this editorial mis-fire.
  • samsneeze - April 14, 2012 10:17 a.m.

    "I DON'T AGREE WITH THIS REVIEW!! I HATE YOU! I'M RUNNING AWAY AND NEVER COMING BACK!!" See you later, then.
  • RonsonPL - April 14, 2012 2:13 a.m.

    It has nothing in common with the RR series, but it's not that bad. Although I liked the Flatout series a little more than RR series (counting only the x360/ps3 remakes, not PS One originals, since I missed them :( ) As with the Flatout: UC - I see the same problem in here. It is a high speed racer. Why on earth they release such titles with just 30fps framerate on the consoles? It's the same story all over again: Flatou: UC Sega Rally: Revo (2008) Pure (Nai'd as well? ) Blur now this, so called "Ridge Racer". Guys behind the first Ridge Racer for the PS3 maintained the 60fps even in 1080p. They choose to sacrifice graphics detail rather than framerate that really affects gameplay and immersion. I played all of them on the PC and couldn't understand the low notes for those games. Until I tried to play on the console. In such games, 30fps just makes NO SENSE. It's just not the same game anymore. It gets slow, like driving in tar or something. The immersion and fun from the speed itself - is not even 10% as good as it can be when the framerate is appropriate for the genre. I guess the LCD TVs plaque is to blame, since you have to play on CRT/plasma display to truly see the advanteges of 60fps framerate. :( And it gets worse and worse. Split Second even in the PC version has the "30fps cap". That's just plainly stupid. @GR: It could be a good idea to play a PC version if you want to try to give the game "a chance", instead of going for the other console version.
  • sid440 - April 13, 2012 11:43 p.m.

    I don't really think its fair to knock off points because you cant find people online...people not playing has nothing to do with the games mechanics.
  • onetimebuster - April 13, 2012 9:58 p.m.

    I remember my first ps1 game was ridge racer revolution i loved that game.
  • shawksta - April 13, 2012 8:02 p.m.

    Whats funny is that they took the Ridge Racer name and made it something its not, and yet it is still a dump.
  • suicidali - April 13, 2012 6:25 p.m.

    I've been optimistic about this since it was announced, even with the stupid name (I mean seriously, Unbounded doesn't sound right no matter how many times you say it), but the end product looks disappointing. It's been 6 years since the last console Ridge Racer game, and this was the best they could come up with? I understand it's trying to "get with the times" and I appreciate that Bugbear was a good choice to develop it, but in doing that it's completely lost its own identity. At least the fact that they didn't put an 8 in the title means that they can call the next game Ridge Racer 8 (Coming 2018!) and sweep this one under the rug. Sorry to go off on a rant, it's just sad to see what one of my favorite franchises has become.
  • ThatGamerDude - April 13, 2012 5:51 p.m.

    Eh, I didn't really care for the online in this game so imma still buy it.
  • AuthorityFigure - April 13, 2012 5:34 p.m.

    Sadly, an HD remake of the original probably would have sold better than this.
  • ncurry2 - April 13, 2012 5:07 p.m.

    It's ridge racer everybody! RIIIIIIDDDDDGE RACER!!

Showing 1-13 of 13 comments

Join the Discussion
Add a comment (HTML tags are not allowed.)
Characters remaining: 5000

OR…

Connect with Facebook

Log in using Facebook to share comments, games, status update and other activity easily with your Facebook feed.