If speed, destruction and chaos is what you look for in your racing games, then Bugbear Entertainment’s Ridge Racer Unbounded, a slightly different take on much-loved and long-running series, might just be the thrill your looking for. Is it up there with the likes of Burnout, or should’ve Bugbear left Ridge Racer alone? Read on to find out.
Game: Ridge Racer Unbounded
Developer: Bugbear Entertainment
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Whilst Ridge Racer Unbounded doesn’t feature a deep and fulfilling story mode, it does go down the usual ‘build from the bottom up’ route. You start off racing lesser skilled racers in the game’s fictional city until eventually your reputation increases and it’s the big leagues for you. Original? Not in your wildest dreams, but it does give you a platform to build from, as you gain more money and cars. The basic set-up is no different from other racing titles, allowing you to upgrade your cars as you progress. Winning races unlocks new cars, introducing an element of variation to proceedings.
The “story” will take you through different districts of Shatter Bay, tasking you with gaining enough stars to progress to the next one. Each district features seven events, and you need to pass all of them to move on. Not all events types are the same, which adds a bit of variation to the mix and delays the almost inevitable repetition you so often see with most racing titles.
Ridge Racer Unbounded’s visual are beautifully sleek, which isn’t too surprising given the somewhat enclosed nature of the game. Whilst the cars aren’t licensed, they look the part, with body work glistening in the sun or evening lights as you zoom past the competition. The environments, destructible or not, look great too, with the former complimented by some impressive looking explosions.
Filled mostly with electro and drum & bass tracks, Ridge Racer Unbounded’s soundtrack does a fine job in accompanying the chaos in Shatter Bay. The music is accompanied by good sound effects, sucking you in quite nicely into the world of Shatter Bay. Crash into a wall and you’ll almost feel the thud of the bricks as well as hear it.
As a whole Ridge Racer plays very well, albeit very similar to other racing games. Causing mayhem and destroying public property gains you points and speed boosts, which can also be earned by gaining air time and drifting. Drifting is an area that Ridge Racer decided to mix up, although perhaps not for the better. When you start a race, a prompt is displayed on the screen saying press circle to drift, so naturally that’s what you will do. However, what Bugbear don’t tell you is you need to break at the same time as pressing circle to get the drifting right, otherwise you’ll find yourself constantly spinning around and unable to regain control of your car until it’s too late. If you persevere, you’ll eventually find yourself getting the hang of the drift technique, but the learning curve is rather steep and you almost certain to frustrated early on.
As well as the drifting, Ridge Racer Unbounded is all about the carnage, anarchy and destruction. As previously mentioned, destroying public property gains you points and speed boosts. A bar on your HUD will fill up as you wreck the city that host the tracks, once filled, providing you with a big speed boost, but also the ability to crash straight through buildings, trucks and other objects. A great thing about crashing into buildings is that once you have ploughed through them, you and your rivals can them use the previously erect landmark as a shortcut. Whilst crashing into buildings gives you shortcuts, crashing into lorries or tankers creates an explosion that takes out any other vehicle else in its vicinity. It’s a great tactic to employ if the race is a tight one, ensuring a few of your rivals are taken out as you zoom your way to victory. Another plus point is that oncoming traffic doesn’t cause you any harm, allowing you to smash through any car not participating in the races and filling up your boost meter in the process.
In terms of modes, Ridge Racer Unbounded has plenty of high speed destruction on offer. You have Domination Race, Drift Attack, Shindo Racing, Time Attack and Frag Attack events, with each types offering a different experience when compared to the next. Domination races task you with destroying the city and gaining at least a top 3 finish. It is the mode pushed the most in the game, featuring AI rivals that will push you to the limit. Drift Attack focuses on, yes you guessed it, drifting! Drift enough throughout the course to earn stars and points. The more points you get, the more stars you achieve. Shindo Racing is pure speed, start your engines and race for your lives. This mode is not about destruction, instead focusing on who is the fastest and the best. Time Attack pits you against nothing but time, tasking you with reaching the finish line before the timer runs out. Finally, Frag Attack requires you to take out a specific number of your opponents using the boost power up at your disposal. Whilst all the modes have their advantages and disadvantages, only the Drift Attack stands out as having any crippling flaws thanks to the badly explained mechanic mentioned earlier.
Like any decent racing title, no track ever plays the same the second time around. This factor plus the wide variety of different modes and options means there’s plenty of content for you to get stuck into in Ridge Racer Unbounded. Throw some decent online multiplayer modes into the mix, and you’ve got something else to do once you’ve finished cleaning up the single player content. However, whether or not you step into the online arena, depends totally on how much you enjoyed the solo content.
It might not set new standards in the arcade racing genre, but Ridge Racer Unbounded is certainly a fun enough game. Once you get used to the poorly explained drift mechanic, it offers some explosive thrills through a variety of different modes and events. It’s not an evolution, but if you’ve played every other arcade racer out there and are looking for some more adrenaline filled fun, you could a lot worse than picking up Ridge Racer Unbounded.