Ride – Review
Rated – G
Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, PC
My Dad loves motorbikes. I have fond memories of watching the 500cc races with him as a kid, which helped form my love of motorsport in general. Although I’m definitely more of a car kinda guy, I’ve always had a passing interest in the two wheeled form of racing. The same can’t be said in the video game world, with titles like the Moto GP series never really coming close to the likes of Forza Motorsport or Gran Turismo in terms of popularity, despite being decent depictions of their real life counterpart. Ride is an attempt to close that gap, and it goes to pretty decent lengths to capture some of the heart and soul of the two wheeled side of racing.
If you asked those familiar with it to describe Ride in a single sentence, I’d wager that most of them would say “It’s Forza but with bikes”, and I’d agree with them. In fact, it’s fair to say that developers Milestone decided to pay direct tribute to its four wheeled cousin by lifting directly out of its design book. From the look and flow of the menu, to how you customise your bike, to the layout of the races themselves; I feel a strong sense of deja-vu about all of it.
On one hand, it makes things familiar. Everything is easy enough to access, and surprisingly there is a lot here to find. Very few bikes are locked behind results targets, so if you want to get on to the fastest of the fast as soon as possible, you can, provided you can get over the initial learning curve. And it’s a bit of a steep one.
Thankfully, as is common place nowadays, there are plenty of assists like auto braking, anti-wheelie and the ideal racing line available to help you get your balance. There are also three different physics settings, letting you cater the experience even further. Even then, Ride still takes a little time to get to grips with. Turning response can seem sluggish at first due to the nature of the rider having to shift their weight and lean into the corners, but it doesn’t take too long to get the hang of. Once you master the system Ride starts to hit the power band and really take off.
Finding yourself in a group of 16 bikes all racing towards turn one in a big pack is pretty thrilling. AI riders will race you, and each other, pretty hard without running you off the road. Pulling off a successful overtake brings with it a sense of achievement. It can all come crashing down (literally) in an instant though, as one mistake will usually cost you big time. If you go off track, nine times out of ten you’re gonna hit the dirt. Oddly, the only penalty is the time lost, as no damage system exists in Ride. You can smash things to your hearts content; your rider will simply reset to the circuit for you to continue on your merry way.
There is a replay mode available at the end of the race, though no instant replay, so you’ll have to wait to the end of the race if you want to watch any particular pass or crash back in slow-mo. The replays do a fantastic job of showing off how detailed the physics of the bikes actually are. They go to great lengths to convey the physicality of racing a motorbike, and it makes them all the more exciting. It also shows off some of the games more prominent issues as well.
Riders don’t generally fall of bikes smoothly, transitioning from riding to sliding on their back in the space of a single frame. The textures throughout appear slightly washed out and a little underwhelming, as do the bikes themselves. Under the microscope of the showroom, the bike models look pretty detailed, but not on par with what you could come to expect in terms of modern racers. It points to a lack of polish that is plainly evident from the moment you fire Ride up for the first time.
Load times are inexplicably long in most cases, and for reasons I have yet to find, you have to sit through two of them in between selecting your bike and starting a race. Even though your default bike sits in every menu shot, the Ride still forces you wait for a good minute so it can load up a plain white showroom, with your bike in the foreground. From here, you are taken to another loading screen where, finally, you can get out on the tarmac.
At the end of each race, you earn reputation (a ladder score that marks your progression through the world tour mode) and credits depending on how you finish in each event. Events are broken up by bike class and place of origin, and can vary between regular races to longer endurance events, time trials, track days and even drag races along the salt flats.
As you earn credits you’ll be able to upgrade your bike with all manner of components. The Forza Motorsport influence is visibly at its strongest here, as the layout and process of buying and installing new parts is exactly the same, down to the order in which the parts appear in the upgrade menu. Again, it makes the process familiar, but I can’t help but feel Milestone are wearing their influences a little too much on-their-sleeve. It makes Ride feel a little more cynical than it should.
Multiplayer is pretty straight forward. You either connect to another players lobby, or set up your own. The room fills any open slots with AI racers, which is a good thing, as it’s not an understatement to say that the servers are pretty much bare. With that being said, when I could find a lobby, I didn’t seem to have any connection issues and everything felt pretty stable.
All in all, it would be interesting to see what Milestone could do with a budget the size of Turn 10’s. Ride isn’t afraid to show its influences, to its detriment in some cases. It’s not as flashy nor as polished as a Forza Motorsport or a Gran Turismo, the games Ride aspires to be. What it does get right, though, are the fundamentals of any racing game. This makes Ride a decent platform should there be a Ride 2 in the future.
For now, Ride will meet the needs of motorbike enthusiasts just as those previously mentioned titles have done so for car lovers. But I can’t see it gaining too many places outside of that niche.
James Swinbanks is a Games Critic currently writing for GameSpot, although you’ll still occasionally see him popping up on Player 2, because frankly, he loves the smell of the place.