Ridge Racer Unbounded
On paper, it is not very difficult to make a great arcade racer.
High speed, generous drift, smooth visuals and possible a little gimmick or two to spice things up. In reality, it is obviously much harder, but it's a series of boxes that Ridge Racer: Unbounded manages to tick.
The feeling's great. The first car batch peaks on the accelerometer around 250, but you still get that sensation of speed. Unbounded is a game where you rarely need to release the accelerator pedal, and instead focus on getting your car's ass to swing out and shimmy through every turn.
That doesn't translate to easy however, with a fine line between blistering oversteer and losing yourself in a could of smoke with a position-changing doughnut.
Daredevil driving earns you - of course - boost, which can be used for extra speed and to smash opponents off the road in finest Burnout style. It's all done on a silky smooth frame rate that never shows the slightest sign of effort or strain. No matter how many cars, buildings, flames and explosions fill the screen - technically, Unbounded a rock-solid game.
Explosions are in abundance. Large crosshairs marks walls, glass facades and doors that you can punch through with boost enabled, thereby creating small shortcuts in the track - shortcuts created with the excess of a Michael Bay set piece. Petrol tank explosions will catch any nearby opponents.
Track selection increases rapidly as you unlock them relatively quickly. All environments - from commercial districts with skyscrapers over the narrow backstreets in China Town for industrial areas, highways and container ports - have, in a minor stroke of genius, are included as pseudo-Lego blocks as part of an Track Editor.
Here you can more or less freely lay your preferred track design. Every turn and curve, every street and highway, every destructible buildings that appear in the tracks are also available here. In principle you can recreate the lanes are already in play - if you are crazily boring.
Moreover, you can liberally sprinkle objects like stacks of boxes, fuel tanks and tankers, and you can add all sorts of loops and ramps. It is an easy and elegant system, and you'd have to take great effort to not make a fun track.
Once you've created your masterpiece, you can publish it online, so the rest of the world's Ridge Racer: Unbounded players can try to beat your score. Potential fame is no more than one button press away, and the whole process is easy and elegant.
Unfortunately, Unbounded also its weaknesses. Firstly there is the A.I, the genre's eternal Achilles heel. The game falls into the same trap as so many of its competitors in that you can almost feel the invisible rubber band which apparently binds opponents to your rear bumper. Several times I've been beaten even when running the race at top speed.
You might also wish for a little more variation. In principle here plenty of race types: standard, crushing opponents, time trial, battering police cars with a giant truck...but compared to the likes of Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, which in my book is the measure of a great arcade racer, the modes supplied are a little anaemic.
Online multiplayer may combat these issues, but as of time of writing pre-launch we've been unable to partake in this side of the game - and its a shame the game doesn't support local split-screen multiplayer.
And while its great to share tracks, there's little motivation to get started. You'll see a creator's score of a particular track, but with no leaderboards to compare your performance with friends, Bugbear's missed a trick.
In short, Unbounded lacks a comparable setup to Need for Speed's Autolog or Forza 4's Rivals. It would have been ideal, especially when there is already an infrastructure in place to share tracks online.
My main complaint of Ridge Racer: Unbounded is that the game becomes a trifle monotonous. All races run flat out, and it'd have been good to have reason to use the brakes now and then.
If you're the audience for Ridge Racer: Unbounded is a question of temperament. If you remain unfazed by the need to floor it through every race and take every turn with a heavy handbrake, then you've got a technically solid arcade racer that strikes right more than it misses. If you want more variety and more focus on driving technique however, you should probably skip it.
- System:PC, PS3, Xbox 360
- Developer:Bugbear Entertainment
- Publisher:Namco Bandai
- Offline players:1
- Online players:1-8
- Age limit:From 12 years
- Release date:30 March 2012
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