Ride review

I’m going to throw this out there, right off the bat. The last motorbike game I played was probably Road Rash. Sure, I had a pootle about on a bike in Grand Theft Auto a few years ago, who hasn’t, but Road Rash was more than likely the last dedicated motorbike game I played. It was basic, and funky. I didn’t really know what to expect from Ride. I was hoping it would be the Forza for the Carl Fogarty generation. So, is it, or is it more Leon Camier than Valentino Rossi?

Load Ride up then, and you’ll firstly get hit with a 900MB update. It always makes me nervous when this happens. Such a large update for a new game can’t be that good. The update aside, Ride loads up to some quiet techno music, which seems to go on a bit. Maybe it’s my imagination.

Pick the usual things for your rider: hair, face, attire, name etc. and then you get to pick your ride. I plumped for the Triumph Street Triple to start with. This is merely one of the four classes of bike you can purchase throughout the game: Naked, SuperSports, Superbikes and historical Superbikes. The bikes themselves look amazing. If the rest of the game is amazing as the bikes look, I’ll be in for a treat. The showroom mode allows you to pan around your machine and pretend you’ve just washed it and it’s all shiny. There are 14 manufacturers to choose from too, when you’ve earned enough moolah, with a multitude of tracks to race around.

The best way to earn enough cash is to place as high as you can in the feature races on the World Tour. These are slotted into convenient power classes and initially you can only enter a few classes with your bike, which is fine as you’ll need to learn the ropes. The tutorial mode is all well and good, but there’s no substitute for getting your leathers dusty against some opposition. This is where my anticipation started to dwindle.

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I’ll pause here, to give you a little insight into my review method. I’ll normally create a list of gripes and good stuff. I’ll weigh them both up and churn it around in my subconscious for a bit, then start the creative process. I looked at the gripe-list for Ride and wondered where I’d hidden the other list. Let me expand on this a little.

The first gripe on my list and one of the biggest, is the loading times between each race. I sat and wondered if the loading screen had frozen. There’s some lovely information on the bike you’re about to ride available here, to pass the time. A tap of the confirm button later and more loading happens. I stopped myself from looking for the cassette loader on more than one occasion. In fact, I’d say the game is 55% loading time, which is very frustrating. There are other flaws too.

While the bike graphics are great, the scenery and spectators aren’t. They’re very rigid and very jerky. In fact, it’s all so jerky, I had a hankering for some dried beef. The way the background seems to skip while cornering is very distracting. Flipping the bike on a chicane is almost a seizure-inducing event, it’s that noticeable. The trees on the cutscenes were also more than a little flickery, to the point that the eye is drawn to them before you start to race. And then, there is the difficulty curve.

You have the option of three difficulty levels, standard, semi-pro and pro. Other than some control differences, like being able to brake with independent wheels and have a manual tuck in, which isn’t as painful as it sounds, there is no discernible difference between the handling of the bike in these modes. Actually, I say that, but in the easier mode, all manual cornering braking function appears to have been abandoned.

The physics on the bike are a major let down. The understeer is incredible, even when the guide arrows are blue, indicating that you should be travelling at the correct speed for the bike to grip and go around the corner, it just slides into the outer obstacles, there seems to be no way to avoid this without cutting your speed to such a degree that you’ve almost stopped. This is even more evident on the tighter corners and no amount of ‘load’ balance on the suspension of the bike seems to correct it.

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In order to redress some of the balance, Milestone have included a rewind feature for you to roll back the mistake you made and try to make amends. This feature has a limited number of uses though, and I didn’t bother in most cases. You might ask yourself why, and the reason is simple, I didn’t feel that any alteration of my actions would affect the outcome of any resulting slide and crash.

This leads me on to the collision physics nicely. Hit a rider in front of you and they’ll pretty much bounce. Indeed, it was fun to try to sweep another rider’s wheels from under them on a corner. This was pretty much impossible though, thanks to the solid rubber bikes. It becomes an entirely different matter if the other riders touch you however, your bike flips and you rag-doll across the track. The less said about any part of your bike getting near a gravel trap the better.

As with most racing simulators, the sound effects are limited. There is a gentle voice-over to let you know what you are getting yourself into. This makes it sound more like an M&S advert than anything else and the whiny bike engines all seem to sound the same, regardless of the class. Surely a 3-cylinder sounds different to 4?

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Ride, overall, has some good points. The bikes are nice, being the main feature though, it’s expected. The showroom function is simply sumptuous, with the opportunity to upgrade the hardware. As a simulator, this is fair. As an arcade racer, it’s somewhere in the centre of the field. It sadly falls in the middle of both and somehow fails to achieve pole position. The World Tour racing side of the game is a little bland but the game is a little better in the head-to-head modes and time attack. The bikes bounce like they’re made of solid rubber and sustain no visible damage while you fly with all the physics of Stair Dismount. There are plenty of bikes to look at though, and plenty of tracks to race on. Ride is simply lacking that polish to make this a solid racer, which is a shame as there is a definite gap in the motorbike racing gaming scene. If you’re a two-wheeled petrol head, you might enjoy this, or you might want to wait for MotoGP 15 from Milestone later this year.

Thanks to PQube for supplying TiX with a promotional copy of the game.

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