While Milestone's MotoGP and Superbike World Championship series have carried the torch for motorcycle racing games for some years now, both are track-racing games that feature specialized GP and Superbikes. There hasn't been a more general street motorcycle racing game since Polyphony's 2006 PS2 classic, Tourist Trophy.
That's all about to change, however, with the Italian developer finally applying its motorcycle simulation expertise to the more down-to-earth Ride, an upcoming bike racing game that features production vehicles of the ilk that a typical motorcycle rider might find in his or her garage – or at least, wish they could.
Featuring 114 bikes from 14 different manufacturers, including KTM, Honda, Triumph, Ducati, Aprilia, MV Augusta, Suzuki and Yamaha, Ride features a broad selection of street motorcycles, ranging from naked and historical bikes through sportsbikes to the highest end production exotics. So expect to see marques such as the Speed Triple, Brutale, RSV, GSX-R and CBR-RR.
Of course, all these bikes would be useless without a place to ride them, and to that end, Ride features a variety of racing tracks – many taken from the MotoGP series – and also includes new "real world" tracks such as a circuit in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, and a roadway that snakes through a British forest. City tracks are also in, with urban US and European circuits created using satellite data to make them as accurate as possible. There are even specialty tracks like the Nevada salt flats, where you can test the top speed of your rides.
The multiplayer element of Ride is going above and beyond what's previously been seen in Milestone's racers. This time up to 12 players can compete simultaneously, and the game will feature riding clubs, where players can get together and race one another – and competitive teams – in hosted events. An interesting aspect of this is that there's a ghosting component. If a player isn't online, there'll be an option to include them as a ghost rider that's a composite of prior performances. This essentially enables asynchronous racing amongst club riders, with improved performances being added to the ghost data to up its challenge.
Lastly, customization is going to play a hugely important part of the game. Milestone has partnered with a wide variety of motorcycle apparel manufacturers, and the game will feature a vast catalog of real-world helmets, jackets, boots, gloves and racing suits to buy so you can customize your rider – to the point of even looking like yourself if you own the appropriate gear.
So far, the game is looking very good. I sat down with a basic demo and had the chance to ride a GSXR-1000 around the Sierra Nevada track, and really enjoyed my time with the game. You can definitely feel Ride's MotoGP roots: it features the same handling style as that game, which means it's actually quite tricky. Unlike most car racing games, which you can just sit down and drive with relative ease, Ride is quite challenging to get to grips with. It captures the feel of motorcycle racing very effectively, and that means having to be careful with the throttle and cornering speeds. Too much power at a low speed, and the bike can wheelie or highside. Too much braking into a corner, and you can lift the rear wheel. And of course, either wheel running off the track onto a more slippery surface while cornering almost always results in a lowside or the front end washing out.
I must say I was impressed with the way the Sierra Nevada track looks. Having been there many times before, it feels authentic and instantly recognizable. The track is a little wider than a typical Sierra Nevada road, but that's a good thing considering the speed at which you’re racing along.
To be honest, it was a little frustrating only being able to play one track with one bike, as I'm really interested to see more of the game. With so many more tracks in store, plus over 100 bikes, this really is shaping up to be something potentially very special for motorcycle fans. Will it be even better than the current benchmark, Tourist Trophy? We won't have very long to wait by the looks of things – the game is scheduled for a spring release – so it should only be a matter of a few months before we can find out.