Boasting a roster of 113 bikes from 14 manufacturers, including the likes of MV Agusta, Aprilia, BMW, Honda, Yamaha and Bimota, RIDE is the first game since Polyphony Digital's 2006 PS2 title, Tourist Trophy, to feature real-world motorcycle racing.
And about time too! Speaking as a huge motorcycle racing fan, I've been dying to play a game like this for years.
Developed by Milestone, creators of the MotoGP series, RIDE presents itself in typical racing game fashion. Players start out with a choice of one of three bikes – all sub 700cc naked middleweights – and jump straight into racing so that they can earn credits which they can use to buy more bikes, and enter more races. It's a simple enough setup, and one that will be very familiar to anyone who's played racing games over the years.
RIDE offers eight categories of racing: Naked Heavyweights and Middleweights, Supersports, Historic and Modern Superbikes, Pro Circuit Bikes, and Open and Premium Events. Within each category are between five and seven racing series. These are essentially specialized racing categories that are restricted by specs such as engine capacity, power, number of cylinders, whether machines are modern or classic, and country of origin. Endurance races are also included in this selection, which are single-track races of eight laps.
Within each race series are between five and eight actual races. Some are Championships (that require you to race a series of tracks), while others include drag races, individual track races, and timed laps. In all, it's a comprehensive selection of racing activities, which take place across a selection of 13 tracks that include MotoGP courses and real-world road tracks. That's not a huge list, it must be said, but the tracks are certainly quite varied in terms of their style, and most have a couple of variants to help increase the overall roster.
Like I said, racing earns you money, and money can be spent on new bikes – and also upgrading their performance by modifying their engines, suspension and look. Not only that, but you can also customize your rider by buying him or her clothing based on real-world gear. It's an impressive setup that offers plenty of scope for personalization. You can even tweak your riding style to give yourself a completely unique look while cornering.
The first thing that struck me about RIDE – apart from the frustratingly long loading times of tracks and menus – was how challenging it is. Even with the difficulty turned down to Easy, I had a tough time winning races initially. This was mostly down to me just getting used to the way the bikes handle. It's definitely a lot more forgiving than the MotoGP series, but even so, it still took me a while to adjust to the way the bikes handle. The biggest issue is that there's little margin for error. While racing cars, you can usually bang into walls and go off the track without taking too much of a penalty to your race position, but if you do the same thing while riding, you'll most likely fall off your bike, and will have to endure a few seconds of the rest of the field riding past you at speed while you remount and get on your way again. Thankfully, there's a rewind feature to help you out, even though that does feel like cheating.
Once I got used to the braking lines, and exactly when you need to lean into corners, I began to ride a lot more smoothly and, after my fifth or sixth race, I can't quite remember which, I finally placed first - without using the rewind feature. I'm certainly not going to dial up the difficulty just yet, but it's good to know there are several more levels that I can go up to maintain a decent racing challenge, should I so wish.
The AI riders are an interesting bunch. For the most part, there seems to be a broad spread of ability within each field, with a couple of riders leading the way by a quite wide margin, while the rest of the field is reasonably spread out. This definitely makes racing feel quite progressive, since you've almost always got riders in front and behind you. Even when I began to make serious headway and really got used to riding my bike, I always seemed to have somebody right behind me, waiting to punish me for a mistake. It helps makes racing quite exciting and challenging – and nerve-wracking too. Especially on the last few corners where you know that if you go off the line and run wide, you're probably going to be passed by one or two other riders.
However, while the racing is solid and very enjoyable, the overall quality of RIDE in terms of its audio-visuals is a little hit-and-miss. Like I said of MotoGP, graphically the game looks a little last generation. Some locales are definitely better than others, but for the most part, RIDE feels like a really good PS3 game, rather than a PS4 title. The graphics are fairly solid, but lack the kind of obsessive detailing of games like Project CARS and Forza 6. In a way, those games spoil us because they look so good, but they are now the benchmark, and RIDE just doesn't hold a candle to them.
The sound is also a little on the bland side. The bikes' engines lack the kind of raw edge that can raise the hairs on the back of your neck. One of the first bikes I bought in the game was an Aprilia Tuono, because I owned a real one for years, and the exhaust just doesn't sound much like the real-life counterpart. No idea why that's so, but almost all the engines lack bass and depth – they're all just a little too muted.
Finally, the presentation is also weak. The menu system is slow and a little clunky to use, and the customizable rider looks like he or she has stepped out of a game from the mid 00's. Their faces have a generic, computer-graphic look about them that makes them feel old-fashioned and dated.
Fortunately, however, the motorcycles themselves are very nicely rendered. Close-up, you can see polygonal edges to some of the smaller machine parts – again, giving this game a slightly last-gen feel – but from a distance they look great. Certainly plenty good enough to stand up to general play, even though they won't win any awards.
And that's pretty much the mantra of RIDE. It's good enough – but not outstanding. While getting used to the game can be a frustrating experience, once you get up to speed, it provides some thrilling and challenging racing action that's very different to most racing games, and I really enjoyed it. However, don't forget I’m a huge motorcycle fan, and I really wanted to like this game – so bear that in mind before taking the plunge.
One final note - I do hope that Milestone continues to develop RIDE into a series. While this first game doesn't quite hit the mark, it's a decent enough start, and I'd love to see how it could evolve given more time - and indeeed a 100% next-gen focus.
The interface is a little dated, and the game's very slow loading times can be frustrating.
RIDE offers a lot of racing to get your teeth into, and packs plenty of challenge for those who enjoy the action.
The music is forgettable, and the motorcycle engine noises lack oomph.
Decent, but RIDE feels more like a really good PS3 game than a top-of-the-line PS4 title.
This spiritual successor to Tourist Trophy delivers exciting and challenging racing action that's thoroughly enjoyable. However, graphics that feel more last generation than this, rather weak sound, and very slow loading times take the edge off the overall experience.