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Ridge Racer Unbounded Review

Like most burgeoning industries, globalization is having a sweeping effect on our games. From the undeniable Western influence that has permeated through titles such as Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots to the North American-developed Dead Rising 2 (which seamlessly mimicked its Japanese-germinated predecessor), players are seeing an upsurge in transcontinental intermingling. The latest instance of this trend can be found in Ridge Racer Unbounded, where Namco-Bandai handed over development duties off to Helsinki-based Bugbear Entertainment, a studio best known for the FlatOut racing series.

At first, the decision seems both an unlikely and ill-fitting choice. The Ridge Racer series has consistently focused on exaggerated drifting, while disregarding elements such as car damage or environmental collision. Meanwhile, Bugbear’s games have offered a deliciously crunchy, organic experience- often exhibiting tracks which fill with debris as racers tear up the topography. Yet, after a few laps, Unbounded’s ambitions become evident, as the title unites qualities from this generation’s top racers, rescuing Ridge Racer from the throes of redundancy.

In execution, the game’s lone tribute to Namco’s renowned racing franchise is found in the drift, as players careen around corners in an attempt to fill their power gauge. Yet, whereas Ridge Racer often incorporated effortless glides which necessitated little more than a rudimentary knowledge of track layout, Unbounded’s hand-brake assisted bends require meticulous mastery of your vehicle. Initiating a drift too early or too late will likely push players into an unyielding wall, while the failure to countersteer can result in a devastating spinout. Those accustomed to the light weight and agile handling of previous entries in the Ridge Racer series will likely have to acclimate to the substantial heft of Unbounded’s cars.

Beyond deploying the power meter to rocket though straightaways, players may also use a surge of speed to smash into opponents, resulting in Burnout-esque sequences which flaunt the carnage in slow motion. Alternatively, once the gauge is filled, the game will highlight different parts of the environment that gamers may also break though, suggesting the possibility of a shortcut. While both of these techniques are satisfying to watch, exhibiting fiery Michael Bay-like blasts, they don’t allows provide a distinct advantage. Between immediately respawning rivals and alternative routes which only shave off milliseconds, success is stimulated by exemplary driving rather than a salubrious amount of destruction.

Fortunately, failing to nab a podium stop during a race isn’t without value. Damaging the racing site as well as demolishing competitors will earn players points which are used to earn additional cars and tracks. Skillfully, these new acquisitions help players avoid any insurmountable impasse; unlocked vehicles allow gamers to revisit tracks, earning enough points to further perpetuate progress into newer districts. Beyond twelve-car Domination competitions, Shindo heats eliminate Unbounded’s destructive elements, focusing on real-world street races, while Drift events task players with keeping the rear end of their car in perpetual pendulous motion. Alternatively, Time Trials evoke Trackmania’s imaginative stage design, tasking players through level filled with ramps and half-pipes.

Undeniably, Unbounded’s most absorbing element can be found in its robust two-step track editor. First, budding designers lay down basic path pieces such as straightaways and a variety of curves on a grid-based board. Moving into the advanced editor allows players to drop a multitude of rousing features- from explosive fuel trucks, breakaway boxes, and destructible pillars.  After polishing their creation and adding optional event objectives, players have the option to upload their track for all to share. Generally, the course designer’s menu is intuitive, making creation an agreeable process. Since custom tracks, along with daily trails, as well as traditional eight player head-to-head heats all help to comprise Unbounded’s multiplayer component,  there’s a healthy amount of challenges beyond the title’s main campaign.

Although fashioning a distinctive aesthetic amidst a surplus of racing games must have been a daunting task, Bugbear proved successful. Across each of the game’s nine locations, preposterously polished cars reflect the drab environments around them, while emitting neon swaths of orange every time they hit the turbo. Contrasted against backdrops lit by radiant setting sun, Unbounded looks consistently lustrous, and is further elevated by an unshakable thirty-frame per second refresh rate. Cleverly, the game is able to offer an unobstructed perspective of the action by transposing vital information onto environmental objects.

Although a Ridge Racer entry in little more than title only, Unbounded is a persistently pleasing game which feels like an amalgam of this generation’s best entries in the genre. By blending Burnout’s takedowns, Split/Second’s environmental obliteration, along with Trackmania’s playful courses and compelling editing features, Bugbear’s efforts should feel contrived. Yet, Ridge Racer Unbounded’s jumbling proves to be synergistic, offering a must-play experience for fans of break-neck speed and wanton demolition.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

29 comments

  1. I’ll say this:

    Usually, I rent games. I play all I can in 24 hours and I’m done with them. With RRB I rented it, and the next day bought it at nearly full price (GS has a $10 off sale).

    It’s really good.

  2. seriously- great review, you write very well.

  3. Forgive me for posting. I can’t resist.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eaBUeINW_3s

  4. I wish this had come out for the Vita instead of the other game.

    • Yeah, that definitely would have sold more Vita. I thought think there’s a person in the world who bought a system on account of Ridge Racer.

  5. I picked it up last week before reviews hit, and really took a chance on it.

    For the most part it’s really fun if you’re into racers. The review is right, shortcuts and frags don’t really help you that much. Also, there’s way to cheat with created maps. But other than those things- it’s fun as well. If you were a fan of Burnout Paradise in the least, check this one out.

    That said, I hope SOMEONE makes a real crash mode like the old games.

  6. Thanks for the review. I was thinking about buying this. I guess I need to play Flatout.

  7. If I didn’t already know that those were screenshots from a Ridge Racer game, I would have guessed that they were from either a new Burnout or a new Need For Speed.

  8. Deagle, you’re slipping. I checked the site yesterday to see if you posted a review. ;) nothing.

  9. I can wait until Unbounded hits the $20 point.

    It does look like Burnout to me.

  10. Des, you write some great reviews, dude. I read it even though I’m not even into racers that much. Still, might have to get this, because I do like blowing things up and creating tracks.

  11. Really good review. I didn’t know this one was out. Wasn’t it dealyed for some reason?

  12. The course editor sounds like a nice perk. I could only imagine if Burnout has one!

  13. For a game that got next to no hype (and only a bit because it got delayed right before release) I expected Unbounded to be pretty bad.

    Imagine my shock, when I realize it’s nothing like RR and a whole lot like Split Second and Burnout. I’ve always liked Western racers more than Japanese ones (but the Japanese have the cooler cars), so this is right up my alley. It’s fast, fun, and just the right amount of depth. I’d give it a B+ as well.

  14. I’ll probably gamefly this because of the good reviews its been getting.

  15. Dragon’s Dogma is the East imitating West, but actually looks good.

  16. The car crashing model seems a bit off. Sometimes the AI just taps me, making me crash. It shouldn’t be that easy.

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