Remember Ridge Racer? The incredibly arcadey racer of PlayStation past? Don’t worry, neither does Bugbear Entertainment. Yes, the Ridge Racer you once knew is all but an urn full of ashes in the wind. Instead, what has been left in its place is an adrenaline injected racer that only really resembles the famed racer series in its name. But hey, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
There’s a loose resemblance to a story within Unbounded’s opening cinematic, but that’s all you’ll get in terms of narrative. All in all it’s a rather slick introduction, despite being unintentionally comedic and overly dramatic all at the same time (it even comes complete with an Inception sounding score). Just in case I’ve peaked your interest, we’ve posted it below for you to watch in all its glory.
Let’s face it though, racing games have never been about the story (ignoring the planned Need for Speed movie) and Ridge Racer is no different. Instead, the name of the game is ‘Domination.’ Taking more than its fair share of cues from the highly regarded Burnout series, these Domination events will have you going toe-to-toe with opponents in a quest not just for first place, but with a bid just to survive it all.
Smashing through the destructive playground, tailgating and trading paint with foes is all fair game and will all aid your attempts to build up points. Not just set on increasing your drive’s final score, these points also help fill your power meter which when topped up, unleash the masterful boost. Once triggered, you have a few options: speed your way to the front of the pack, trigger a unique explosive set piece (that has you piling through any number of buildings), or frag an opponent. More often than not you will be fragging, slamming into an undesirable vehicle and sending them into a twisted heap of scrap metal, just because you can.
Success will also depend on your skill at drifting. Be too gentle with your brake or handbrake and you will pummel into countless walls, barriers and other materials of pain. Lay it on heavier than an adolescent teen on a first date however and you’ll careen your vehicle across the course until you’re left in last place. While the art of the drift starts out with a relatively steep learning curve, once you start to appreciate the handling of each vehicle, it won’t be long before you’re cutting corners and effortlessly gliding around city skyscrapers.
With all these factors in play, races culminate in a sensory overload as you participate in race after race of cat and mouse with your competitors. Rarely will you partake in the same situation twice and you are constantly forced to adapt to Unbounded’s incredibly aggressive AI. It might sound like all sunshine and lollipops, but Domination events quite often tread the fine line between addictive gameplay and inducing rage quits. Frustratingly, they will often skew towards the former. Before long it won’t be an uncommon to be tearing up the lead, only to make the most innocent mistake that quickly welcomes the cheery barrage of enemy frags. From there what should have been a podium finish will flash before your eyes in an abundance of explosions, leaving you in a dazed last place; the bitter taste of failure and disappointment residing within your mouth.
Similarly, while Bugbear no doubt envisaged a tactical playground where players lined up the perfect chain of attacks, the sad fact of the matter is, very rarely does your plan actually come to fruition. Instead the majority of your strategy will be relegated to taking down one opponent at a time, because, if you want to stay in the fight you don’t always have much of a choice.
With numerous districts to work your way through, you’ll be kept content for quite a while, especially if you set your sights on a first place finish for all the races. It’s not all Domination though, Unbounded throws in a slew of other racing modes to help sweeten the pot and provide some decent palate cleansers. Shindo racing replaces your fragging for a simple boost, frag attack aims to while drift attack will have you swinging your tail about to rack up points. Out of all the modes though, the most addictive comes in the form of Time Attack. A tweaked version of the classic mode, you’ll be racing down the clock as you navigate across a stunt filled labyrinth.
Add to that a wealth of districts, cars and events to unlock (all achieved from raising your level via your race’s accumulated points) and you’ve got yourself a meaty package that will have you coming back for more. Even more so if your sights on a consistent first place finish. That’s not even mentioning a rather robust level editing tool that will have you building whatever style of course your devilish mind can dream up or online multiplayer that wants you to try and ‘Dominate the World’ one video game player at a time.
All of Unbounded’s races are supported by yet another soundtrack filled with the world of dubstep. On that note though, game developers across the globe, please, just because you’re attempting to create a game with ‘flair’ doesn’t mean you need to cram it full of wub wubs. My patience for dirty beats has officially begun to wear thin, especially after you hear the same styled track an umpteenth time.
The fact of the matter is that I really wanted to like Ridge Racer Unbounded more than I actually did. When everything flows, you have one of the more substantial racing packages 2012 has had to offer thus far. But when it doesn’t, Unbounded gets bogged down amongst its unforgiving enemy AI and it’s plethora of frustration filled moments that mar the overall enjoyment.
- Reviewed On