I haven’t been playing motorcycle racing games as long as I have racing games involving cars, but the past few years has seen me get really into the MotoGP series. It’s something different from the bevy of automobile racing games out there, and it’s interesting to play through a bunch of the same circuits that you might find in Gran Turismo or Forza, except this time on a motorcycle. I don’t know bikes as well as I know cars, but racing is racing, and I LOVE racing games.
In the car racing genre, you have your arcade racers like Need For Speed, your console sims like Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport (not counting the “real” PC sims like iRacing or rFactor here), and stuff in between like the Forza Horizon series and GRID. As an example with the motorcycle games I’ve played, Motorcycle Club is like the arcade NFS games with MotoGP sitting on the tier above that. RIDE attempts to take it up a notch by presenting a more “sim” experience, though with a healthy dose of assists to make the transition a bit easier to digest. It can be extremely easy and arcadey if you want by choosing certain assists, or it could be an extremely unforgiving, physics monster…especially if you aren’t familiar with motorcycle physics.
I found that a game with a large range of difficulties and assists like RIDE made going out of my comfort zone a lot easier than being forced into a straight sim. Being mostly a novice when it comes to motorcycle games, I was more than thankful for the rewind feature and the ability to automatically tuck when going into a corner, and having both front and rear brakes linked to one button. I’m sure as I get better with the game, I’d be willing to disable most of the assists, but for now, I’m happy with the just the ability to get around the track in one piece. In terms of accessibility, RIDE takes a page from Forza’s book, and I suspect this is will make the game easier to get into than a novice being thrown into something like iRacing for the first time.
Perhaps the single most attractive feature in RIDE is the fact that you can play through a variety of different bikes from different classes and different points in history. Over 100 bikes are represented in the game, spanning across Superbikes, Supersports, Naked, and Historical bikes. Racing takes place across a number of circuits across city, country, and historic tracks. Alongside that, you get your standard racing game mainstays like a career mode, quick races, and time trials.
Which brings me to the career mode. Unfortunately, the career mode (World Tour) in RIDE is not particularly exciting or unique. Essentially, much like the complaints surrounding the career mode of Forza Motorsport 6, RIDE’s World Tour simply ferries you from event to event with not much variety in between. You take part as a member of a team, win or lose races, and collect credits for new bikes and upgrades. This doesn’t provide a particularly gripping experience, and unless you are obsessed with bikes like I am with cars, I can’t imagine it would hold the interest of too many gamers other than the most hardcore of the hardcore motorcycle fans. World Tour (along with the rest of the game) isn’t really even presented in a very sexy manner, opting instead to present each screen and option with dry menus. I’m not saying that every game needs to have flashy menus with pulsating lights and dubstep blaring in the background, but the way RIDE is presented certainly doesn’t help its cause.
In addition to the World Tour, you get Single Race, Championship (one class, multi-race events), Time Trial, Track Day Challenge (overtaking), Drag Race, and Endurance (two riders duke it out on the same bike on the same route to see who’s fastest). Like I mentioned previously, there’s not much here that racing fans haven’t seen in other games, so if anything, the familiarity should be nice.
Graphically, RIDE looks pretty decent on the PS4. Most of the effort definitely goes into the appearance of the bikes themselves, as the riders and the circuits don’t really look all that sharp. There aren’t any high end lighting effects or anything like what you might find in Driveclub, so what RIDE basically is, is a bunch of gorgeously rendered bikes on some so-so looking tracks. Luckily, things go at such a pace that you’re not really stuck looking at the environment too much, but the lower quality IS noticeable. The variety in track locations, however, made me forget that the rendering wasn’t so great. Everything from familiar classic tracks to custom street circuits are represented here, so I definitely appreciate the variety.
The bikes themselves, like I mentioned previously, are the star of the show here. From the shine of the paintjob to the painstaking detail in all the mechanical components, RIDE’s motorcycles are a treat for the eyes, even more so if you’re someone who lusts after these speed machines. A fairly meaty upgrade system gives players even more of a chance to customize the look of their rides. Everything from the look of your mirrors to performance parts can be tweaked, and this is where I found the most enjoyment out of the game as I am a big fan of modding vehicles both in games and in real life.
For those who crave something beyond the “simcade” that MotoGP offers, RIDE would be worth a look. Yes it has many assists and hand holding features like Rewinds, but just like the Forza series, all these can be switched off for a fairly meaty sim motorcycle game. Having never ridden a bike myself, I couldn’t tell you how realistic the physics are, but if my performance in RIDE is any indication, I should probably stay far, far away from motorcycles. Bland environments and menus aside, RIDE should satisfy those who love ripping down the street on two wheels.