Ridge Racer Unbounded is an odd title. The name aside, which makes sense in regards to the story, it’s a racing game that seems like the offspring of Ridge Racer and Burnout. Either way you look at it, Bugbear Entertainment took some brave steps to show that Ridge Racer was more than a high-speed drift around the park.
Taking place in the fictitious Shatter Bay, you join the Unbounded gang as they try to reclaim the city district by district. During the single-player experience, you’ll see a few different game modes that all showcase different parts of the city. Each have different focuses and will test different skill-sets. Domination has you destroying as much as possible and trying to keep the lead. Drift racing is exactly as it sounds, drifting around a track to score as many points as possible. Shindo racing is a funny term for racing in a clean, less destructive manner. Frag attacks have you crashing into a set amount of opponents (aka frags). Last but not least, is time trial racing which pits you against the clock.
The environments you race through will be littered with destructible objects and shortcuts if you are racing a Domination race. Crashes through the building are augmented with a stunning slow-motion camera shift that really highlights the beautiful graphics in Unbounded. Everything from the tracks to the cars all look fantastic, showing that Bugbear took some care to deliver a pretty package.
Car selection is a huge let-down though, to me personally anyhow. I figured the cars would have been fake, as this is a Ridge Racer game. Most cars resemble some sort of real-life car on the market too, but when choosing a color, there’s only a few selections (usually red, black, silver and orange with the occasional blue or yellow).
Thankfully, the physics are solid, albeit a bit awkward in the beginning. On the Playstation 3, the Circle button acts as a stiff e-brake. Unlike other Ridge Racer games, the track layouts feature more sharp corners than swooping curves, so learning to finesse the brake and drift around corners it a little trickier. Rear-wheel drives kick their backside out quicker, while front-wheel drive cars corner a little easier for beginners.
Unlike most arcade racing games were the difficulty slowly slopes upwards, Unbounded is relentless. This can be satisfying for some and frustrating to others. Even on easy, you have to be fairly decent to win the race. Winning on harder difficulties isn’t really required for anything, thankfully, outside of getting more XP to unlock more cars and stuff for the creation mode.
One of the big draws in Unbounded is creating a city. Each city can hold multiple races, each that can be easily tweaked to fit your specifications. You can create them quickly with the simple editor or go in depth and allow your creative juices to flow. After you are done, you can put them online for others to race in.
This is where this whole portion of the game gets messy. I hopped into a lot of created tracks. A few of them were great and offered quite a challenge. But most of them were sloppy and had me furious that I had wasted my time on them. Creating a smash-through shortcut that leads to a wall that you smash into and crumple into a wrecked pile of trash? Really? I’m sure once it is left to the hardcore audience to keep new tracks coming, playing on custom tracks will be a more fun experience.
As a pure-arcade racer, Ride Racer Unbounded can scratch many itches in one title. Bugbear successfully branched the franchise into a new path for future iterations to follow and with more refinement, Unbounded has set a good foundation. While the lack of cars and customization let me down, the beauty and spectacular set-pieces are impressive and with a lack of racers new on the market at the moment, Namco gives racing fans something to tide them over for awhile.
- Beautiful graphics and explosions
- Fun drifting action
- Creating tracks
- Tracks created by some are unplayable
- Car selection is slim, and no real color selection
- Difficulty could be frustrating to some
Note: This review was written based on Playstation 3 gameplay with material provided by the publisher. Ridge Racer Unbounded is also available on the X360 home console and PC.