Ridge Racer Unbounded
Ridge Racer Unbounded seems more interested in being Burnout than being Ridge Racer. Destructive racing is not a bad sub-genre of racing to pursue, but when it comes to Ridge Racer, I am more interested in sliding around 90-degree turns at high speeds than trying to cause destruction and frag other racers.
The core gameplay of the Ridge Racer series – unrealistic but fun drift racing – feels off in Ridge Racer Unbounded. You still spend a lot of time sliding sideways around turns, but it doesn’t feel as loose or fun as it has in the past. Cars feel heavy and unwieldy, and the other racers are unforgiving. Small mistakes like overshooting my drift sent me from first place to last place more times than I am willing to admit.
The focus in Unbounded is on rewarding offensive driving, like destroying your environment and the other racers. You build boost by drifting and taking out other cars, and when your boost is full you receive on-track alerts pointing out areas where you can drive through building to shave a few seconds. Your boost has to be full, however, to take advantage of these shortcuts. If you try to drive through a shortcut that you remember from a previous race without boost, you will slam into the wall and lose your position.
Ridge Racer is not about track memorization or seeking out shortcuts – it’s about earning boost to gain access to shortcuts. It’s a different way to race around a track, and it works best on your first time through a race. Earning shortcuts on a new track is exciting, but driving past a shortcut you cannot access because you used your boost earlier to take out the guy in front of you is disappointing.
Unbounded sets itself apart from other Ridge Racers with additional modes outside of the standard racing. You drive a large truck and try to take out as many racers as possible before the timer runs out. You climb up the sides of half-pipes, flying off ramps to collect floating icons to pause your timer as you race to the finish. This ended up being my favorite mode, laughing as my car awkwardly careened off the side of a half-pipe into the air.
Frequently updated online challenges must be completed during a certain timeframe in order to receive monetary and experience bonuses. Traditional online multiplayer exists as well, but with so few playing online, it’s difficult to get a match going. When you are able, the multiplayer is functional, but it’s just basic competitive racing.
A track creator is available with additional track building pieces unlocked as you progress through the single player. It’s difficult to build tracks that feel different in from the offerings on the disc, but it’s a welcome bonus, even if it’s one that I doubt many players will be taking advantage of.
Falling somewhere between a traditional Ridge Racer title and a Burnout game, Unbounded fails to fully succeed at recreating either experience, ending up in between the two racing franchises in terms of quality. You will be spending less time driving sideways, and more time boosting through structures and destroying other racers. It doesn't feel entirely accurate to call this a Ridge Racer game, but when you are able to pull off an impressive drift careening around a sharp turn, destroying a competing racer in the process, you will feel a brief spark of joy. It’s just an inconsistent spark, unfortunately.
Falling somewhere between a traditional Ridge Racer title and a Burnout game, Unbounded fails to fully succeed at recreating either experience.