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Peter Willington
04 Oct, 2011

Ridge Racer Unbounded Preview

360 Preview | Is it still Ridge Racer?
As a series so firmly rooted in its own tradition, Ridge Racer has suffered in recent years from dwindling interest. A hardcore group of fans has kept the series alive, a number of early titles for just launched systems snag a few more sales with each new console, but otherwise it's hard to argue that the franchise has had its day. It's an issue of repetition at heart, minor tweaks to the formula accompanied by re-runs of the same courses, the same cars, the same structure of play. In March 2012 though, Ridge Racer Unbounded will take its place on the starting grid, hoping to draw in more players thanks to its complete change of direction. From what was seen at Eurogamer Expo 2011, Namco may have an uphill struggle on their hands.

Available to play at the show was one car and a solitary track in the single player mode, a street race in a towering urban environment. From before the lights went green it was clear that this wasn't a typical Ridge Racer game, the clean and perfect streets of previous outings replaced with a sprawl covered in a sheen of hot filth and debris. As the race began the handling model reassured that Unbounded has at least some of the genetic imprint of its forebears: turns of the wheel are twitchy and instantaneous, cars accelerate hard and pick up speed rapidly.

A change in direction.

A change in direction.
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It's when it comes to the sharper corners that this feeling of the uncanny returns. While on less taxing corners the driving will feel familiar to anyone who's played a Ridge Racer title in the last decade; on hairpins, S bends and any other track geometry at an angle of more than 45 degrees, the game becomes unstuck. The series' trademark drifting – where vehicles would practically stick to a specific line on the course – has been replaced completely and so far not to great effect. Putting the back end out is now far more hazardous a move to pull off, the tires underneath the frame of the car apparently losing all sense of grip if you so much as dare to kick in a little overdrive. We got around a total of ten laps in with Unbounded at the expo, but we still couldn't figure out how to effectively use this new driving model.

The game does reward you for using this new drift system however, conferring nitrous boost to the player the more you use the technique, along with a shot in the arm whenever you take out a rival racer. Nitrous can be used in one of two ways: a standard boost of speed, or to smash through previously indestructible walls of scenery to open up shortcuts. And there are plenty of shortcuts to be found, each lap I discovered a new hidden area or crazy stunt to pull off. These sections are anything from scorching across large gaps, to obliterating the side of an entire building and careering through a shopping mall. It's a real thrill to witness some of these events and there seem to be plenty of them to keep the player occupied, whether or not they will become tired after playing them time and time again, remains to be seen.

My shortcut!

My shortcut!
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Dodgy drifting mechanics aside, Ridge Racer Unbounded felt solid all round, the biggest issue however, is one of audience. What was on offer was fine, even good in places, though it's not the experience Ridge Racer enthusiasts will be looking for in the slightest. So who's this for? People that want another but more direct Split/Second? Burnout fans without a sequel in the works?

The point to be made is that the spirit of Ridge Racer just isn't in Unbounded, an art style and handling scheme that has kept a select group of players enthralled for generations of hardware is missing, and that could well hurt its reception early next year.
Overall:
The additions are all good and well, but the lack of distinct art style and handling scheme could affect how Ridge Racer Unbounded is received, early next year.

Related Content

Ridge Racer: Unbounded announced
07 Feb, 2011 Crashing your way into first place.
Ridge Racer 2 coming to the PSP
30 Jun, 2006 Who is shocked by this?
New Ridge Racer 7 screens
02 May, 2006 And some new details.
2 Comments
2 years ago
Damn these reboots, they're killing off all the franchises I loved icon_sad.gif.

Castlevania, Devil May Cry and now this.

If they wanna do something new then use a different name, instead of completely throwing the spirit and foundation of the franchise out of the window.

I'm not liking where the industry is heading icon_sad.gif
2 years ago
Le Sigh. It's not like they make all previous iterations unplayable on release, dude icon_razz.gif
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