Review – Ridge Racer Unbounded

Version played: Xbox
Also available on: PS3, PC
Publishers: Namco Bandai Games
Developers: Bugbear Entertainment
Released: 2012
Time played by reviewer: 20 to 25 hours

Ridge Racer Unbounded, if i’m honest, is a game that I had been looking forward to since I first laid eyes on it back at Eurogamer in September last year. Let me explain. Split Second, to me, is one of the best arcade style racing games that has come out this generation and I could see a lot of familiarities between the two in my initial time spent with the demo of Unbounded that we were allowed to play at said event.
I love racing games, both simulation and arcade, but I love the added twist in Split Second of having control over the actual route that you take through each race, i.e. destructible scenery. It makes me think of those B movies such as Death Race where you take out other cars just to make sure you win. The dramatic, albeit, scripted set pieces of that game really resonated with me hence my particular anticipation for this title.

The game itself is set in a rather large generic metropolis that leans itself, conveniently enough, to destruction. It’s split into 8 or 9 different boroughs, such as the docks, upper town and main street. I’ve struggled to remember the actual names, which shows how memorable this game unfortunately has been to me. In each district you have to carry out a number of events, usually 6 to 8, and they are a combination of time trials (self explanatory), drift events (again, self explanatory), frag events (where you have to take out a certain amount of opposition cars in a specific time period) and the most common: Domination (race events of between 1 and 3 laps with 7 to 11 other racers).

The Domination events are definitely the most fun. You can drive through buildings (at pre-selected targets, cinemas, drive thru diners and shopping malls) when you have gained enough “boost”. You gain this by drifting, drafting and driving through what eventually becomes collateral damage. You can not only use it to go through a “target” when you have enough boost but you can use it to give yourself 3 or 4 seconds extra speed. Gaining chains of targets will allow your boost to fill quicker, or meeting certain objectives, such as drafting for 500yds.
The trouble with this is that it quickly becomes boring when you’ve done 5 or 6 of these Domination events. They just feel the same as the last one you’ve done and this herein to me is where the problem lies. With Split Second you could literally change the direction of the race by triggering an event that knocks out a large amount of the circuit rerouting you through a whole new section. With Ridge Racer all that happens is that you drive through the target that you’ve destroyed and the rubber banding in the game quickly allows the other cars to catch up with you therefore negating the whole point of what you’ve just done.
I won’t talk too much more about the other events, suffice to say that they also become boring very quickly and I won’t even get started on the complete lack of explanation of the drifting system.

The course creator is the games high point, is very simple to use and offers an almost never ending source of circuits for you to race on. I created a couple within a few minutes of starting and it works in a very similar way to LEGO where you literally just bolt the sections of the track together. You can go in and add additional obstacles to add more challenge but remember that you must post a top three finish on the circuit in order to publish it to the world!

The graphics overall are not that stunning, games such as GRID and Forza look far superior despite their grand age and the music is predominantly “banging tunes” from people like Skrillex so that was instantly muted and never listened to again. The way information in the game is displayed along the side walls however is a positive and keeps you focused and directed to the next turn.

In Conclusion

I’m sure you can sense my disappointment in the game and if i’m honest I think it is a massively missed opportunity by Bugbear to expand upon what Split Second had created. The graphics have the appearance of a launch title game for the Xbox and the music is obviously not aimed at myself.
I would love to score the game higher but my initial enthusiasm for the game very quickly waned and soon mounted to frustration as I grinded to level 30 in order to give it a very fair crack.
The course creator is a nice touch but the lack of pieces to bolt together will soon make you feel like you’ve raced the circuit before.


Useful information

– The only version available is the limited edition. It comes with a code to unlock 5 cars all with various Namco liveries on. Don’t know why they’ve called it limited edition if it’s the only edition you can get.

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