The first word that I ever spoke as a child was apparently “mothrbuh.” Although, this is according to my deaf parents; so I don’t know if it’s true, but the translation to this baby mumble was always assumed to have been “motorbike.” From an early age, I used to love jumping on the back of my brother’s Yamaha PeeWee50 and hearing the accelerated squeal of the trail bike engine. I also had toy bikes that I use to ride off my Hot Wheels ramp, and I fondly remember bugging my Dad for a dollar to play Sega’s Super Hang-on at the local arcades.
Since that time though, I’ve not really had a lot of motorbike related sports or activities involved in my everyday life, and, by no deliberate intention, I’ve not invested any serious amount of time into the games. In saying that, however, when given the opportunity to check out a latest two-wheeled simulator on the Xbox One, I thought it’d be a great opportunity to get back in touch with the genre. Ride is the latest motorcycle racing game developed by Milestone SRL, who also happen to have quite a resume of motorsport titles including MotoGP, MXGP and Superbike series.
Ride features some of the most historic and well-known motorcycles spanning the last three decades. Famous manufacturers from the likes of Ducati, Triumph, Kawasaki, Yamaha, Suzuki, Honda come together to showcase more than 100 motorcycles. But unlike most motorsport games, it isn’t associated with any official racing competition umbrella, so there aren’t any iconic racing tournaments or real-life drivers to select from.
Basically, the career mode is a World Tour campaign where you start off in the naked lightweight class. By winning sets of championships, you gain several licenses for three additional classes – Supersports, Superbikes, and Historical. Each class varies in style and power, and this can affect the outcome of the course you participate in. I thought the career mode was quite basic and simple in execution; it’s essentially a checklist of races for you to compete across 15 different real and fictional tracks.
The experience earned during the career mode kind of felt hollow to me as there is no narrative or any driving motivation to win all the races. Even with the create a rider option, I just couldn’t get invested with my character and keep pushing through the World Tour mode. Apart from the main World Tour campaign, however, there are still heaps of different race types to compete in. These include the quick race, elite trophies, drag races, time-attacks, team races, overtake challenges, and head to head race modes, so there are plenty of options for dedicated racing fans.
It’s clear that majority of studio work was reserved for the bike design; and a lot less time on the tracks. The layout of the courses seems generic with the textures looking flat and dated. Having previously reviewed Forza 5 and being dazzled by the level of detail in tracks and real-life effects, Ride has nothing dynamic or eye catching around the bikes. The lack of weather and dirt effects also comes as a surprise as it’s widely featured in nearly all modern racing games.
The presentation of the bike models look phenomenal and you can see the many years of experience and craftsmanship behind each bike. One thing missing though is the lighting effects that reflect off the bikes, it makes the game look unfinished and artificial. There are also Top Gear style introduction videos before each championship race, which is a neat feature to help get you prepared, but, overall, they grow repetitive after watching two or more videos.
There are also an impressive amount of customization and upgrade options to modify your bike for additional speed and better handling. In addition, a well-designed menu makes it easy to purchase upgrades while providing you with clear technical information on each bike part available. Although, in hindsight, a quick upgrade option to max out your bike would have been a nice addition for novice and casual players.
Mechanically speaking, on the other hand, the control and handling of each bike feels both authentic in weight and realistic in movement. From tucking in at high speeds to controlling each brake and leaning the bike; it’s a great replication to real-life motorcycling. It’s also worth mentioning that it requires a lot more precision and timing with turns than you would when controlling a car in a racing game. It’s quite easy to crash around corners, or against the other bikes, so lucky there’s the rewind feature to erase any hiccups.
The multiplayer included is also typical of what you’d expect from any racer featuring online modes, but a good thing to see was the inclusion split-screen play for local players. It’s nothing outstanding, but it’s functional and works fine.
In truth, my biggest gripe with the game was the long loading times between tracks; plus, once it finally loads, it then asks you to press a button to confirm. This prompt had no place on the loading screen as you already selected what mode and bike you wanted previously. It didn’t take long before it started to get on my nerves.
At its core, Ride is a solid and realistic motorcycle simulator that plays well but feels like it lacks any defined sense of personality. It’s clear that a lot of time and effort when into detailing the bikes, and it shows, but it’s hard to get excited about it when the career mode comes across as pointless. It’s a dryer experience than other racers, but in saying that, it would still likely appeal to diehard motorbike fans as there is a very decent offering of iconic bikes, tracks, modes, and upgrade options to experiment with. If you happen to fall into that niche, there are a lot of little things you may appreciate about the game, but, for everyone else, Ride will likely be nothing more than a short-lived amusement ride.
DISCLAIMER: This game was supplied to us by the publisher, and reviewed on XB1 across 6+ hours of gameplay.