I’m not going to lie, I approached the new Bugbear developed, Ridge Racer: Unbounded with a fair degree of trepidation. Ridge Racer is, and always has been, one of my favourite gaming franchises; the super slick arcade handling, the clean smooth visual style and that uniquely Japanese design ethic that underlies every aspect of its development – I love it all. So, as you can imagine, news that development had shifted out west with a new emphasis on broadening appeal and catering to “western tastes” filled me with a sense of, oh, let’s say, mild dread.
It wasn’t like I had anything against Bugbear, it was more the idea of Ridge Racer becoming a kind of gritty, urban, Burnout clone……which is exactly how it has turned out. Sadly, while the change in art direction and concept did prove an obvious disappointment to someone with such a fondness for the traditional Ridge Racer template, this overarching design choice only represents the tip of all that is wrong with Ridge Racer: Unbounded. This is a game so unbelievably misjudged and clearly cobbled together that playing it made me physically angry.
The drift mechanic for one feels completely tacked on. I mean, really, it’s been awkwardly mapped onto the B button. What’s that about? It’s as if they already had a racer and then attempted in vain to slap on some kind of half assed Ridge Racer-lite veneer. It hasn’t worked. The handling doesn’t suit a drift button and the physics are too flaky to support the kind of racing Ridge Racer is famed for.
Then there are the tracks. Yeah, there are like a billion of them and yes, the track creator is extremely user friendly and a very pleasant addition to the admittedly exhaustive package, but again, the shoddy physics and strange drift mechanic do not marry up to the kind of world that Bugbear have created. Far too often your car will spin off course at the slightest touch or fly weightlessly into the air after catching a corner on one of the ill judged time trial tracks. Of course, it doesn’t help that the competition is borderline super human either, meaning that just one of these spin-outs will essentially put an immediate end to your race. Expect much in the way of frustration to ensue
Before I go any further berating Ridge Racer: Unbounded and Bugbear’s attempts to introduce the franchise to a wider audience, let’s get one thing straight; Ridge Racer: Unbounded is by no means the worst game of the year, heck, it’s not even likely to prove the worst racer, but from a personal perspective, it will certainly go down as one of this generation’s biggest disappointments. I appreciate that classic Ridge Racer isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but there is no doubting that what it does, it does very well. In the case of Unbounded though, well, beyond not feeling, looking or playing anything like a Ridge Racer game, Unbounded, and subsequently, Ridge Racer itself, has been relegated to a me too franchise that is sadly not in the same league as the other racers that it has so shamelessly aped.
There’s a bit of Burnout here, a heck of a lot of Spilt/Second and just the faintest whiff of the traditional Ridge Racer experience I know and love. I’m sure combining the three sounded great on paper, but instead, Bugbear have created some kind of racing Frankenstein that lacks the true quality, and perhaps more importantly, the consistency of any of the above. Ridge Racer: Unbounded is a hugely frustrating mess of a game that is home to none of the charm or individuality that the series is famous for. This is ‘me too’ development of the worst kind.….and the name is terrible too!
I hate Ridge Racer: Unbounded