So, about that whole “I hate Ridge Racer: Unbounded” thing. Due to commitments at work, writing my previous article on how much I disliked Bugbear’s take on the Ridge Racer series ended up taking all bloody week. In that time, I found myself (despite my supposed hatred for the game), turning on Unbounded whenever I had so much as a moment to spare. It seems that as much as I disliked it, I had become hopelessly addicted – kind of like heroin, I guess. Anywho, the fact is, at some point in the week, once I had accepted that Unbounded is not really a Ridge Racer game in the traditional sense, and learnt to live by its foibles and occasionally dodgy physics, I actually found myself starting to enjoy it. Everything started to fall into place and then, before I knew it, I found myself not only liking Unbounded, but perhaps even, dare I say, loving it.
It’s the kind of game you really have to stick with and one that, as my previous post attests too, isn’t what one might peg as being immediately likeable…..not great news for an arcade racer of course. But if you do approach Unbounded on its own terms and play it the way that its developers intended it to be played, it soon becomes clear that Bugbear have managed to create one of the most compelling racing games of the generation. It’s not nearly as polished as many of the other racers on the market, but Unbounded is home to that certain special, unquantifiable something that keeps me coming back time and time again.
It’s far from a perfect game, but once you get a handle on the initially frustrating drift mechanic (believe me, it awards those with persistence and patience) and begin to approach individual events in the unique manner that is required for success, Ridge Racer: Unbounded can, and will, deliver moments of pure gaming magic not seen since Burnout 3: Takedown.
As much as I might be enjoying Unbounded now though, this still isn’t Ridge Racer, and the quicker you can accept that, the better. To enjoy Unbounded, you really have to let go of the past – a transition that I obviously found initially difficult. Yes, it does have some token nods to the series, but other than the name on the box and a few vaguely, Ridge Racer-ish cars, Unbounded has absolutely nothing to do with the games that came before it.
But hey, this is supposed to be a new start for Ridge Racer isn’t it, and if nothing else, Bugbear has done just that. They have taken Ridge Racer in a completely new direction, and despite a vague blandness to Shatter City and some underlying technical issues that keep it from achieving its true potential, there is more than enough in the way of quality content and fresh ideas to suggest that Bugbear might be onto something special. Don’t get me wrong, Unbounded will remain divisive, maybe even more so than the traditional Ridge Racer template, but given another crack of the whip, I genuinely believe that Bugbear could create something with the kind of mass appeal that Namco are obviously very eager to attain.
As it stands though, despite being kind of ugly, initially unruly and always brutally unforgiving, for those willing to soldier on and accept its seeming disregard for Ridge Racer fundamentals, a legitimately thrilling racer awaits.
It may want you to hate it, but at some point, that initially bland city starts to feel like a cohesive whole, you dip a toe into the utterly fantastic track creator and, most importantly, you start to get a feel for that drift mechanic. Somewhere down the line, it all just falls into place and those technical problems which used to be such a major bone of contention, no longer get in the way of your enjoyment. Ridge Racer: Unbounded is a caterpillar that slowly turns into a butterfly before your very eyes, and in an industry that still deals in black and whites as often as the videogame industry does, Ridge Racer: Unbounded stands as a pleasantly dumfounding experience.
I think I love Ridge Racer: Unbounded
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