Milestone were just starting to hit their stride in the World Rally Championship series, when Big Ben Interactive took on the significantly less talented developer Kylotonn and handed the reins to them. Not one to rest on their laurels, they set to town working on Sebastian Loeb Rally before turning their attention to creating a sequel to their cult motorcycle title, ‘Ride’. Now, at the tail end of 2016, Milestone take everything they’ve learned as a mid budget studio to give Xbox One players Ride 2.
Everything from the trailers to the packaging has you believing you’re getting a full on bike simulator; Forza on two wheels. Although certain elements exist which somewhat recreate that feeling, such as around 200 bikes to buy and upgrade and a mixture of real world and fantasy tracks, it’s not an accurate description. Whether you’re playing with assisted, arcade style handling or unassisted ‘sim’ style, the game retains it’s simple weighty cornering control. The only real difference is manually tucking your rider in behind the fairing, and shifting your weight forward to cancel power-wheelies. Both of those can be set independently of handling level though, leaving me to wonder if there’s really any difference at all. Despite this arcade handling model which is kept throughout, and the disappointing 30fps frame rate, there’s a reasonable amount if fun to be had with the title.
The usual options exist for online and split-screen play, as well as time trials, drag races and quick race events. The main single player mode is career of course, although it’s a hugely disappointing – and disjointed – affair. Having been presented with a grid of unlockable game modes, disciplines down the left and difficulties across the top, you select one of these options to be taken to a long list of further unlockable championships. Each championship has a theme, such as two-stroke bikes up to 125cc, and there are several individual events present within. These range from traditional races to drag events and time trials, which see you having to avoid cones on the track and keep the perfect driving line. The bizarre thing here is that you can race in eight events reach season in your career, and it doesn’t seem to matter which ones you race in. You can go for getting all gold medals in one championship, ride one event from eight different championships or even just re-ride the same one race over and over. This lack of commitment to a single season leaves you with zero sense of progression, and is completely unrewarding to play, as you can jump between Nakeds, Cafe Racers and superbikes at will.
For those of you jumping into a motorcycle game for the first time, the shift from racing four wheels to two can be quite punishing. You have to relearn everything, from cornering to breaking, to be able to compete against the expert AI found in Ride 2. Shifting your weight into a corner super early feels alien at first, but once you get the technique down and start to nail a few apexes and keep up with the pack, you’ll pass the feeling of frustration and begin to enjoy yourself. A good option for beginners is to combine both the front and rear brakes into one control in the settings menu, although eventually you’ll want handle them independently to maintain faster speeds through the corners.
One big difference between a car racer and a bike racer is the visibility of the driver, so it’s a good job Milestone have included a plethora of licensed leathers, helmets, gloves and boots for you to purchase. One really cool feature is the ability to save up to two outfits for each discipline, so you can have a tailored look whether you’re punishing superbikes around the Nurburgring or cruising a two-stroke along the roads of Wales. The customisation extends to the bikes too, with over 1200 upgrade parts and 600 livery options across the various models, although you’re going to have to save up a lot of career cash to afford them.
Ride 2 is a fair attempt by Milestone to give biking fans their ultimate two-wheeled playground, and it succeeds as far as the rides and locations are concerned. The races themselves can be fun and exciting in their own right, but the simplified handling model and unfocused career mode leave a lot to be desired. Despite the constant voice overs and cut scenes telling you otherwise, you’ll feel neither thrilled or excited as you laboriously jump from race to race.
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