Published on January 26th, 2012 | by G. Bargas, Managing Editor
Ridge Racer Unbounded: Hands-on Impressions
Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PS Vita, PC
Developer: Bugbear Entertainment
Release Date: March 2, 2012
I never really thought of myself as a big racing fan. To start, I don’t really know that much about cars let alone varying makes and models. Although my lack of knowledge about cars kept me away from being a real life car enthusiast, it didn’t however keep me from playing racing titles. Ridge Racer, Need for Speed, Split/Second, heck—even Mario Kart–have all been some of my favorite titles. Like any other racer out there, the speed drew me to the game. Going 150MpH+ is something not everyone can do in real life.
Over the years we have seen racing titles grow and flourish. Some things that had previously made others unique have become standard thanks to technology and technique. Although some games try to emulate real life, some take us back to the good old arcade days, still giving us a comforting taste of speed and fun. Ridge Racer Unbounded is steering right into the middle of all these cross sections.
The menu screen we saw a few options for the game. Players could embark on the City Domination, which unlocked other portions of the city with races to explore, or just do a Quick Match. There was also the option to do the Create Friend Match and jump online. Another thing that I couldn’t help but pay attention to was the DLC menu bar that was present in the build.
The console version of the game immediately shows off the ‘Unbounded scene. The Unbounded Gang is on your list to impress with high street marks. The menu shows of seven different subsections to the city. The map that we were able to play that day was a race in an area of Shatter Bay. This scene reminded me of areas in GTAIV where you were speeding under bridges and through traffic. The low overhang and tight quarters showed off the games design and gameplay.
Shatter Bay Map
From the central map we selected the race of “Shatter Bay.” This is where the campaign starts out, but there is also seven outlying condensed areas to explore.
The controls are pretty standard for racing titles. The drifting did have its quirks, but the aftermath of a crash wasn’t really all that detrimental. That was one thing I immediately noticed about the crash system. Damage to vehicles wasn’t too extreme which showcased the games arcadey side. The hits weren’t totally debilitating and allowed to jump right back into the race. Slamming into walls only slowed down the car and often left the bumper dangling from the rear fender.
The hit and run destruction of the game is what gave it that arcade flare. Crashing into walls or leveling a stranded car damaged your vehicle. The game also offered “targets” to hit at full speed in order to open up a new route. Hit the NOS and blow through a small building or garage to come out on top, literally. This was one way in which the title was sprinkled with hints of Split/Second but also topped with a standard racing feel. Mid action slowdown’s showed off the point system delivered for cars getting extra distance and rolls. The definitely hints at a slight learning curve in mastering the drift and layouts.
Although the console version was great and by far hosted the better graphics–it was the PS Vita version that really held my attention.
The PS Vita version of the game paid homage to the Ridge Racers before it. Even down to having contoured female characters laying horizontally in the games menu, it felt like the Ridge Racer I’ve been acquainted with. While we didn’t really jump into the games main storyline as we did for the console version, we did however get to hit the local multiplayer between a few demo units.
The local multiplayer was a flawless victory. We were in a pretty secluded room, so the interference of a city or other devices could definitely be a factor outside the room. We jumped into the map Harborline, which had a nice few and some winding hills. After a little friendly game chatter–it was off to the races.
Now, I wouldn’t say that I’m that great of a racer, but it was however an easier experience drifting and other maneuvers on the ‘Vita. After sliding sideways and a few collisions, first place was achievable. I was also the host, but a 4.5 second lead isn’t due to lag. Vrrrroooom!
The game handled well. The joystick was very responsive in mountainous drifting areas. It is only the second time that I’ve had to spend more than just a few minutes with the Vita, so I knew what to expect form the joysticks. From FPS to racing titles, they hold up pretty well. The drifting became comfortable as it was hinging on more of your fingertips than the thumbstick on the console.
I hate to say it, but it was somewhat similar to the Mario Kart drifting by using that back-and-forth swaying motion. Even using the street view allowed for great control during gripping sideways slides and bumping the person next to me. Maybe it was the multiplayer that had me feeling a little bit more comfortable with the handheld version. It was too bad that the Xbox LIVE servers were down that day, or it would have been on like turtle neck at a holiday business party.
Ride Racer Unbounded was favored most on the PS Vita. The console version needs something a little spicier to separate itself from the NFS: Underground/Split/Second racers of the world. I did like the detail in the city and the arcade style, but I would appreciate something to bring it back home to the original.
Players in this day and age have the ability to expect realistic cars because of the age we live in. Even without those cars, the game is still just as impressive as those that feature them. The underdog racing story isn’t a new one, but it often works. Coming out on top of the ranks and showing the street who’s boss goes over well. It’s like you are really proving yourself through skill. Something that will keep racers playing would be a tenacious approach to an online multiplayer mode. Hopefully we will see that on release day.
Photo’s by Joey Mercado