I always begin my reviews with a lead in, usually posing a question, but in honor of the illegal street racing theme of Ridge Racer Unbounded I’ll break from that rule. Ridge Racer Unbounded is a very good arcade style racer with a lot going for it. It reaches back to the time of Crusin’ USA when realism and simulation were foreign words that only got in the way of the fun. Unbounded is fast and smooth with neither of the issues that often accompany the genre, chugging frame rate drop and clipping.
The mostly story-less single player experience takes place in a fictionalized New York City called Shatter Bay where racers own the city streets. New areas of the city and their races are progressively unlocked based on the player’s performance; winning X number of races, achieving target scores, etc. Each area of the city in Ridge Racer Unbounded only has a couple of basic tracks that are varied slightly with new starting points and/or some destructible obstacles changing positions.
On these slight variations you’ll be presented with five types of races, it’s surprising how different the same track can feel when running two different race types on it. Shindo racing is what Unbounded calls normal racing, the kind where you just try to get first place, it’s pretty mundane compared to the Domination race. Domination is the most prevalent race type in Ridge Racer Unbounded. In Domination you’ll not only be racing for first place but also using your car as a weapon to take out the competition and smash your way through marked target areas on the track to create shortcuts and increase your score. Drift Attack pits the player against the clock, drift for as many points as you can in an effort to reach the target score before time runs out. Frag Attack isn’t so much a race as it is a forward moving demolition derby. Your goal in Frag Attack is to use your ever refilling boost meter to annihilate the target police cars, inside of a time limit and with a target score of course. The final race type is my personal favorite, Time Attack is a solo race against time on a stunt course. Time Attack has you not only looking for the fastest way through the half pipes and jumps but offers power ups to hunt along the way. Turning the arcade standard of racing to earn time to continue the race inside out, Time Attack’s power ups instead freeze time for a second with the goal being completion with the lowest possible time.
If the tracks that Unbounded has packaged for you aren’t enough it also offers a nice little track editor. While it’s no Mod Nation, the editor in Ridge Racer Unbounded is more than adequate. The basic editor is as simple as selecting and placing blocks on a grid making sure the white line representing the roadway itself remains unbroken. Once this is finished jump into the advanced editor for a fly through of your new track where you can place obstacles, jumps, and hell why not a few dozen explosive barrels. Simple to use with a great finished product, even on your first try, the track editor is a nice bonus in an already good game.
With all the good in Ridge Racer Unbounded could we really call this a review if there were no complaints? First off, there is no tutorial. With a super simple control scheme and the genre being pretty self explanatory this isn’t too big a deal right? Yeah, that’s mostly right, except for the “Drift Button”. Unbounded has a whole button dedicated to the drift that works completely counter intuitively. Common sense tells you to treat it like a hand brake… and that would be wrong. Using the Drift Button like a hand brake will put you into a wall every time and because of this I thought I was playing the hardest racing game in history; until I found out that holding the Drift Button all the way through the turn while using break gas and steering to keep you on course is necessary. Without the game teaching this to you the central function of drifting corners is incredibly frustrating. Second unlocking new areas of the city and their races could and should be easier. What could be the harm in keeping fresh new events and tracks flowing? Also replaying races over and over again to achieve a higher score in order to advance the game can get monotonous.
So while it may not be quite a top tier title Ridge Racer Unbounded will slap your face with fun adrenaline pumping arcade racing and will have you lamenting all those quarters and childhood days lost to that Crusin’ USA machine down at your local bowling alley.
Ride Racer Unbounded is available now for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.