- Format: Xbox One
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: Vector Unit
- Developer: Vector Unit
- Players: 1-6 (offline only)
- Site: http://www.vectorunit.com/riptide-gp2/
- Game code provided by Xbox
Tempting as it is to rely on the superb Wave Race 64 as a reference point, most of today’s young ‘uns wouldn’t have a darn clue what we’re on about. Besides, given the small number of generic techno choons randomly assigned to the races and the inexplicable machinery often to be found decorating the tracks, it seems to be more of a WipEout vibe that the developers were hoping for. Unfortunately, Riptide GP 2 captures nothing that made either game stand out.
Eight people on jet skis, bespoke watery racetracks, two laps per race. Sprinkle over a dash of ramps, add a pinch of waves, grate in a generous portion of stunts, and bring to the boil. Simmer, garnish with a boost meter recharged by successful stunts, and leave to cool. Presuming we haven’t confused you too much with the sloppy cooking analogy, you should now largely understand how the game works. It’s a simple formula, but one set to work very well; or at least, it would have had the team left it at that.
The industry’s current unhealthy obsession with levelling up and unlocking content has bled into this game, and it’s to the detriment of the final experience. Finishing an event gives you a handful of XP and, if you finish third or higher, a bit of cash. Every time you hit a new level you get bonus cash as a reward, and a point or two to spend. These points are used to unlock perks in increments (such as the duration of your boost), or to unlock new stunts. There is a tactical and practical angle to the stunts; the longer a stunt takes to complete, the more of your boost meter it will fill. Stunts can only be performed mid-air however, and if you hit the water before finishing your stunt your only reward is the loss of a few precious seconds while you recover. In addition, repeating the same stunt in a race reduces its effect on the boost meter each time.
All of that is fair enough. The core problem that cripples this game, however, is the implementation of the upgrades and progression. The jet ski you start off with is pretty rubbish as is and, several events in, virtually useless. The good news is you can upgrade top speed, boost, handling etc. with the cash you win; the bad news is, these upgrades are fairly expensive. The worse news is that earning enough money will mean repeating the same race events again and again and again, as you learn that your opponents are clearly using far superior machines, preventing you from unlocking new events until you can catch up on a technical level. The very worst news is that even if you spend dozens of thousands of credits maxing out your first jet ski, by the time you’ve done so you’ll be facing opponents yet again ahead of you in terms of machine power – meaning you’ll have to save up for a new jet ski, which will probably be less powerful than your upgraded one, and is also more expensive to improve…
Riptide GP 2 is a constant grind, and it can be genuinely disheartening to spend so much of your time knowing that you can’t come first no matter how well you play, simply because you haven’t spent enough in-game money yet. Tracks tend to look and feel very similar too, meaning we often lost interest in playing after sessions of just ten minutes or so. What makes the grinding structure so hard to understand is that it’s not disguising a lack of content. At just two laps of fairly short tracks each, races are brief – but there are absolutely loads of them. There are even a few different modes to mix things up, such as the self-explanatory Elimination and Hot Lap events.
To the game’s credit, there’s splitscreen multiplayer for up to six players. Although we’re unable to comment on how well the game runs when the screen is broken down into more and more segments, singleplayer at least has a nice, smooth frame rate. In fact it’s an extremely attractive game given the tiny price, including some very nice water effects. What it doesn’t have is online multiplayer (unlike the mobile and PC versions also available), but given what would presumably be a large cost, that is at least understandable. That’s why we only identify it as an Xbox One title at the top; online play would almost certainly give the experience a much-needed kick in the pants.
Riptide GP 2 is only four quid, it runs very smoothly, and the controls work very well (once you upgrade the handling sufficiently); but we still find it extremely hard to recommend given the staggering level of repetition involved. It’s okay in 10-20 minute bursts, and may well be worth a purchase if you can get a friend or five to join you on the sofa on a regular basis. As much as we hate to say it for a pocket-money Xbox One game that’s clearly had a lot of work poured into it, however, your cash would be better saved toward something else.