- Format: PS4 (version reviewed), Xbox One, PC
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: PQube/Milestone S.r.l.
- Developer: Milestone S.r.l.
- Players: 1-2 (offline), 2-12 (online)
- Site: http://ridevideogame.com/
- Game disc provided by the publisher
This generation already has a handful of games that celebrate cars and the joy of driving them, recreating their appearance and performance in eyebrow-raising detail. But whereas our four-wheeled friends have the likes of Forza Motorsport 6, Project CARS or even DriveClub, where’s the equivalent game drooling over motorbikes? Ride 2 seeks to be that game.
We’ve already had the official Valentino Rossi game this year, also from developers Milestone. So why would you choose this over that? Well, the differences between the two games are swings and roundabouts really, guv. The Rossi game doubled as this year’s MotoGP title and, therefore, Ride 2 does not have official riders, teams, or tournaments. It does however have over 170 bikes from a variety of years and disciplines, all officially licensed and lovingly recreated. You get a whole bunch of proper tracks to zoom around too, including Brands Hatch, Macau, Road America, and the notorious Nȕrburgring. One important advantage Ride 2 has is that it doesn’t suffer from the Rossi game’s frame rate problems, meaning the experience looks and feels much, much smoother.
We’ll talk a little more about the bikes, as Milestone have worked hard to ensure that the machines themselves are the stars of the show. Although little details such as crowd character models and trackside textures betray the game’s limited budget, bikes from the likes of Yamaha, Ducati, Kawasaki, and Triumph look just as they should and will be instantly recognisable by gear groupies. Each bike even has its own mini biography included, giving you something to read during the loading screens. The differences from bike to bike are just as impressive as those from car to car in one of the big budget games and, when it comes to bikes, those differences are more noticeable and important than ever when you’re comparing, say, a superbike to a motorcross bike.
Speaking in more general terms handling is, as we’ve now come to expect from Milestone, superb; realistic, responsive, and unforgiving. Speaking of unforgiving, this is absolutely not a gentle arcade introduction for people unfamiliar with motorbike games. Even with AI tuned to its dumbest and assists on full blast (tellingly, the default state of affairs), this is anything but a racer that newbies can cruise through half-heartedly. Corners must be taken with precision, braking must be undertaken expertly, even slight corner cutting is punished with a time penalty, and the quite frankly terrifying speeds that the most powerful bikes rapidly reach demand care and skill from everybody.
The fact is that despite including the same industry-leading rewind system from the Rossi game, Ride 2 is not a game that those new to the genre can easily slide into. Diehard bike lovers have plenty to get their teeth into here, but there are a few design decisions that may irk even them. Firstly – and this is something that will probably only prove to be an issue for those unfamiliar with bikes – the game fails to explain the importance of customising (i.e. upgrading) the bikes that you buy. Riding skill is obviously needed, but the importance of the power behind your bike should not be underestimated. If you’re wondering why AI or human opponents with similar or seemingly identical bikes are leaving you far behind, chances are they’ve upgraded various bits and pieces and you haven’t.
Harvesting credits is generally slow (the paid DLC to increase the rate at which you earn them leaves a sour taste in the mouth) and bikes are generally expensive. Then, of course, you need to spend several thousand more credits on each bike in order to make it as competitive as possible. The speed with which you build up your bike collection can therefore feel positively glacial at times, though you can use any bike on loan for a Quick Race to see what you can eventually get your hands on.
This all conspires to dampen the online experience somewhat. Taking a bike that you’ve decorated and upgraded yourself online, then using it to get a decent place on the podium, is a great feeling (though finding a lobby with the maximum twelve players is extremely rare). However, unless you’ve pumped a massive amount of hours into the offline side of things, you’re only going to have a small selection of low-powered bikes that you can use. Depending on the rules this will put you at a massive disadvantage, or you won’t even have anything in your garage that qualifies for the race. You can still participate with a loaned bike; but this throws up two problems. Firstly, you receive absolutely no rewards for racing with a loaned bike. Secondly, just to rub salt into the wound, you can’t modify a borrowed bike in any way. The result of course is that even though the game allows you to temporarily use a bike you won’t be able to afford for a while, chances are your opponents will still have a power advantage over you.
There’s offline splitscreen multiplayer for two people, which is always an unexpected and welcome bonus nowadays. It’s a good, more personal way to ensure you play with somebody of a similar skill level (not to mention bike level). It’s the lack of control that weakens the experience. The speed, or lack thereof, with which you build up your bike collection; the knock-on effect this has on online play; The slightly scattershot way events and bikes unlock in the offline career; the attempts to accommodate more casual players which don’t go far enough. Ride 2 does a lot right, but the series has a long way to go before it can be considered ‘the Forza of bikes’.