Has the Ridge Racer series gone a step too far?
Ridge Racer has been one of the granddaddies of arcade racing for almost 2 decades, yet the series has gone a bit stale over the past few years, so it was clear that a new direction had to be taken to inject some new life into the franchise. Can Unbounded be the answer or have they changed the fundamentals too much?
Ridge Racer Unbounded combines the classic arcade style racing that the series is known for, but its added in levels of destruction in a hope to compete with the likes of Burnout, it’s a gamble but one that works out for the best. You get a boost meter that will let you smash through buildings when it’s full, or take out the drivers ahead of you by fragging them. The career mode is set across a number of districts and each district has a number of challenges to do like fragging a set number of cars, standard races where you can’t do damage to each other or races where you can; drift challenges, time attacks and so on.
If there’s a problem, it’s that you’ll see parts of the same stage blended in with others as you go through the districts, so it all feels samey. There’s also an issue detecting what items can and can’t be destroyed, you can drive through pillars easily, but can be totalled by something you’d think that wouldn’t cause you problems. Also, the buildings that you can drive through can only be done if you use the boost…if you don’t, you’ll crash no matter how fast you are driving.
There’s also a track creator to use where you can add events, it’s a nice feature and the tools you get to use are simple and easy to use. Problems occur with running out of your budget for deploying new items and the AI not really knowing how to handle a new course, so they’ll make some pretty big blunders. Online play is limited to quick play matches and domination matches with user-created content, but there’s an issue where the countdown timer will start with only 2 racers in the lobby and there’s a definite lack of online players, which is disappointing.
Presentation-wise, Unbounded is impressive in areas and lacklustre in others. The destruction mechanics are nice, but not as good as Burnout or Split/Second, cutting through buildings doesn’t offer much of a shortcut either. The crash cam transitions poorly as your car is in autopilot when it happens, which can cause problems when you exit the cam to lose momentum and even be immediately taken out by a rival, luckily it can be turned off. The music is catchy, while the sound effects are a bit muffled when crashing through buildings.
Ridge Racer Unbounded is a fun arcade racer with some great things to destroy, but it’s rough around the edges and it can’t really compete as a result. Having said that, the level of enjoyment is high as you boost through a building, then frag a few cars in your way. It’s got a charm that is undeniable and while it’s far from perfect, it’s definitely worth a look.