‘Ridge Racer Unbounded’ Game Review
Get past the silly name and you’ll find out that Ridge Racer Unbounded is one of the best of the series. While it doesn’t feature open world gameplay like the title infers, if you prefer arcade-style racers (as I do) you’ll definitely enjoy this game, which features an amount of destruction far beyond previous installments.
Unbounded’s opening cinematic sets up a story of the poor rising to fight the rich in a fictional American city called Shatter Bay in the near future, the have-nots finally getting angry enough to take what’s coming to them. (Imagine Occupy Wall Street with vehicular destruction instead of drum circles.) It’s a unique premise that gets you amped for an interesting story that simply never comes. There’s no story at all in the game besides that opening, actually. To start a race you just click on text in a menu, and there’s never any explanation for exactly what your wanton destruction will accomplish. Is racing against a group of other cars, blowing them up and smashing through buildings going to help your cause? Probably not.
So forget that and just enjoy the racing action. There are a handful of different events you can attempt but the main one is Domination, which pits you against 11 other racers. While you could technically try to race clean and get to the front by driving safely and quickly, it’s really all about smashing everything and anything in your way. Drifting, tailing other cars, taking big jumps and smashing through obstacles fills a power bar. Hit the button when it’s full and you’ll launch forward in a burst of flames that allows you to instantly frag (yes, frag) your opponents or blast straight through a building, creating a shortcut for later. You can’t just go through anything- certain locations are highlighted when you have a full Power bar, and there’s a handful on each stage. There are also some explosives you can hit and explode your opponents with- generally tanker trucks. It makes for a really fun, fast racing game.
There are also Drift Attack, Frag Attack, and Time Attack modes, which are all exactly what they sound like. The Time Attack levels though are actually incredibly exciting, as opposed to how boring and frustrating they can get in other games. This is because the tracks are specially constructed for the mode and full of jumps and ramps and other ridiculous obstacles. Really fun stuff.
There’s also a “Shindo Racing” mode that encourages clean lines and not hitting anyone, so who cares about that.
The more things you destroy and the better you race the more points you get, which levels you up and unlocks new cars and stages. Multiplayer allows users to try Domination mode against real people, which makes it even better. You’re given the choice of playing with levels included in the game or your own user-created tracks. There’s a pretty intensive Creator Mode that lets you build “Cities”, which hold between one and five custom events. Each event can be completely customized, and you’ll lay out a track block by block choosing all kinds of terrains, cars, obstacles and more. Online players can try out your city and attempt to dominate it by getting higher scores in each event. People have already created some interesting tracks out there already and it’s certainly a unique mode for a racing game.
All of this adds up to a title that hardly feels like a Ridge Racer game, for better or worse. It should be no surprise to find out that developer Bugbear Entertainment is the team behind the Flatout series. I can see purists getting annoyed at this new direction but I’m all for more arcade racers, even if this doesn’t quite come to the level of the pinnacles of the genre like Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, Burnout Paradise or Blur. But with its multitude of levels, creator mode, intense multiplayer and planned DLC, it’s definitely got a ton for racing fans to be happy with.
Ridge Racer Unbounded ($60) is in stores now for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. It was developed by Bugbear Entertainment and published by Namco Bandai. This review was based on seven hours with a copy provided by the publisher.