There are two wheels on my wagon.
The guys at Milestone really like their bikes. Motorbike racing games are not exactly abundant on consoles, but I am not really sure why. Beautiful machines racing at high speeds with the rider putting their life on the line, surely this would be an appealing subject for a videogame to many developers. Whatever the reason for that not being the case, Milestone continue to pander to their passions and have made a name for themselves by releasing quality motorbike games over and over again.
Following on from the likes of MotoGP and SBK, Milestone’s latest offering is RIDE, a motorbike racing game which has more than a passing resemblance to the likes of Gran Turismo, which is available for PC, Xbox One, PS4, PS3 and Xbox360. While racing on two wheels has a much more niche appeal than the seemingly universal fascination with racing cars, videogame racing fans will still find plenty to enjoy in RIDE and surely everyone can appreciate the incredibly beautiful motorbikes that are the star of the show.
There are more than 100 real world, licensed motorbikes, from various different manufacturers and across various different categories, available to race in RIDE. In fact, as with games such as Gran Turismo, much of the appeal and reason to keep playing the game comes from building an impressive stable of dream machines. It is easy to see that a lot of work has gone into recreating these machines in RIDE as they are all incredibly well rendered and beautiful to behold, something which will be pleasing to any motorbike aficionados. But the motorbike fans will not have to stop at simply looking at the bikes, as there will also be plenty of opportunity to tinker with the bikes and upgrade parts. Motorbike fans are truly catered for in RIDE.
However, for the videogame racing fans who don’t dream of spending their weekends in the garage polishing their motorbike, there is still plenty here to enjoy. Racing motorbikes is very different to racing cars in a videogame, and will take some getting used to. RIDE offers various levels of realism, with the difficulty options ranging from an almost arcade experience to a full physics simulation where the player will be responsible for using both the front and back brake and even for ducking down on the straights for added aerodynamics. No matter which level of difficulty is chosen, and the player will be introduced to all of the levels at the beginning of the game, players will still have to become accustomed to the nuances of motorbike racing. Braking earlier, leaning into the corners and following the racing line take some time to master. Taking a corner too tightly or nudging another racer can easily lead to the player coming off their bike, making for a much more tense experience than the relative safety of racing in a car. To ease the frustration for new players, Milestone have included a rewind option that can allow the player a second chance to stay on their bike, but use of this function is limited depending on which level of realism the player has chosen.
There are plenty of different ways to play RIDE, all of which make use of the 15 tracks on offer. The tracks themselves are quite varied, ranging from tight street circuits to the more open real world racing tracks. With events such as the track day challenge, challenging players to overtake as many other racers as possible, and the drag race, with the player responsible for gear changes, it is not all simply about coming first. However, the real meat of RIDE can be found in the World Tour. Here, the player will race for money and reputation as they rise through the ranks of racers to reach the very top of the global leaderboard, along the way buying new bikes to enter the different classes of events. The players bikes can be upgraded along the way, and even the players avatar can be customised with different gear, from helmets to leathers. The different bikes and the upgrades do a good job of changing the experience, with the classes of motorbikes offering the biggest differences in handling.
There is a lot to do in RIDE, but it wouldn’t be half the experience if the developers hadn’t launched themselves so fully into creating such beautiful on-screen motorbikes. They really are stunning. The UI and menu also have had love poured into them and are incredibly slick and easy to use, although the loading times could have used a bit of work as they do tend to drag a bit. However, the tracks are a slightly different matter. While they are obviously created with precision, they lack personality and detail. They feel quite bland. Mind you, when flying past at high speed, it may make little difference. But it is noticeable.
And this blandness is something that seems to permeate the entire game. I don’t know if it is because I am not as enthusiastic about motorbikes as I am about cars, and maybe for an enthusiast this will be a different experience, but I found it difficult to get excited about the game. That draw to keep playing and thrill of returning to the game as soon as possible just wasn’t there. Like I say though, motorbike fans may well find a different experience.
Milestone’s love of motorbikes and motorbike racing shines through in their latest offering. RIDE looks good and offers enough variety in difficulty to appeal to both simulation fans and the more arcade racers. The game looks good and packs in plenty to do. There are issues with the game, but RIDE still manages to be the best motorbike racing game on the current generation of consoles. For motorbike fans, this is an instant buy, and for racing fans there is also a lot to like in RIDE.