Ridge Racer is widely known as the daddy of the arcade racer. Its hyperrealism and massive slew of fantasy sports cars, that rivals almost any other drift happy racing game on the market, makes it iconic amongst the static simulation heavy racers that are coming into the market. Ridge Racer seems exactly like the game that wouldn need a reboot for the new century, but Namco Bandai felt a change was needed and so recruited Flat Out developer Bugbear Entertainment to handle their newest title. Imagine that Burnout, Split Second and Flat Out all got together in some massive love fest, and out of this unsightly event a lovechild emerged; that lovechild is Ridge Racer Unbounded.
This game is fast, seriously fast. It loud, hectic, brilliant, and like no other Ridge Racer before. This game feels fresh despite its transparent influences. It takes its cues from Burnout by allowing you to destroy other racers by driving dangerously and gaining boost from drifting around corners. Flat Out plays a key role, because of Bugbear Entertainments involvement, and is shown in the destructible environments that then stay and litter the track for future laps. Your car can plough through pretty much anything that isn a wall, and even then sometimes it can, so the track becomes cluttered as hell and really makes races interesting. Finally Split Second can be seen in the games presentation. The HUD lies over the top of the screen in a translucent unobtrusive manner, whilst Splinter Cell Conviction style details show up seamlessly in the environment displaying your position, score and number of laps left. Even Split Seconds Hollywood action film sheen is present here too and works wonderfully well; to see it running really shows it off in an incredibly impressive light. However as said before, despite its mixing of other successful arcade racers this game feels completely original in every way.
The races feel intense, the sense of speed is incredible and destroying scenery is fantastically satisfying, boosting your way through a solid wall to discover a brand new shortcut is by far the most rewarding experience in any racing game, well second only to completely totaling one of your fellow racers. Drifting is back in prominent position, just like with every other Ridge Racer game, and feels as riskily uncontrollable as ever. The rock inspired soundtrack only adds to the visceral feel of this game and really pushes the boundary of what to expect from a Ridge Racer title. And if that wasn enough the game will feature a completely new course creation mode, however that wasn on display for the hands on session, but it does promise to be another highlight in this games incredible box of tricks.
It isn until you pick up and play this game that you realise that maybe Ridge Racer did need an update. This injection of adrenaline into the mix has not only totally refreshed the franchise, but it has managed to retain everything that made Ridge Racer fantastic and build upon it with great solid game mechanics. Ridge Racer Unbounded is still very much in development and has plenty of time to build upon and perfect its incredibly amazing gameplay by March 2012.
I am slightly reluctant to call this game Ridge Racer, as it not very. What it is, though, is a curious fusion of Burnout and Split Second. The gameplay of this hopefully early build was frustrating; drifting was not as tight as on previous games, leading into protruding edges. There was a strange fascination with destroying scenery and explosions (particularly Burnouty), also the cars seemed slow. That said the set pieces were great. Will certainly be worth a dabble when finished.