Ridge Racer: Unbounded Review (PS3)
Retake Shatter bay by joining the extra secret cult of the unbounded underground racers.
Ridge Racer Unbounded is the newest title in the long time series of Ridge Racer games. This time however Namco chooses to do away with the SIM racing and adopts a much more arcade style to their long lived series. The game takes place in Shatter Bay which sounds like a rather silly name to give a city. The premise is you join the ranks of the ominously named 'Unbounded', the forgotten denizens of Shatter Bay. They seek to retake the city through.... reckless, uninspired, underground racing. As silly as the plot may seem it takes a backseat to the actual bulk of the game which is the racing itself. If you've ever played Criterion's Burnout Revenge then you'll find Ridge Racer Unbounded rather familiar. You can now race against opponents whom can fall prey to the newly added ability of 'fragging'. After building up enough of the power meter from either gaining hang time, drifting or tailing other cars you can gain a boost of speed. This brief moment of enhanced speed can be used to crash into your opponents resulting in a 'frag'. You can also crash into obstacles which will sometimes reveal shortcuts. This is all done in the attempt to gain style points which when accumulated reward you with a star rating at the end of the race. This is all fine and dandy but Rider Racer Unbounded leaves much to be desired. For one the mechanics of driving and crashing quite simply aren't up to par with what you'd expect out of an arcade racer. There isn't much of a noticeable difference between how the cars perform and you'll often just pick a vehicle based on how it looks. Yes this is an arcade racer but there should be a reason as to why you need difference car classes even in a non SIM racer. If Mario Kart can execute this, than Ridge Racer has no business NOT getting this right. Also the tracks themselves seem very uninspired and you'll often feel you're racing the same track over, and over, and over. Not to mention that the destructible items could be taken out of the game and you would notice not a single difference. Meanwhile the shortcuts are quite honestly pitiful, once you obtain enough in the power meter to crash through them the game will graciously point them out to you. The most unfortunate shortcoming of this game however is the lack of satisfaction when crashing an opposing racer. You don't get that mouth watering feeling as you close the gap between you and the racer in front of you. Waiting for the right moment to strike and send them careening off course into a fireball of anger and inadequacy. The crashes seem much too vanilla in Ridge Racer Unbounded.
Now with all this said there are some redeemable qualities to Ridge Racer. The game does offer you seven different events in which you can race in. You'll have domination races which are your typical Burnout Revenge race. You'll also be able to partake in Drift Attack, Time Attack, Frag Attack and Shindo Racing which is a straight up race with no crashing or specials of any sort. You can race in all of these modes in both single player mode and online multiplayer. The multiplayer allows you to match up with other racers in any of the aforementioned race types; but you can also race in player created cities. these cities mimic single player's Shatter Bay featuring different tracks with a selection of race types. You'll run the gamut of straight up racing courses, to chaotic tracks filled with dirt mounds, roadblocks and explosive barrels. This could prove to be a juicy opportunity but in my time playing online There were only four playing (including me).
lastly you can create your own cities in Ridge Racer in which you can post online for others to race in. you're given an easy to use track editor which gives you a moderate amount of options when it comes to city streets, obstacles and car spawns. You have basic control over you track and what's in it. This track editor is no mod nation racer but it could provide for some customization to the gaming experience. Again good luck finding anyone to actually race in your cities. Ridge Racer Unbounded is an average game overall, and when compared to others in its genre it appears as the boring, forgotten middle child in the family (see Peter Brady). While I will commend it for adding some flair to the HUD such as a glowing red light indicating an incoming car, or relaying lap time on the buildings and environments much like in Splinter Cell: Conviction. This is a step forward at least creatively from a lack luster series of games. But with an unimpressive look for a PS3 title this late in the cycle, to a major lack of online activity Ridge Racer yet again will be destined for the bargain bin faster than you can utter the phrase 'Giant Enemy Crab"
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