I’ve always had mixed feelings when it comes to racing games. One the one hand, they can be a whole lot of fun, providing a challenge that is unique to the genre, but at the same time, the lack of story makes me lose interest relatively quickly. I’ve always enjoyed them though, and after recently getting the opportunity to preview DIRT 5, I thought I’d try out RIDE 4, even if comparing the two would be like comparing apples and oranges.
RIDE 4 is the fourth entry in one of the motorcycle series developed by Milestone. The first game was released in 2015, and entries have been added every one to two years, so fans have never had to wait all that long for a new game. It hits PS4, Xbox One and PC on October 8th but will come to next generation consoles in January 2021 as a stand-alone purchase or a free upgrade for those who have bought it on current generation consoles.
Visually, it looks pretty good. Racing games are generally known for their realistic graphics, and RIDE 4 is no different. The amount of detail in the bikes themselves is truly astounding. Milestone have clearly put in a great deal of time and effort into utilising real CAD and 3D scans to make the bikes as accurate and true to the real thing as possible.
Before you can even think about playing RIDE 4, you need to pass an admission test, which was frustratingly difficult, but you have to complete it before you’re granted access to the full game. You need to complete a course within the time limit – sounds easy, right? Nope. If you so much as brush the white line that marks the edge of the track, you’re faced with not a penalty but an instant failure. Let me tell you right now, some of the turns were real killers. You need to familiarise yourself with the tracks and when to speed up, slow down and brake to deal with the understeer that will frequently send you flying off the tracks when you try to turn a corner.
It was a little disheartening to stumble at the first hurdle. It left me wondering how I’d cope with the rest of the game if I was struggling to pass a simple admission test.
RIDE 4 doesn’t leave beginners to fend for themselves entirely though with the inclusion of a number of training-wheel type settings that allow you to enable automatic braking and ideal trajectory, which make the game easier. It was still challenging though, so it never felt like cheating. On the flip side, if you’re better than me – not much of an achievement, mind you – you can make the game more difficult by changing the bike controls from simplistic to realistic.
Once I did finally pass the admission test, I got to see what RIDE 4 had in store for me, and with over 170 licensed bike models and tracks, it’s safe to say that there is a lot on offer. My first stop, of course, was the garage to check out the customisation options. There’s plenty to customise, both mechanically and aesthetically – the first of which being especially important if you’re struggling to complete races as you can improve things like handling and braking power. You need credits to pay for any mechanical upgrades though, so you need to power through and complete some of the races and challenges before you can start upgrading your bike.
Career mode is always the crux of any good racing game – without one, they lack any real substance, making them a string of races with no consequence or opportunity for progression. It’s important to get this mode right, and Milestone have clearly spent a lot of time fleshing it out. You choose from three Regional Leagues – European, Asian or American – and have to win a specific number of cups to move up to the World League. The same goes for moving up to the Final League using cups from the World League. Leagues are split into Stock and Exhibition events, the former of which follow the standard formula of completing one track to unlock the next. Exhibition allows for a little more freedom to tackle events at your own pace, though you do need to unlock each series of events. As for the events themselves, they’re fairly standard. You have generic races, track tests, requires you to pass gates at the required speed while also completing it in the time limit, and track day, where you have to overtake a certain number of opponents within the time limit. There is also time attack where you have to complete the course within the time limit and without leaving the track, which was, and I’m not exaggerating, the bane of my existence.
What Makes RIDE 4 Different?
Without a memorable story to distinguish it from previous titles and other bike games in general, you might wonder how RIDE 4 is different. What makes it worth the £50 price tag?
Well, RIDE 4 is the first in the series to feature changing lighting and weather conditions, which can add to the realistic feel that Milestone have worked so hard to create. RIDE 4 also sees the introduction of Milestone’s new Artificial Neural Network Agent, a.k.a.: A.N.N.A., which makes opponents smarter and more challenging.
While RIDE 4 boasts impressive graphics, it can be somewhat unforgiving to beginners or casual players. The difficulty can be throw-your-controller-at-the-screen infuriating at times, but it does leave you feeling immensely satisfied when you finally beat the track that you’ve had to restart for the umpteenth time. It’s beyond addictive. I was determined not to be beaten by this game. Each time I crashed or failed a time attack, I found myself repeatedly thinking “just one more try”, and before I knew it, I’d lost hours out of my day. There’s no denying that the game has a steep learning curve, and the understeer can be a real pain, but those who have the patience to stick with it are rewarded with a challenging, quality game with a lot to offer. That being said, if you only see yourself spending an hour or so with the game every now and again, RIDE 4 is probably not for you.
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 8th October 2020
Gaming Respawn’s copy of Ride 4 was provided by the publisher.