Ridge Racer Unbounded

Not all that glitters is gold.

By Daavpuke, Posted 06 Apr 2012

When a franchise has seen so many iterations, sometimes it’s better to turn over a new leaf and reinvent what made the series great. Ridge Racer Unbounded does away with its previous racing shackles and takes a shot at arcade combat. However, in its attempt to merge the best of many different worlds, it creates an amalgamation of pure chaos. Some of that is good, but it definitely has flaws beneath its shiny allure.

Did I mention it’s shiny? Unbounded has a tremendous high production value, immense in detail in its expansive world, but it also enjoys lighting a whole lot. Reflections bounce off the immaculate car designs that stream lights, while every lamp source casts a glare only outdone by the distant sun itself. While in some races this creates grandeur worthy of a champion, it also tends to blend into a blinding monochrome state on other tracks.

Sometimes, the splendid art and level conception, complete with integrated interface, does such a bang up job that it’s hard to decipher just where the lap continues. This turns some spots into an effort of trial and error that requires a blind knowledge of the district. Luckily, these district chunks are designed in such a way that they can interchange and become much easier to learn and understand; though this is merely a lucky break produced by the skillful designs of the developers. Yes, there is a ton of care put into one of the most elegantly produced racing games ever, but there has never been a more fitting place for the phrase: “Not all that glitters is gold.”

The soundtrack truly is a hit and miss. The racing scene apparently only has a very distinct genre it can blast through its speakers and that is completely forgettable electronic music. It might rouse some, but it is hardly inclusive and some tracks will undoubtedly annoy more fans than it caters to. But hey, Skrillex is in every game now, because big publishers ‘understand’ youth culture. His dubstep hits are by some stretch the most entertaining. Here’s a hint: Some people enjoy real instruments; no judgment to anyone’s other preference.

Ridge Racer Unbounded - NoobFeed Review

Gameplay and in particular controls are another potluck of elements. Unbounded tries to mimic more serious racing games that require precision and skill, while at the same time funding its gameplay on the pinball machine that is car combat. As such, cars must maintain a steady balance, while at the same time wrestling with each other and Unbounded’s loose understanding of what gravity means. What results is a steep learning curve that will stay elevated throughout the game, leaving any progress such as its leveling system to be desired.

There is very little sense of advancement in Ridge Racer and in some cases overcoming adversity will remain a matter of luck, which sucks the fun out of what’s supposed to be a gratifying title. For example, if the artificial opponent is having a good race, it will be unattainable. Crossing its path will result in getting fragged by the trigger crashing mechanism that allows cars to wreck each other if they’ve amassed enough power from skillful racing. This is exacerbated by the fact the AI does not get affected by the physics as strongly. This makes Ridge Racer the most ‘simulation racer-y’ of all arcade titles. That might sound amazing, but in reality it only makes it more boring. This polarizes the arcade crowd.

Ridge Racer Unbounded - NoobFeed Review

As mentioned, this is also the case for controls that require hair trigger precision for turns and ideal track recognition, while still maintaining the loose grip the series has known for ages. Unbounded’s drifting is a key element in obtaining speed power and that just does not come in handy in a car onslaught. Luckily, the game offers a ton of unlockable cars that actually all have a given purpose. By choosing a few favorite styles, it’s possible to minimize the instability of the skidding mechanism, but that’s damage control at best. Luckily, none of the aforementioned elements or annoyances such as respawns in front of walls are deal breakers in this tremendous display of power, but they do put a strain on its goals.

So what does work like a charm in Ridge Racer Unbounded? It does several things very well. For one, the ton of destructible environments keep the chaos level up, certainly when boosting through office buildings or taking off on a platform. If there’s one thing this racing title does well, it’s portraying just how destructive it can get. Additionally, this carnage gets close captured slow motion sequences to really rub it in; which also helps to justify being left back when crashing.

Ridge Racer Unbounded - NoobFeed Review

Secondly, the perfect level design is extended all the way to its elaborate editor that offers every basic need, while also having an advanced setting for the cheekier player. By placing district blocks on a grid, it’s possible to create a known track in mere minutes in any of the racing genres available.  This intuitive composition results in creations that are easy to make, great to enhance and instinctive to play. It might require more time to create a crazier scheme of full loops and ramps, but this comes paired with a tremendous rewarding feel.

However, it is possible to largely exploit the leveling system with this as well, since it only looks at the score gotten from destroying things. Place a huge amount of things and it’s possible to speed through content. This doesn’t even do away with the progression flaw, as it doesn’t feel like it’s earned. The middle ground is the way to go on that aspect, as it is by far the most gratifying.

Additionally, all these creations can be shared and dominated through its online social capability, which makes for a virtually endless experience. That does not suck one bit. What racing game wouldn’t want an endless stream of great racing tracks that still feel intuitive, but offer novelty every time? It’s even possible to get bragging rights for the singleplayer streets of Shatter Bay, so no one person is left out in this compartment. The online experience of overtaking players’ city scores, racing against humans and exploring the endless vat of possibilities is this game’s cream that synergizes with its previous great elements. This is Ridge Racer Unbounded at its very best.

It’s a shame that Ridge Racer Unbounded didn’t turn out like it could and should’ve ended up, due to wanting too much and balancing too little. Still, this amazingly fabricated product might still hold a vast amount of content and fun times for those that really bear down, grit their teeth and stay determined to explore the simulation arcade hybrid title it has become.

Daav Valentaten, NoobFeed. (@Daavpuke)

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  • It's a same that things didn't go right here.They way you've been covering this game, I thought that you found great prospect in it. Even the trailers looked promising too.

    Posted Apr 08, 2012


General Information

Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Publisher(s): Namco Bandai
Developer(s): Bugbear Entertainment
Genres: Racing
Themes: Arcade
Release Date: 2012-03-30

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