Since its debut, the Ride
franchise has consistently been considered the Forza
of motorcycling games. Whether Milestone sees this as a compliment or are tired of the comparison, only they can say. However, the comparison remains and only grows stronger with the latest installment. RIDE 3
is possibly the best in the studio's motorcycling stable.
Whilst other Milestone motorbike titles are tied to specific sports or licenses, the Ride
franchise releases players from these limitations and allows racers to select from an ever-growing stable of bikes of different classes, sports, and licensed manufacturers. There are now over 230 bikes in the base version of the game alone, 70 of which are new to the franchise. There are even more available through DLC packs. It's an impressive list with bikes ranging from the humble cafe racers of the late sixties, through to the ultra-modern two-wheeled beasts of today. There are seven different categories of bikes too, including street, naked, sports, and supermoto, all provided by 30 of the world's renowned bike manufacturers.
It's not only the number of bikes that has been boosted, the number of locations at which to ride the two-wheeled steeds has also been increased. There are now 30 locations across the world, featuring a mix of real and fictional tracks, most of which stick to asphalt as opposed to the loose surfaces from the studio's other titles. Classic locations such as Donington Park in the UK, return, and for those feeling brave enough, they can still continue to battle the Carousel at Nordschleife on two wheels. Whilst the tracks aren't laser-scanned, Milestone instead uses photogrammetry and drone-scanning and they still look impressive. If you're familiar with tracks like Road America and Laguna Seca from other titles, you'll find little difference here, and you'll still be hitting the same apexes and braking points.
But boosting content alone is not enough to merit a sequel. Fortunately, Milestone has used the two years since the last title to work on just about every other aspect of the game. The studio is clearly becoming more confident and competent in its use of the Unreal Engine and it shows. The bikes look spectacular, as do the riders. The helmet cam, whilst still being vomit-inducing, shows the bike's steering and instrumentation in fine detail. Milestone has also perfected the look of wet surfaces, and racing in the rain looks impressive, although those rain-sodden surfaces feel more treacherous than ever. There are nice effects when racing at night, with headlights picking out details and casting shadows as you race, and the bright lights of Macau make the night race spectacular. Not only does it look good, it is difficult to discern any screen tears or stuttering. It all seems to run very smoothly. The audio is designed well too. The developers must be confident of the race sounds in the title as there is no background music during races, you're left just listening to sounds of multiple engines around you as you hurtle around the circuits.
If you are familiar with Milestone's other racing titles then you'll know what to expect with respect to playability. There's a myriad of settings and assists that make the game accessible to players of any level. Experts can switch everything off to provide a hardcore and quite challenging racing experience, controlling everything from the gear changes to the position of the rider on the bike. Physics can be switched between different modes, and there's even an assist to help you stay on the bike if you should stray from the track limits. For those learning the ropes, there's the possibility to rewind race moments, which is especially useful during wet races.
Racing has the player facing off against 11 AI riders. The game always places you eighth on the grid, so you'll have to fight your way past most of your competitors. In general, the AI race fairly and don't necessarily glue themselves to the racing line nor attempt to ride through you, although on lower settings the AI do display rider errors and can occasionally take you out. As with most racing games, entering turn one amidst a pack of racers is always a perilous affair.
Most of the racing will be done in the career mode, where the player has to progress through a series of tiers. Each tier has a number of stages, represented this time by magazines on a shelf, with each magazine containing a number of events that need to be completed to progress. Podium finishes are rewarded with a varying number of stars, which will eventually unlock the next tier in the career. It's a fairly familiar progression mechanism so there should be no surprises there.
There are various events, races, time trials and even drag races. In the early phases of the game, it's fairly easy to compete, however, not all events will be done the first time. Races can be quickly retried and happily, there's no reloading time, and you can almost instantly reset the race and start again. It's refreshing that you don't have to sit through additional load screens unless you decide to do some tweaking to your bike. Each race you do will earn you credits which can be spent either upgrading your ride or even purchasing a new one, and the upgrade system is more comprehensive than before, with just about every component being upgradable. Credits can also be used to purchase new racing outfits for your rider, which is not a bad idea as all of your opponents seem to be similarly clad most of the time. Personalization also goes further this time with the inclusion of the all-new livery editor. Players can now create complete liveries and paint jobs for their rides, and no doubt the online community will deliver some extremely creative and talented work.
Racing works well online too. During the review sessions, lobbies were rapidly filled. Hosts can determine various settings and voting is possible for both the bike class and circuit. Races can have a maximum of 12 players with AI replacing absentees if desired. There's no qualifying so grid position is always random. Whilst waiting in lobbies is inevitable, loading times were relatively quick and the actual racing experience was surprisingly lag-free. For those wishing for something less hectic, there are also weekly challenges available, putting your motorcycling prowess to the test.
Whilst the title is a clear step forward for the franchise, there remain a few little kinks in the actual game design that need to be sorted. The strangest occurs towards the end of races, with the notification 'Race Over' appearing on the screen. Unfortunately, it always appears early before any of the racers have actually crossed the line. It seems related to the percentage of the race completed, with it appearing at some circuits before the last corner, but on Nordschleife, it appears a good 20+ seconds before the race end. It's not a fatal issue, but it is confusing. Another example is when selecting quick races. The player can generally select the race conditions for each track but on Macau, for example, it's only ever possible to race at night on a wet circuit. Admittedly, none of these are game breakers, and can probably be fixed by a post-release patch. It's also a shame that there is no dynamic time transitions or weather transitions, which other racing titles have started to include, but maybe that's something for the next installment.
Achievements in the title are relatively straightforward. There are few linked to the career progress, and a small number linked to online. The good news is that just under half of the achievements are related to winning a race at each of the locations which can be done on any setting, so they are easily unlocked. There's nothing too difficult and completion of the base game can be done in 20-30 hours. However, it is worth noting that the DLC packs also include additional achievements. It's worth mentioning that, alongside the premium DLC, there will also be free DLC packs which will also include new bikes and events.Check out our Best Racing Games article for a compilation of other great games in this genre.
Other than a few minor bumps and quirks aside, there remains little to complain about in the latest installment in the Ride
franchise. Milestone has used its vast knowledge of motorcycling titles to build one of its best titles yet. The racing is as accessible as ever and remains welcoming to players of all levels. The growing confidence in the Unreal Engine brings improved presentation, graphics and physics, and when you throw into the mix that you now have more bikes, manufacturers, locations, and the new livery editor, it really feels like the most complete two-wheeled racing game we've seen in years.
- More bikes and circuits than ever before
- Extremely playable racing experience
- Increased personalization with the new livery editor
- Accessible to all levels of players
- Off-circuit graphics for environments could be improved
- Minor issues in UI and gameplay such as premature 'race over' indicator
The reviewer spent around 15 hours hurtling around various roads and circuits. 35 out of 50 achievements were unlocked during the course of the review. A code was provided by the publisher. The title was reviewed on a standard Xbox One.
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