Previews// Ridge Racer: Unbounded

Posted 6 Sep 2011 15:15 by
There?s a bizarre sense of give and take with Namco Bandai?s upcoming Ridge Racer reboot, Unbounded. On the one hand, you?re racing in a seemingly indestructible sports car, smashing through concrete pillars without so much as making a dent on the bonnet. And yet, to truly create chaos on the track, you have to build up a drift bar for ages while getting overtaken by your rivals.

That?s hardly Unbounded, as the name of the game suggests. In fact it sounds totally Bounded. Semantics aside however, Bugbear?s urban take on Ridge Racer is a clear attempt at matching the on-track excitement of Burnout with the environmental mayhem of Split/Second. And while it looks great to watch, it?s slightly less enthralling to actually play.

In the early build that I played, you zoomed around a populated city stage for two laps, feeling quite naked and vulnerable as you try to overtake your rivals for pole position. There?s no real HUD to speak of besides the Power bar and Position that sit in the corners of the screen - your score, lap information and other details are lettered across buildings and other structures in the distance in a pseudo-augmented reality style presentation.

Gaining speed without hitting things will give you the best opportunity to overtake your rivals, but if you just focus on that then you?re missing out on the key focus of the game - The Power (yes, that?s really its name). Using The Power, you can crash through pre-determined targets and access a shortcut to get ahead of the pack.

Here?s the kicker though. You need to build up the bar in the corner of the screen to maximum capacity before you can even consider using The Power. Otherwise, The Power is just too much for you. No, of course you can?t just use a little bit for a turbo boost. Without a full bar, you can?t handle The Power! You build up The Power by either slipstreaming, drifting or hitting rival cars and destroying them in a Burnout-style Takedown.

Engaging in any three of these activities isn?t exactly exciting, it has to be said. It certainly doesn?t make for a poor experience mind, but it?s not the 100 per cent thrill ride that Namco Bandai wants it to be. The aforementioned problem of cars overtaking you on a regular basis means that you won?t want to take risks on the track by drifting, which is the best method of quickly filling up the Power bar. Seems a bit counter-productive really.

Once you do activate The Power, you get a speed boost that lasts for about two seconds, and depletes your entire bar in the process. It doesn?t really last long enough to catch up to your rivals if you?ve spent half a lap drifting to build the meter up in the first place. Destructible targets are easily marked, but if you?re not careful you can launch into Power too early and run out of juice just before you hit the wall of explosive canisters - meaning a messy end and respawn for your clumsy ass.

Get the hang of things though, and you can blow through these walls with no problem. The presentation on the environmental destruction - and in fact, the cars and track itself - is fantastic, making for a few seconds of thrill before landing back on the main track and having to plod through the process of building that bar back up again. It doesn?t help that these destructible areas don?t actually make for very effective shortcuts.

There?s still a long way to go before Ridge Racer Unbounded hits the shelves, so I?m hoping that these issues will go away or become insignificant later down the development line. It?s not a game beyond saving - it certainly handles well and is a competent racer as it stands right now, but it just doesn?t feel very exciting to play.

If Namco Bandai doesn?t want this to be just another hollow racer with the added bonus of the odd scripted destructive scene then Bugbear has a bit of work to do.

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Cfan 6 Sep 2011 14:51
urgh, just want normal Ridge Racer back. failing that, how about a HD RR Type 4?
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