Platforms - PS3, X360, PC
Genre - Racing
Aust. Classification – PG
Publisher - Namco Bandai
If memory serves me correctly this is the first Ridge Racer I have played on the PS3. I recall playing it recently on the 3DS and not having many good memories from the other consoles. But one thing will never change - I will always have fond memories of the arcades and the side by side coin sucking racing it had to offer.
The location setting for this game is a fictional city called Shatter Bay (founded by Capt. William Shatter, lol) and all its municipalities. By night and as shown in its panoramic glory from afar at the loading screen, this city bears the resemblance to a number of near future/fantasy type cities found in movies like The Crow or Batman. Maybe it's the mist and the way the buxom, leather clad woman is crouched high above the city doing her best superhero stance. It's this theme of "dark and broody" that adds extra cool points and it certainly commanded my initial interest. But unlike NFS: The Run there is no story attached, just an opening cutscene to set the scene.
Once getting down the business my Arcade driving instincts kicked in, helped by the next to no learning curve, and I could get down to some serious Arcade Racer fun. And that is exactly what I received. Right from the start I was impressed and greeted with destructive environments, smashing into walls and pylons etc. Watching as they crumble beneath the weight of the car defying all forms of physics and turning up the enjoyment at the same time. This concept is then taken one step further, actually charging the boost gauge by drifting and getting air etc and then being able to torpedo through even tougher walls, through Tanker trucks, over bridges and many other cool slow mo events called Fragging. No - I didn't replace a curse word there. Then I was made aware that I could use my new power for evil and along with the specific environmental targets to open up a new path/shortcut I could use it to Frag up competitors vehicles as well.
Visually this game looks the best at night where the Frag boost looks stunning, especially when the other cars in front use it, giving off a red incandescent glow streaking behind like a trail of what once was and again reminding me of other superhero cars that use the same effect for going really fast. Occassionally the speed of the car in front did not reflect the actual effect it portrays, the same way it does when it is performed yourself. Because the campaign starts out mostly set at night, when a day track does kick in it comes as a bit of a shock to the system. So after going to put my sunnies on, I came back and settled into racing once again. Even though I loved the night setting most, sunset/sunrise sections are almost as good.
Unfortunately there are also some frustrating moments where one slight mistake/frag costs you the place in the pack. Two mistakes/frags and and you might as well restart. Thankfully there is not loading time for this process. I found there were some other issues that didn't help this situation either. The insistance of using similar coloured landscapes and backgrounds muddles the clarity, and on occasion makes turns and obstacles around 500 meters or so in front hard to distinguish, interfering and confusing your instincts. And competition cars' AI is definitely biased. For example, I would run a competitor into a brick wall but miraculously they were there two seconds later trying to take me over again!
With a plethora of districts and tracks within them, this game has plenty of single player content to keep you amused for quite a while. I did feel a few of them were too similar looking though. The Race modes vary from standard races (Domination) to destruction derby type Frag attack modes that are even more fun in a big rig truck. Unlike other Ridge Racer games I have played, your car actually takes damage here and so does the opposition. A damage meter, conveniently floats above the car. The most damage is done by Fragging them up the rear (....and to the side as well) but if you smack into them hard enough that can work as well, it just takes a lot longer.
Leveling up is determined on the points you earn within each race gaining additional points for sending opposition into flips and spins. Almost every car handles really well once adjusting to the different nuances of better/worse drifting, handling, acceleration etc. Dominating races and scoring points all accumulate to unlock more cars, tracks, municipalities and content that can be used in the creation section.
There is plenty on offer here to keep players occupied and coming back for more with the online section of course and an excellent easy to use creation tool where you are given all the tools (along with plenty of content to unlock) to create your own track within the same event varieties as the single player and then post it online for others to play. The online mode was a little bit hard to figure out at first glance as it just looked like just an extension of the single player with no competition with other players and in part that is essentially about a third of the experience. Let me elaborate; part of the online is a series of challenges that expire and change, only given either 24, 6 or 1 hour/s to complete the events within each challenge, after that a whole new series of events appear and the chance to dominate the challenge is lost.
One great feature was that you could add these tracks to a favourites list and there was one event in particular I could play continuously and that was called GR Evenement and this was just purely for the most jaw-dropping aerial acrobatics and absolute destruction I have seen in this kind of game. I think being in control of a Police car just made it all the more ridiculous, but this alone has to be my most memorable moment from all the racing games I have played over the last few years. The second part of the online is playing other peoples creations, while the third is racing against other players from around the world in a solid Multiplayer section.
Unbounded is a great, fast, exciting racer in a similar vein to the other excellent Arcade Racer; Burnout. With very few flaws and a truly unique online experience, this game puts the Ridge Racer name back on the map. It's one that all arcade racing fans should own. Ridge Racer fanatics beware, the game has evolved and you may not like the changes but it would be a shame to write the game off for things that I consider an excellent leap forward and made this gamer feel very warm inside.For the final score and more, go to Maceman Reviews