It’s been a bit of a troubling time for the humble bike racer in recent years. After the infamous Tourist Trophy dropped on Playstation 2 back in 2006, on consoles, we’ve not had very many bike racers outside of the MotoGP games by Capcom, and now Milestone, who bought the license for the sport in 2012. In 2015, they decided to expand upon this by release “Ride”, a bike simulator, forged in the “Gran Turismo-esque”, world, but with bikes, instead of cars.

It was met with a decent reception, scoring 66 on Metacritic. In this player’s eyes, it had a solid handling model, and the gameplay was enjoyable, but the game was far too repetitive, it was underwhelming from a graphical and technical standpoint with a frame rate all over the place, and horrendous loading times. But despite its flaws, I did keep coming back because the core gameplay was fun enough to return to on occasion.

So, in October of 2016, Milestone released their sequel, “Ride 2”, and this is where we’re at now. How does it hold up as a racer? Is it better than the original? Well, let’s find out together!

The first impressions were… interesting. A corny voiceover talking about the passion of riding bikes, and the pretty generic creation of a rider and whatnot. Again, like the first game props to Milestone for having the option to be a man or a woman, something basic that many games still tend to ignore.

Visually, Ride 2 is a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to presentation. The game’s main menu ism consisted of rolling camera shots around a fancy looking garage with an obnoxious “RIDE” logo in big bold letters The most important visuals I could argue, are the bikes themselves, and they are lovely. Well detailed, rendered nicely, and with a nice bunch of customisable options, similar to the first.

As for the environments, they seem to suffer from that almost typical Milestone mediocrity. Even on PC, let alone Xbox One (The version I’m playing), the renders of the environments and the tracks just aren’t particularly special and don’t stretch the capabilities of the current-gen consoles. The frame rate as well on console is locked to 30 frames per second, and while there aren’t as many frame rate drops compared to the first game when there are multiple bikes in the same shot, there is still some on occasion, and in a world where again, Forza and F1 can run smoothly at 60, Ride 2 is just a bad look by comparison.

Now, I can understand that’s to be expected, Milestone aren’t Turn 10 or Codemasters, but it seems to be a recurring trend in their games that from a technical standpoint, they just don’t hold up as well as other competitors games and this has been a pattern going back to their MotoGP license purchase with bike games in particular. And with no direct competition in this space, it’s an understandable yet disappointing move to fail to see Milestone really push themselves, like their resources are stretched enough as it is.

Further proof of that is seen in the game’s track selection. Props to Milestone for taking the count up to 30, double the amount of the slim-pickings original, but some of those new additions just aren’t appealing to look at. Again, props to having the Nürburgring Nordschleife in the game, but compared to other developers that have laser-scanned the environment, it just looks dull.

On the plus side, though, when you throw in the fact it’s only the 2nd bike game in the last decade to have it, it presents new difficulties and challenges you won’t get on 4 wheels. Not to mention, other Road Racing staples like Ulster and the North West 200 make their Ride debuts, and they are just as challenging as the real thing. Ulster with its ultra thin roads and ridiculous undulations, and the NW200’s breakneck stop-start 200mph speed. Without a doubt for me, the best new additions to the series overall.

Another definite improvement worth a mention is that the engine sounds overall from the bikes are excellent and distinctive across the board. Little things like hearing the supercharger riff from the Kawasaki Ninja H2R are great and really helps with the presentation.

Ride 2’s roster is the biggest ever seen in a biking game, with other 190 on tap to choose from, from 18 different manufacturers, including the brand new revolutionary Kawasaki Ninja H2R, to a fleet of real and imagined concept bikes of the World Endurance Championship, to Guy Martin’s Triumph 675R and multiple bikes from the British Superbike Championship, so if you’re a proper bike racing fan, you’ll like some of the options here. Supermoto is a nice new addition to the franchise too, although I fear they missed a trick on now having the Rossi ranch slotted in from his own game.

Unfortunately, there is a similar level of stat-padding from Milestone with a lot of repeat similar models of the same bike. I’ve since purchased a lot of the DLC that’s come with the game (more on that later), and there’s four separate, and modern, Aprilia RSV4’s… Why? It seems unnecessary as most fans logically have no reason to own more than one, and there isn’t a massive reason to collect bikes en masse.

Also, it’s concerning that there are no real older bikes like Milestone had in their Ducati tribute game. The oldest standard bike in the game is from the Mid 80’s. Even Ducati World in the Dreamcast and PS1 had bikes from the 50’s in there, even if they were a bitch to use. However, I do applaud Milestone’s support of the game with a ton of DLC bikes being added… even if even that’s got problems, too. I’ve always hated Season Passes for video games, but a lot of the DLC for RIDE 2 is simply bikes from the first game making another appearance. Charging the best part of a fiver for a pack of bikes where 3-4 are going to be repeated if you bought the original, is kinda sleazy, even if there’s going to be 18 free bikes sprinkled in until the summer.

The biggest positive about Ride 2 though, is the handling model. It’s superb. Maybe even the best they’ve put together for any of their racing games. It’s incredibly response, it’s intuitive, and it’s very fun to play. The original had an overwhelming amount of understeer for corners and that made the game less fun, but here, there’s a much greater sense of satisfaction when you know you’ve nailed an apex. I “zoned out” and was basically on autopilot at times playing this, because it’s so much more fun.

The game isn’t a pushover with its physics model either. The more powerful bikes definitely require a much greater level of finesse, even on some of the more forgiving difficulty settings like traction control. If you get it wrong, you’ll soon know about it. And this game can be as easy or as hard as you want it to be, the game provides a really genuine challenge if you crank the AI up to the maximum, and run without assists. I do still find it puzzling though that you can make contact with riders and it’s fine, but they’ve become a LOT harsher on corner cutting. Although I fear, they’ve spread the 12 bike fields out a little more as to lessen the frame rate issues from the first RIDE.

The game itself has been re-done. The headlining mode is the new “World Tour”, a series of events split up into four categories, “Urban Style”, “Street Icons”, “Hyper Sport” and “Pro Racing”, and each section has events in three difficulties, resulting in between 20-35 races each. It’s not linear, as long as you have an eligible bike, you’re good to go. After every 8 events, you get invited to an “Invitational Event”, where you can earn bonus credits and extra bikes.

In each block, there’s a return of the usual formats, including pair races, time attack, passing demonstrations and 1-on-1 duels, but there’s also a new precision challenge wherein autocross style, you’re dodging cones and trying to blend speed, with accuracy.

There’s also a greater emphasis on hiring AI riders on your “team” with 4-on-4 gang style races, to climb a separate ranking ladder, on specific bikes, like Supermoto, or Italian Superbikes.

Overall, it’s not bad and there’s plenty to keep you going, especially with Championships unlocked with a certain amount of wins at a particular difficulty, but I felt the whole thing was a little repetitive, and for the world tour events, there was only really restrictions on one of the small, 5 classes of bike, and the new performance rating system they lifted out of Forza Motorsport. It did get a little stale, but the solid gameplay kept me coming back, a lot like the first game.

I’d talk more about Online, but no-one plays Milestone games online, so even getting online content was difficult. From the small amount I played it, it was fine. Netcode was decent enough, just hard to get a true read on it because I never got a lobby of more than three people.

Overall, Ride 2 is a good game, despite its flaws that stem from the pipeline that created it. It reeks of passion and love for bikes, and that’s a great thing, and the core game is massively better than the original, but the game lacks that big developer polish that something like Driveclub Bikes has managed in the past. Combine those two major elements, and you’d have one hell of a game here. There’s an amazing racer bursting to come out of the seems, but the same old Milestone issues hold it back.

However, this is the best Milestone game of 2016, and probably their best since MotoGP 15’. I just wish Milestone would stop making the same mistakes and really push to produce something truly special. Shit, I think I’m in Groundhog Day…

The Ride 2 Dreview video will be up early next week. You’re gonna have to wait for the score, because I am evil. Ha!