“Milestone gave us the bike sim we wanted, but not the one we needed.”
Milestone have had a real resurgence in recent years with their strong MotoGP games, starting in 2013. So, expanding upon this, they released their brand new bike IP, RIDE, released on Xbox 360, PS3, Xbox One, PS4 and PC. This is the first real bike simulator to hit the mainstream market since the famous “Tourist Trophy” from Sony and Polyphony, the makes of the Gran Turismo series, back in 2006. Does this new IP from Milestone capture the imagination of its spiritual predecessor? Well, yes and no.
First up, let’s tackle the graphical performance of the game. It’s not great. Graphically, the game is far from terrible, but I feel Milestone took the wrong decision in making this game for the Xbox 360 and PS3. In a year with 2 games being made, I feel like making the game for the current and previous gen games did more harm than good. The game doesn’t really stretch the next-gen consoles graphical power, and the game can not play at a constant 30 frames per second if there’s more than one bike in the vicinity. In 2015, this is just unacceptable. I know I sound like TotalBiscuit to bring this up, but if you can’t even run a constant 30, that’s just not good enough, and it’s a real shame because it is noticeable and it does hurt the experience. A bigger shame given you can have 16 bikes on track, compared to Tourist Trophy’s 4.
The roster itself is nice, but with some problems. There’s over 100 bikes in the game, from other a dozen manufacturers, a healthy number, more than Tourist Trophy had, and there’s some beautiful modern day bikes in there, like the Ducati Panigale and the brand new Yamaha R1M available as DLC, as well as some classics from yesteryear, like the Honda NR750, Ducati 998 and a wide range of naked bikes, monster’s, Supersports, and some really cool Endurance Racing bikes as seen in real life, but it suffers a problem that Gran Turismo has had in its line-ups before – repetition.
GT bragged about its massive rosters, but then, you had 5 versions of the same Nissan Skyline to bloat the numbers up, and as a result, has bikes you’d never actually use. Why is there 3 versions of the same MV Augusta, and for practically the same price, making the slightly less powerful versions completely useless? As much as I love the Panigale, I don’t need that, the Superleggera AND the Racing Version. What’s the point? A bit silly, and surely counter-productive if you want players to play most of the roster.
And the track selection is really thin too, just barely a half dozen road and track courses each. It’s nice that RIDE went outside the box in terms of real life courses, like Donington, Imola and Road America, tracks you don’t normally see in racing games, but when the selection is so limited, it’s very quick to get bored of your surroundings, as pretty as they appear on first glance.
How is RIDE to actually, y’know, ride though? Pretty good. It’s very similar to the MotoGP 15 handling model we got a handful of months later, and that’s far from a bad thing. Bikes feel weighty, but controllable with a good level of difficulty curve and skill, with or without assists, and the AI doesn’t run each other wheel to wheel like they do in said MotoGP franchise, again a good thing. As said, a shame racing against the AI as I said earlier, isn’t as nice as it should be, because of the frame rate drops when they’re on screen.
Most of your time will be spent in the game’s World Tour mode, where you create a rider, and rise through a virtual ranking board to be the best street rider in the world. The look of your rider is really limited in terms of physical nature, some of the skin tone choices are
terrible, and seriously, how many black guys do you see with spiky hair? However, I do applaud RIDE for two aspects of this, one, the fact you can play as a
female character, and the level of depth you can give to your rider’s riding style, an awesome touch, and a nice excuse to try and be a Jamaican version of Jorge Lorenzo.
This game however, also suffers from the most obvious of Milestone game issues, CHRONIC loading times. Seriously, the average race will take 45 seconds to a minute to load. WHY?! Especially when the game’s on the hard-drive already? Unacceptable and excruciating at times. Not to mention, the same timing glitch issues that Milestone has, where they’re unable to time themselves to within 0.016 of a second, and glitches where some drag events are literally impossible to win, and Championship events that reward you on the final race placing, as opposed to the entire Championship. Welp.
Just one problem, on the whole, World Tour mode is lazily put together. There’s a wide variety of disciplines, but the mode has again, taken a page from Gran Turismo and that has some drawbacks. For example, there’s a very big range of disciplines, and that’s nice, but it’s extremely repetitive, money is very easy to grind for, and you can upgrade your bike so much that it can completely break any sense of challenge that the game provides, a problem GT6 also had.
As much as the achievement list rewards you for it, there really isn’t a big emphasis on bike collecting, when you only need one or two per category to clean a section out. There’s some special races in there to unlock a handful of bikes, and there’s a half decent bit of variety to it, like drag races, team races, overtaking track-days and chase-down events, but on the whole, the World Tour feels more like a grind than something legitimately rewarding to play. Luckily, the bikes themselves are fun to play with, which is just about enough to keep you going, alongside the small amounts of upgrades and appearance options, like custom chains, mirrors and grips, etc. The leathers and helmets for your rider are pretty nice too.
The game also has up to 12 player online support, and for the most part, it’s fine. The netcode is solid, there wasn’t any major lag issues, and the matchmaking, while a little lacking, works well enough. Like other Milestone games, the pool of players playing is small, but from a technical standpoint, the game holds up okay online.
Overall, RIDE reminds me so much of F1 2015, a game with a ton of lost potential. At its very core, it shines, and is an enjoyable game to play, with a good variety of bikes and rider detail. But it’s only “decent” as an overall video game. It’s World Tour is a counter-productive grind, there just isn’t enough tracks, and the game’s overall sluggish performance holds it back from me being able to recommend it. Me personally? I would say to only buy this game if you’re a hardcore racing game fan, or a hardcore biking fan. Otherwise, there won’t be enough to keep you busy for long. Milestone gave is the bike sim we wanted, but not the one we needed.