The racing physics in Unbounded are solid, as long as you don’t expect any sort of realism. The control is tight, and successful drifting is easy to pull off. While there are many things you can run into that will stop you in your tracks, most objects on or off to the side of the track can be smashed through without issue. Trees in the middle of the road? No problem. A concrete pillar in front of the bank? Ditto.
Sometimes, objects you run into can affect other racers, although that sort of gameplay isn’t a major focus. The biggest destruction detriment to other racers are explosive trucks found throughout most of the races. If you’re boost is full, you’ll be able to ram these and virtually take out any racers within a close radius. Death doesn’t mean the race is over for that particular racer, but it does mean they lose precious seconds.
A major complaint I have with most Need for Speed titles is that there’s an obvious “rubberband effect”. That effect means that no matter how far ahead you can get from other racers, the game gives them a boost to help keep things competitive right until the very end. This is hardly ideal, as it makes any race feel a little pointless, and gives you the opportunity to lose within the last few seconds of the race even if you had a perfect run up until that point. Fortunately, I’ve noticed no such issue with Unbounded.
There might be a reason for that: the game is difficult. Unbounded is one of the few racing games where I didn’t beat the initial race on the first try, and in all of the races I’ve completed, I don’t think I’ve ever been more than eight seconds ahead of #2. More often than not, I win races a mere 2-3 seconds ahead of the person behind me. This is the kind of difficulty I appreciate, as unlike the “rubberband effect”, it actually feels genuine.
To win races, you’ll need to take advantage of your boost, or “power” as the game calls it. This is similar to nitrous, but it allows you to take out opponents or smash through certain buildings (clearly marked). Power can help you overtake an opponent when the opportunity arises and allows you to take important shortcuts. Power alone won’t win races for you – but learning the best time to use it can.
While Need for Speed is packed with big-name autos, Ridge Racer never has been. Instead, we are treated to a variety of faux manufacturers and models that generally resemble real-world counterparts. For some, this might be off-putting, but the fact of the matter is, Ridge Racer is not a realistic game, so the faux cars do fit in well (plus, I might cry if I was expected to drive an FXX through a concrete pillar).
In addition to the quest mode, there’s also online play. You are able to play any mode or track online, and even create your own tracks for use online. If you’re not much of a multi-player gamer, you’re still able to go on and play a set of different user-modded tracks each day, and if you manage to beat the set time, you’ll be awarded with a Domination point (used for nothing more than bragging rights, unless the developers have future plans for them).
A common issue with racing games ported to the PC is that the online community is usually very small. There’s no exception to the rule here, so the best chance of finding a good multi-player race will depend on whether a friend owns the game. In the couple of MP races I did partake in, lag was virtually nonexistent.
The graphics in Unbounded are quite good. The city is full of eye candy, and for the most part it feels like a real city. Things can become bland after a little while when you realize the differences between districts are not great, but Shatter Bay is most definitely a fun city to race through.
The audio is also suitable, but like the gameplay itself, don’t expect realism. To help keep you pumped up during the race, the music score includes different varieties of electronic music that perfectly suits the game. The soundtrack list is rather small, however, so you will hear the same songs over and over as time goes on.
Whenever you’re bored with racing, there’s still fun to be had, thanks to the level editor. With this, you’re able to mix and match various portions of all districts, place them down how you want, and then add in other variables such as explosive trucks or ramps. Unfortunately, due to the “budget’ that exists, there are limits to the tracks you can create, but overall the editor is very flexible. Once built, you can take the race online, or simply fool around in it solo.
To help wrap things up, Ridge Racer Unbounded is one of the best racing titles I’ve played in a while. It’s not like most other racers, and that works to its advantage. It’s a game for those who don’t take racing all too seriously and just want to have fun blasting through cities in ways only Hollywood can deliver. Still not sure if it’s for you? Be sure to check out the YouTube video posted on the first page of the review!
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