This might look like an arcade game in the screenshots, but it's a simulator. Possibly the most accurate one we've ever played, in that it authentically replicates the automotive-flavoured tedium of a seemingly endless motorway journey. The only thing missing is the bit where you prod the top of your mouth with your tongue to dislodge stringy bits of flesh that have been seared loose by a service station pasty. One for the sequel, perhaps.
Ridge Racer Unbounded proves that simply going very fast isn't enough to create excitement. In single-player mode, Shatter Bay offers up some of the most identity-devoid circuits we've ever seen in a racing game. Blocks upon blocks of unremarkable roadways make up a campaign that couldn't be less memorable if it wrenched open your skull and took a chisel to your hippocampus as you played.
Thrills are supposed to come from the destruction, but there's little feeling of wayward carnage here. Instead, you're only able to wreak havoc within certain, strict parameters, like a bull presented with a single china tea set. Meaningful damage can only be caused when you're boosting. There's no real skill involved, with the drift button making filling the bar as easy as rounding a corner. Once you're charged up, applying even the most minor shunt to another vehicle turns it into tumbling wreckage, and destructible shortcuts are both clearly picked out and only occasionally beneficial.
As soon as the red contrails disappear, cars become bolted to the asphalt again and the walls that you could previously gleefully smash through turn back into unyielding obstacles. Of course, the boost system cuts both ways - you'll also find your own car obliterated by arbitrary nudges from other boosting racers, which is an utterly deflating experience.
It's strange, then, that such an uninspiring racer has been blessed with such a flexible track editor. Unbounded's track creation tool digs deeper than anyone could reasonably expect, allowing you to place blocks of roadway, and then decorate them meticulously with ramps, explosives and obstacles as you see fit. Heading online allows you to negotiate other players' cities, made up of a selection of their custom circuits. It's an undeniably well thought out addition.
The problem is that such a brilliant editor just makes you wish it resided in a better racing game. But it doesn't. It resides in Ridge Racer Unbounded - a title that invites unfavourable comparisons with Burnout and, in spite of the high-profile name, is somehow less characterful and entertaining than Bugbear's own FlatOut series. Sadly, in spite of the wealth of content that'll be created by players attempting to squeeze some entertainment from this forgettable racer, it's simply not worth buying the game to see it.
Its mediocrity knows no bounds
- Impressive editor
- Objectively pretty
- Simplistic boost mechanic
- Courses are indistinct
- Dull handling