Not the traditional Ridge Racer we remember, but a fun racer nonetheless
Ridge Racer: Unbounded has completely changed the Ridge Racer series. While this Burnout-inspired game might seem disloyal to the drift-heavy experience offered by its predecessors, it's actually a surprisingly entertaining and refreshing reboot for a series that has arguably lost a bit of its excitement. The addictive nature of its drifting mechanics remain, alongside a deeper racer experience that rewards destruction, take-downs and shortcuts. Can Ridge Racer fans still appreciate what the changes have to offer, or is this just a Burnout wannabe?
What Ridge Racer: Unbounded Got Right
Takedown System - Drifting is still very much part of Unbounded, despite an obvious focus on takedowns and destruction. Cards handle superbly and fluidly without being too easy to control, with a refined turning system that is especially reliant on a perfected balance between the handbrake and acceleration. Ridge Racer fans will certainly feel at home in that regard.
Most impressive about Unbounded's handling is that corners must now be approached far more tactically, as over or under-steering can result in a crash or spin-out. Pull off a drift perfectly, though, and you'll be rewarded with boost, the game's primary and most satisfying weapon. It is in the game's boost that you can perform a destructive takedown of competing racers, which contributes to your overall score and unlocks new competitions and maps. It makes for a rewarding and deep gameplay mechanic that encourages destruction as much as it does boosting, offering a perfect blend of traditional Ridge Racer mechanics with others that are new to the series.
Rewarding Destructive Gameplay - When you do manage to takedown an opponent, it's satisfying and refreshing. The events in Domination (rewards destruction), Shindo (rewards racing skill), Drift Attacks (self-explanatory) and Frag Attacks (rewards smashing opponents into walls) all rely on destructive gameplay in order for you to be the dominant racer. Whereas Ridge Racer games in the past relied almost exclusively on your ability to drift, Unbounded takes it a step further by rewarding your destruction, which makes for very satisfying gameplay.
Interesting And Competitive Online - Using the game's track editor, which unfortunately isn't that flash, you can set markers for events around areas and send out challenges to players from around the world to beat your times and scores. There's also the option to compete in online races, and combined with the challenge aspect, certainly makes for a fun if secondary multiplayer experience.
Great Variety Of Cars - While not licensed, Unbounded offers just as much raw power and speed as other games in the Ridge Racer series. Cars vary by size, max speed and design, and while many might look similar, they are really anything but: choosing and perfecting a car is integral to success, and Unbounded certainly invites you to mix up your garage and try out a number of different vehicles. Some are heavy and are therefore more suited to Domination events, while the lighter cars might be perfect for a zippy race in a Shindo event.
What Ridge Racer: Unbounded Got Right
Track Editor Is A Mess - What seemed like a promising inclusion has actually turned out to be the game's most disappointing feature. If you do actually manage to look past the awful camera and confusing tools you can certainly add to what is already a robust collection of tracks. Unfortunately it's just all a little too tedious to use, which is disappointing considering the final outcome.
The Final Verdict
Ridge Racer: Unbounded is a surprisingly fun game and not at all the disloyal service to the series many of us expected. The destructive aspects compliment the drifting mechanics we've all come to love from the series, and with refined racing controls, great tracks and a wide variety of vehicles, Unbounded should certainly appeal to the arcade racer fan.