Ask some people and they will tell you that there is nothing equal to wrapping you thighs around a hulking beast, hanging on with all your might, feeling the vibrations and sensation through your body as the sheer power and pleasure drives you to the edge ecstasy. Yes, nothing beats a good ride, nothing. Get your mind out of the gutter, I’m talking machines, motorcycles to be exact. Milestone S.r.l. obviously agrees with the notion that the experience of riding is unmatched, after all they have been creating bike games for over fifteen years now and considering that one would presume that they know how to represent the sport perfectly. Known particularly for their SBK and Moto GP series, Milestone have finally decided with the introduction of Ride, that a motorcycle game can finally leave the racing license scene and enjoy freedom, the freedom that bike ownership delivers.
To put it simply Ride is perhaps the motorcycle equivalent to what Gran Turismo or Forza is for car racing. You begin with the choice of three bikes to choose from, each costing and performing marginally different. These bikes are pretty much entry level naked bikes that are low on performance and choosing one can be due to brand favouritism or simply what looks best due to left over cash being able to pimp performance with mods making either bike competitive in their class. I chose the Triumph Street Triple as it had slightly better ratings than the others, I also favoured the meaner looks that the Triumph provided. Now that you have your first ride you customise your rider with quite limited options but more open as you progress. Now it’s time to straddle your beast and kick some butt!
World Tour is the main game for solo players and here you are introduced to different brackets of events that are differentiated by class, age and power. There are plenty of events on offer here and thankfully the variation is quite good. Entering the Naked class opens sub classes for different cylinder bikes and power and weight restrictions. Needing different bikes to partake in these class events drives you to buy new rides and I found myself mixing makes and models more rapidly than I would in most racing titles. Winning races gains you money in which to upgrade your bike or to purchase new rides, performance also grants a reputation rating which allows you to climb through the world leader board and eventually enter Elite races which unlock some extremely nice bikes. The events are made from standard races, time trials which have a target time to beat, head to head races where you need to catch and pass a specific opponent in a time allotment and drag races.
There are fifteen different tracks on which to race which are set all around the globe. Seven of these are Grand Prix tracks and unfortunately Phillip Island is not included nor is any track set in Australia. I actually would have been keen to see a time trial race set on the Great Ocean Road which is renowned among Aussie riders as one of the best stretches of road for bikes. Another noticeable miss is the Isle of Man. Presumably this is due to licensing issues but it would have been a welcome addition due to the notoriety of the race. Each track has a few variations and the back drops and styles all vary well giving a distinct feel to each. However the lack of atmosphere is impossible to ignore. No crowds seems weird but if these races were perhaps somewhat illegal the addition of wildlife would have been nice or different time or weather settings. The lack of any of these detracts from the overall feel game, especially when compared to most modern racers.
The handling and physics however is a different story. Strangely Milestone implemented full arcade settings with every assist imaginable turned on when beginning without altering settings. In doing this it is near impossible to fall of your bike and the controls feel so sterile it is close to boring. Thankfully there is an abundance of assists to play with and in turning these off the riding feels extremely realistic. The rider shifts weight in the saddle to execute tighter, faster turns and wheel spin, under steer and over steer is apparent. Things shift from boring to exhilarating quickly. Doing this does make the possibility of falling off, over shooting corners and smashing into walls probable but it also gives you freedom to push limits and better your times by a huge margin. The physics are extremely close to real life riding and holding on through a sharp fast corner and accelerating out, back wheel skipping out as you shift weight battling to control yet keep speed is a brilliant feeling. If you do make an error it is not all doom and gloom, there is a rewind function that can be used a number of times each race. Time this well though, you can end up in bad situations as the rewind is short.
There are a few downsides other than the atmosphere of tracks here though. Whilst there is a huge range of bikes available with over 115 included, the lack of more classics and even a cruiser range including the likes of Indian and Harley Davidson would have been appreciated. Also the customisation of bikes is a little basic and pimping them right out is too easy to attain. Whilst the bikes look great Ride is not an overly pretty looking game especially compared to new gen racers and the loading times are ridiculously long. Online racing works well but be prepared for plenty of European and Asian opponents.
Overall Ride felt like it wanted to compete with the big boys of racing, only with two less wheels. For the most part it does by offering plenty of bikes, race modes and locations. The physics with the assists turned off is simply amazing and the feeling can be brilliant. However the long load times, subpar graphics and sterile environments detract from the game. This did not deter me though and once you climb through the classes to the big bikes things get really fun. If you are looking for a different racer or you’re a bike fan than I believe Ride is your answer and recommend you saddle up.
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