Ubisoft has recently released Riders Republic a “totally rad” open world, extreme sports game, the spiritual successor to their previous extreme sports title Steep. While Steep had its moments and was relatively well-received, it was ultimately forgettable. Can Riders Republic build on the solid foundation of Steep and even surpass it?
The answer is a resounding yes.
When the game starts, you are initially put into a few hand-holding type scenarios where you are introduced to the mechanics of the game and although that is typical for just about any game these days, it is very much needed for Riders Republic.
The scripting of the tutorials however seems to have been an in-joke that went too far. The script is toe-curlingly cringeworthy and sounds like how a 50-year-old imagines extreme sports enthusiasts to speak. It’s so bad it’s actually entertaining. However, after the (admittedly lengthy) tutorials, you are very much on your own. Depending on how you look at it, this is either the game’s biggest strength or its biggest weakness.
In Riders Republic choose your ride
There is so much going on in this game, it can be overwhelming at first. You can choose to cycle your BMX, glide in your wingsuit, fly with your rocket pack or ski on your… erm… ski, across the massive (and I mean massive) map to get to any number of your challenges, to complete them however you see fit.
Changing from one mode of transport to another can be done with the push of a button at any time and feels remarkably intuitive. One moment you could be slaloming down a snowy mountainside, only to change instantaneously into a rocket pack and speed skywards back to the peak to start a bike race. It makes no sense but that’s more than half the fun. The scale of the map is huge but because of the various options of how to get from point A to point B, it never feels like a chore and there is always something to see.
As mentioned, there are a plethora of different races and challenges to complete, meaning that there is always something to do. The game never takes itself too seriously and you are just as likely to be piloting a rocket sled dressed as a giraffe across a Nevada styled desert as you would be BMXing across a forest.
So much available at your fingertips
A neat little feature is that on your map you will notice that there are hundreds of other real-life players populating the courses. These people are not all online though, but rather a ghost image of their performances in races has been kept and it will be mostly those replays that you will be competing against. This is a godsend when it comes to multiplayer racing games, as there will never be any waiting times in lobbies as you have a constant backlog of racers ready to go at any time.
There are also Mass Races that happen sporadically throughout your playtime, where you are told to meet at a certain point in the map. This is a massive 64 player race which is just as chaotic as it sounds. It is mayhem and carnage but in the best possible way.
The controls are refreshingly basic and have a definite arcade feel which compliments the overall aesthetic of the game. That’s not to say that you will have the game mastered any time soon after beginning. There is plenty to learn if you want to perfect every trick and jump and being able to recognise the timing needed for each move. Even the newly converted to this type of genre will be able to pull off enough “gnarly” moves to keep them hooked.
Again, you are given the freedom to complete these challenges at your leisure and in any order that you wish and the lack of any cohesive structure to the gameplay may put some players off. Everything you do in the game, whether it be exploring the terrain or completing a stunt track adds to your progression and earns you in-game currency that you can trade for customising your character which has an impressive but unintrusive array of options. As with all games, you can choose to use real money to buy your favourite unicorn skin, but most players will be able to rustle up the needed in-game currency by completing missions.
A little rough around the edges
The graphics on the PS5 are what you would expect from a current-gen title. It looks crisp, there is the right amount of detail in the backgrounds and the animations are perfectly adequate. Where it stands out (and falls) is the sense of speed that the game gives you.
It is an extremely ambitious game and sometimes it pushes the boundary of its capabilities a little too much which results in pop-ins and framerate issues. It would be unrealistic to expect that a 64-player multiplayer race to have no glitching or slow down, but if that is the case, perhaps Ubisoft would have been better to pay heed to the limitations of their technology.
But that is nitpicking. Ubisoft has taken the extreme sports genre which has been lying dormant for the best part of a decade and rejuvenated it with a great title. Is it perfect? Not even close. There are some graphical glitches and no real structure to its gameplay but it’s just fun to play. Something which is criminally under-looked in a lot of titles.
Essentially Riders Republic is the Nicholas Cage of the sports genre: It’s loud, it’s over the top, it makes no sense most of the time but it’s always entertaining.