Ridge Racer Unbounded Zombiegamer Review | Fragging Good Fun

In short

Just when I thought the ‘over-the-top’ arcade racing genre was just going to spit out more of the same, Ridge Racer Unbounded breathes fresh air into the otherwise stale genre. There are some copy-cat elements as to be expected in the limited genre that peaked a long time ago, but Unbounded does bring some fresh new elements and gameplay which were well designed and brilliantly executed.

Developer: Bugbear
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Distributor: Megarom Interactive
For fans of: Arcade racers
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Also available on: Playstation 3, PC
If we had to give it a numerical score: 8/10

Overview

Ridge Racer Unbounded is a fresh take on the arcade racer genre, and it takes the series in a new direction. Players race for victories with the aim of getting into clans of lawless racers across several areas. Players get to compete in races and will need to win and destroy their way to the top. There is plenty to do for the singleplayer or you can take it online.

What I liked

  • Fresh game modes
  • Focused game modes
  • FRAGGING!
  • Fragging cops with a massive truck
  • Level designs
  • Slow-motion FRAGGING cinematic scenes

Not so much

  • Soundtrack
  • No licences
  • Was there a storyline?

Gameplay and Features

At first I thought this was nothing new – race, turbo, bash opponents and drift. After sticking to it and learning what it was that the developers wanted players to experience, the thrills began. It’s the design of the game modes and how they force you to race in a certain way that makes Unbounded a little different.

Firstly a key element is the drifting function to fill up your power or turbo bar. Drifting takes a bit of work to get used to – you activate the drift by using the button exactly like you would a handbrake. Once your vehicle is drifting then it’s all about your skill in controlling it with power and steering – very nicely designed without being overly complicated. The second major element is that you can only totally destroy opponents and infrastructure when you power through it and this plays a major role in the different races. The design cleverly surrounds these two major factors and then the gameplay requires more than just racing; you need to somewhat strategise your way through the different levels. Driving requires a combination of aggression and finesse. Unbounded is focused to, none of that mundane driving around looking for your next challenge. The challenges are well organised and you go from one to the next – it’s about the challenges and not just driving for the sake of it.

The game modes also surprised me despite having played just about every title in the arcade racer library. There are domination races where you can destroy your opponents and race for first place. There is the pure racing mode which is more of what we are used to. There’s a pure drift mode which has been done before but is important as the drifting theme is a primary feature in the game, so it’s best to come to terms with how the different vehicles drift. Time trial mode is like something taken out of a Wipeout game – the courses are so outrageous and far from what you would expect from a normal car racing game. Frag mode offers two variations – the destroying police cars with a heavy rig, or taking out other racers with the normal selection of vehicles.

It is how the power (or turbo) aspect fits into the different modes in the game that makes all the difference. For example, even when fragging with the truck you can bump the cars until they are destroyed. This sounds easy enough, but the fact that you have to achieve a certain amount of frags in the timed period, makes you need to power into the cops to instantly frag them. This coupled with the element of speed and the design of the levels makes for the need of some precession as opposed to just mindlessly ploughing through the field. Don’t get me wrong though, you can also just go totally mad and plough through, but you won’t earn as much XP. You need to gain as much XP as possible to unlock the masses of vehicles and areas.

Destruction is also more than any title I have seen in the genre and takes the carnage to a whole new, exciting level. A vast amount of the different levels are destructible when powering through. Lots of buildings, wall and objects are breakable and then there are objects or paths to break through for shortcuts or just to gain XP. The trick is that, again, you will need to power through them so you will need to time it. I had plenty of those moments where I would run out of thrust centimetres before the wall or object, and would come to a complete stop instead of breaking through.

You can also compete online in the various modes in the multiplayer front. A nice touch is the ability to create your own multiplayer racers. You can make your own courses and even publish them online to see if they become a hit. There are pre-rendered pieces which you can use to put a level together. The tools are easy to work with there is plenty of options to use to create.

Sound and visuals

The presentation of Ridge Racer Unbounded is stunning – neat, inviting and easy to navigate. The menus and loading screens are splashed out with artistic pictures related to the game, all very stylish and modern.

While the sound and visual quality is more than apt, it looks and even sounds likes it’s definitely not from a massive budget. There are no licenses, so the cars look familiar, but then changed as not to step on any manufacturers toes legally. The names are totally generic because of this and somewhat disappointing – if I read correctly, a Mustang was a Wolfsburg GT or something like that. The petrol-head in me is a little pedantic when it comes to things like this, albeit a small issue. This theme continues with the soundtrack – while the electronic music all suits the fast-paced action, I don’t think I recognised a single track. So while the aesthetics are all perfectly fine, Need for Speed fans might miss all that gloss they are used to.

The cars sound fantastic and vary in engine notes – anything from high-pitched Japanese sounding cars, to rumbling big-blocked motors. While the motors take centre-stage, the sound effects quality, particular all the blowing up and smashing sounds destruction are very entertaining.

Overall while I can quibble over licences on other small disappointments, the overall sound and visual experience is of the highest standards – well designed and without faults.

Closing comments

I believe that there will always be a massive demand for arcade racers. The ability to explore the far-fetched side of racing cars is appealing to the masses. Ridge Racer Unbounded actually adds to the genre where players are happy to receive clone after clone, and so it should generate interest for that fact alone. Fortunately it is not all hot air and the design is well executed. It’s about speed, a little finesse, a little strategy, a whole lot of destruction rounded off with a good dollop of madness.

Zombiegamer rating:

 

 

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