Ridge Racer Unbounded PS3 review


If imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, then the development teams of both Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit and Split/Second: Velocity should be blushing furiously about Ridge Racer: Unbounded. In fact, next time the guys at Bugbear might want to save themselves a bunch of time and energy, and just stand outside their contemporaries’ windows serenading them with an acoustic version of Bon Jovi’s I’ll Be There For You.

They’ve done a fine job with their new arcade racer, combining some well-worn mechanics with an LBP-lite play, create, share dealio – but sadly it falls short of both of its inspirations, lacking the requisite polish and spectacle, but is an enjoyable change of direction for the series nevertheless.

What RR:U (I’m presuming that’s what all the cool kids will start calling it) doesn’t have is any pretensions: other than a slightly nonsense opening video it’s stripped down to its bare bones, and refreshingly so. The menu has just three options – single-player, multiplayer, and the city creator – and there’s precious little attempt at a story as you progress through the main game. Unless you count ‘the tale of the car that repeatedly crashed into the wall’ as the height of narrative sophistication.

Barring a predilection for drifting it shares precious little DNA with Ridge games of the past – it’s more like a Ridge game that’s just seen the Fast & The Furious films and is intent on getting itself an ASBO. As you tear around city streets all types of dangerous driving – drifting, drafting, getting airborne – rewards you by filling your power meter. When this is at maximum, you then have a range of options at your disposal. Well, in actual fact that ‘range’ consists of tapping X to either give yourself a temporary speed boost or giving yourself a temporary speed boost while also destroying something.

Find out more about Ridge Racer: Unbounded preorders with with this trailer

Littered around tracks are obstructions like gas canisters and trucks, which you can use your stored power to plough straight through. As with all the destruction you cause during races, this adds to your score at the end of it. But more spectacular are city landmarks that you can reduce to piles of flaming rubble. Office blocks, police stations, garages – you can use your power to smash through them all, taking a sweet shortcut all while causing massive property destruction.

You can also, if you’re so inclined, unleash your pent-up frustration on your fellow competitors rather than the poor architect who dedicated his life to building the city you’re now systematically tearing down. Boosting into other racers results in a ‘frag’, sending them spinning out of control and back in the pack.

And you need to use all of these tricks in order to succeed, because Unbounded is a game which makes few concessions for beginners. The learning curve is somewhat non-existent, as your AI opponents go hell for leather – and try to turn you into a cube of scrap metal – from the very first race. But although temporarily frustrating this is actually refreshing, meaning that there’s a challenge from minute one rather than a procession of easy races before you hit a brick wall (in a metaphorical sense this time). It forces you to quickly up your skill level in order to succeed, and makes unlocking the quicker cars a necessity rather than a luxury.