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Drop the flag – Hands-on with Ridge Racer Unbounded

Sunday, 14 August 2011 09:16 GMT By Martin Mathers

Martin Mathers checks out Namco’s controversial new addition to its classic arcade racer: Ridge Racer Unbounded.

RIDGE RACER UNBOUNDED

A spin-off entry in Namco’s prolific Ridge Racer arcade racing franchise

From racing specialist studio Bugbear Entertainment

Will include a City Creator for user gen content

Due on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 in 2012 – the first PC entry in the series

Buskers and street beggars aside, very few people actually like change. That’s why it’s so easy to appreciate why hardcore fans of Ridge Racer are incredibly disgruntled right now – the name might be the same, but Ridge Racer Unbounded couldn’t be less like Ridge Racer if it tried. Well, apart from the presence of cars, tracks and more than a little speed, that is.

As for the rest of it though, we’re talking more destruction than finesse; more mayhem than sliding round corners just millimeters from the track wall. That may be fine if it’s your bag, but let’s face it: it’s not Ridge Racer. You know that, we know that, and thankfully, it seems so does Bugbear Entertainment, the developer making it.

“What we’re creating is a new branch for Ridge Racer – it’s NOT Ridge Racer 8, which is a game I hope Namco will make at some point,” insists Joonas Laakso, Bugbear’s producer on Unbounded.

“It’s a very different game, part of the same family but a new take on what else Ridge Racer could be. It’s going to be a high-quality arcade action racing title and I think in that sense, you know what you’re getting when you pick it up. But it’s not Ridge Racer 8. I can’t be clearer on that.”

Of course, with Bugbear’s decade-long heritage being primarily built on the Flatout series though, it should be expected that its take on Ridge Racer would favour crazy physics over racing purity. But while the trailers are fairly vague in their depiction of what Unbounded offers – just as Ridge Racer trailers often are – you only have to see a few laps of the game in action to see where the main difference lies.

“What we’re bringing to the series in addition to our own driving talent is a special kind of destruction,” says Laakso.

“We’ve not just been making driving games for over a decade, we’ve also been making interactive worlds that you can basically drive through and destroy – it’s really something we know. And with Unbounded, we’ve taken the gameplay ramifications of the destruction much further.

“It’s a much more integral part of what you’re doing than in our previous games and it’s not just cosmetic, even though that side of it is also way beyond what we’ve done before.”

If you need a reference point of how Unbounded’s aggression-heavy gameplay works, think Split/Second’s risk/reward style grafted onto a rough Ridge Racer-based powersliding scaffold, then slathered liberally with Midnight Club’s inner-city style. Set in the fictional hybrid New York/Chicago setting of Shatter Bay, the main focus is still predominantly about races (so, no Burnout-style city roaming here) but there’s a sub-set inside that where the races are predominantly focused on turning your opponents into crumpled cubes of metal.

It all starts with the Power meter, a streak of grey bars that quickly fill with red as you jump, drift and slipstream your way around the course. Used in short bursts, it’s basically a turbo gauge. But fill it up entirely and target markers start appearing on the course indicating potential shortcuts, usually requiring you to smash through obstacles that would otherwise be impassable; a shop front, a concrete wall, a metal barrier, whatever.

Prefer to use your Power to ruin everyone else’s fun instead? Akin to Split/Second’s Power Plays, Unbounded’s trap system lets you create destruction that can take out other racers and potentially change the layout of the track (though not to the same level as Black Rock’s racer did). You might blow up a bunch of explosive barrels, set a series of buildings toppling domino-style or even bring an entire bridge down onto the course; according to Laakso, it’s about doing as much with physics as possible instead of using pre-drawn animation.

And if that kind of aggression isn’t enough, you could just go for the direct route and frag your opponents. Yes, we said frag – that’s Bugbear’s term for it, not ours. But as much as the moniker of ‘frag the racer’ makes us cringe awfully, the act of using an entire Power bar to wipe out another car instantly seems to at least tally up to what Unbounded is trying to achieve.

“It does match up to the sort of attitude you have to have,” says Laakso.

“You need to be very aggressive towards the other drivers.”

“You need to be very aggressive towards the other drivers or they’ll just take advantage of you; you have to play dirty, you can’t just play it in a regular style. We really want to encourage a warfare-like approach… some of our references are coming from the likes of Modern Warfare anyway, where the track looks like a battlefield when you’re done with it and there’s smoke rising in your wake.”

In creating such carnage though, it’s not all about the Power meter. Dubbed ‘collateral’, Unbounded’s cars can simply plough through any part of the environment that can Bugbear deems smaller/lighter than the car you’re driving. That means minor obstacles like fire hydrants or bollards are fair game, but other less believable things like concrete bridge supports and statues will bow before the might of your bumper too. Smash through them and you’ll get points; smash someone else through them and you’ll get more.

You’ll know when you’ve scored points too, if only because Unbounded’s uniquely-designed on-screen display revels in letting you know. Branded the ‘in-world HUD’, essential information usually present in the corners of the screen instead gets layered directly onto the environment in gigantic writing. You might burn past an opponent and see your new position emblazoned along the apex of a corner ahead, or send someone into the wall and see your point bonus plastered all over the front of a nearby building. Classy.

But while it’s all very well having such destructive ability at your fingertips, it doesn’t mean much if your opponents just sit there waiting for you to dish out the punishment. Thankfully, Bugbear plans to have the other cars make as much use of advantages that Power brings as you can, rather than just sticking to the racing line.

Ridge Racer Unbounded Dubai press event trailer.

“We’re doing some pretty clever things with the AI to make sure that the player is continually challenged,” says Laakso. “We’d rather ship the game without any difficulty levels set in stone, but instead make it so that the AI adapts to the player’s skill and how well you’re doing, to ensure you’re always having a good time.

“Admittedly, it’s no fun to see you blow a corner on the last lap and have you go from first to last, but we also want to have it so that you’re never racing alone.”

And speaking of never racing alone, talk turns neatly to the subject of multiplayer. Given the pre-Alpha state of the game, it’s no surprise that the stock ‘We’re not talking about that yet…’ response pops up almost immediately, although a brief prod regarding ‘fragging’ racers suggesting Deathmatch modes at least raises an eyebrow (“I guess it would make sense…” Laakso says, sheepishly). What is surprising, however, is how much of a nerve any kind of multiplayer talk seems to strike with the development team.

“I definitely feel it’s a part that many people might not even play,” admits Laakso. “With most racers, there are very few people playing online – even with something big like Need For Speed, which usually has great multiplayer and sells pretty well, there aren’t that many people. We’ve been trying to figure out why that is and what we can do about it, because we’d hate to spend several months of design effort on something that nobody’s going to be playing a few weeks after launch.

“We think that the problem is that racers are often too skill-demanding; you only have fun if you’re at the very top of your game and if you’re not, you’re just not going to enjoy yourself because you’ll be driving alone at the back of the pack. We’re really trying to level the playing field and make the single player and multiplayer experiences feel similar, but we’ll be explaining that more in a couple of months.”

Ridge Racer Unbounded reveal trailer.

Could it be that Bugbear’s plans to create some kind of community to sustain Unbounded’s online lifespan then? It’s possible, especially when you consider that on top of Shatter Bay’s 13 distinct areas to race through, a cryptic comment regarding there also being ‘thousands of other cities to race around’ makes our ears prick up. User-created content perhaps? “Well, I think it’d be a ridiculous amount of manual labour at the studio to have us building thousands of cities, so…” trails off Laakso, smiling.

Surreptitious comments and pre-Alpha insistences aside though, we’d be mad to say that Unbounded didn’t look intriguing. No, it’s definitely not a true Ridge Racer game and in that sense, our fanboy gland is still burning with anger. But equally, it certainly looks like it might at least hold its own with the likes of Burnout, Split/Second, Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit et al.

The question, of course, is whether anyone will care enough to ensure the game is as well received as Namco Bandai needs it to be. After all, cutting off its fanbase-shaped nose to spite the franchise’s face isn’t exactly the way to ensure a successful launch. Still, with ‘several months to go until the game is anywhere near done’ (again, Laasko’s words rather than ours), there’s still enough time for Unbounded to convince the haters otherwise – well, maybe.

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7 Comments

  1. DrDamn

    Hotseat multiplayer mini games that’s what this needs. The finest parts of Flatout one and two were the stunts. Local play also matches you up against your friends which is always fun. They need to make sure they track local high scores properly though, the only blotch on FO:UC.

    #1 4 years ago
  2. The_Red

    Thanks for the info. Kinda looking forward to this.

    I was never a fan of Ridge Racer games so that doesn’t bother me. My problem is that it feels like Bugbear’s people were making a new IP or a new FlatOut and were forced to add Ridge Racer to the title by their publisher. Bugbear is a truly talented team and have more than delivered with both their FlatOut games. They deserve much more than this :(

    #2 4 years ago
  3. endgame

    I still like GRID more. :))

    #3 4 years ago
  4. JPickford

    Liking Martin Mathers honest previews. Refreshing compared to the traditional ultra-positive approach to previews.

    #4 4 years ago
  5. The_Red

    @3
    Seriously agree. Definitely my fave racing game this gen. I don’t think Unbounded is trying to follow that though. It’s closer to Burnout and Split-Second as mentioned in the article.

    #5 4 years ago
  6. HauntaVirus

    IMO, the days of $60 arcade racers are OVER.

    #6 4 years ago
  7. endgame

    @5 didn’t play Split Second but I did play Burnout Paradise and if I think about it I like that one too more than I like this one. probably mainly because of the variety I guess.

    #7 4 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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  • Two GAME exclusive versions of Halo 5: Guardians now available for pre-order

    GAME has announced two exclusive versions of Halo 5: Guardians, and both are now available for pre-order exclusively through one of the retail chain’s 318 stores or online. The £79.99 Limited Edition Halo 5: Guardians, which delivers new digital content wrapped in a steel book. There’s also the £199.99 Halo 5: Guardians Limited Collector’s Edition […]

  • Deals with Gold: Far Cry 4, Assassin’s Creed Unity, Bioshock Infinite, more

    Microsoft has announced its latest Deals with Gold discounts for Xbox Live Gold members. Franchises on sale include Far Cry, Call of Duty, along with individual titles Assassin’s Creed Unity and Bioshock Infinite. The full list is below. Bioshock Infinite discounts are available for both Xbox Live Gold and Silver members. Xbox One Far Cry […]

  • Wolfenstein: The Old Blood has released, watch the launch trailer here

    Wolfenstein: The Old Blood has launched on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. You can watch the launch trailer for it below. Boxed copies in Europe arrive from May 15, and in Australia/New Zealand on May 14. You can grab digital copies from the following online services: Steam, PlayStation Network, Xbox Store.

  • GOG’s online service GOG Galaxy is now in open beta

    GOG Galaxy, the DRM-free online gaming platform from the folks at GOG, has left Alpha and is now in open beta for all to try. As previously announced, the online service, similar to Steam, is option. Players do not need to play online as all games are stored by the service and can be played […]

  • DayZ-inspired Goat Simulator DLC GoatZ is out this week on Steam

    Goat Simulator players can download DayZ-inspired DLC this week called GoatZ. According to Coffee Stain Studios, GoatZ is “the only survival game on Steam that isn’t in Early Access.” Jokingly of course. The DLC features: Mandatory crafting system because everyone else is doing it. Zombies that bug out. There’s a pun here about actual living […]

  • No, Far Cry 4 is not currently free on PSN

    You may have seen a few Tweets from people saying that the PS4 version of Far Cry 4 is available to download from PSN for free. This is not true. A few readers have tipped us off to what looked like a glitch on PSN that allowed players to download the full version of Far […]

  • Metal Gear Solid: The 1984 Collection confirmed to be a clothing line

    Konami is teasing a Metal Gear Solid thing called “The 1984 Collection.” The Metal Gear Solid Facebook page posted this image about an hour ago: The caption reads, “Step back into the 80′s with our new MGS collection coming very soon! Stay tuned!” This is supposedly in reference to the clothing line that was announced […]

  • Portal, The Simpsons, Jurassic World & Scooby Doo packs listed for Lego Dimensions

    Lego Dimensions is likely getting a few unannounced content packs. One of which is themed around Valve’s Portal. A set of unannounced content packs for the upcoming Lego Dimensions have been revealed by US retailer Walmart. The listings include packs for The Simpsons, Scooby Doo and Jurassic World, and most interestingly, Portal. The listings have […]

  • This is the most authentic recreation of GTA 2 in real life ever

    Affordable drones have many uses. Most of them are not nearly as exciting as recreating GTA 2 in real life. I am surprised it took us this long, but someone has finally captured footage using a drone that resembles the protagonist’s experience in the classic GTA 2. These aren’t just shots of cars from a […]

  • PlayStation 4 sales reach 2m in the UK

    Sony has sold 2 million PlayStation 4 consoles in the UK, faster than it did with the PlayStation 2 – the company’s best-selling machine in the country. MCVUK is reporting that as of last weekend, 2 million PlayStation 4s have been sold in the UK. The data is based on GfK Chart-Track estimates. This makes […]

  • H1Z1 gets female characters, skin colour options planned

    In an effort to improve diversity in the game, H1Z1 developer has added female characters. Female survivors can now be found throughout the world of H1Z1. Developer Daybreak added the new feature in a patch released last Friday. You will be able to choose a female avatar in the main game and in Battle Royale. […]

  • Possible teaser site for Castlevania creator Koji “IGA” Igarashi’s new game opens

    Either Castlevania creator Koji “IGA” Igarashi is working on a soon-to-be-launched Kickstarter for his new game, or someone is pulling an elaborate prank. At PAX Prime last year, during Keiji Inafune’s Mighty No. 9 panel, a flyer was handed out to attendees that showed what appeared to be a 2D game of some sort with […]

  • Destiny weekly reset for May 5: Heroic and Nightfall strikes detailed

    Tuesday is here and Destiny’s weekly reset is also here. Bungie announced that your weekly Destiny grind has now begun. The Nightfall and Heroic strikes are now live too. This week’s strike is Winter’s Run. Rainbow burn is back for the Nightfall, which means you do more damage with all elemental weapons, but also receive […]

  • PC version of Project Cars delayed in Australia due to severe weather

    Recent weather conditions in Sydney, Australia are responsible for a slight delay of the PC version of Project Cars in the country. Sydney recently suffered from storms that caused flooding in some areas. One of those is the place where publisher Namco Bandai was storing PC copies of Project Cars. The stock was “severely damaged,” […]

  • Twitch’s new process makes it easier for streamers to appeal flagged content

    Twitch has updated its appeals process concerning videos that have been flagged by the audio ID system. Towards the end of last year, Twitch introduced a new audio recognition system that scans archived streams and automatically mutes the audio whenever copyright music is identified. The system has been in-use ever since and Twitch has today […]

  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has a day one patch, but it’s not a major one

    The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt will indeed have a day one patch, to make the first-time experience as smooth as possible. Like many modern games, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt will have its day one patch. According to the developer however, it wasn’t born out of necessity. Miles Tost, level designer at developer CD Projekt […]

  • CoD: Advanced Warfare owners get free pistol today

    Advanced Warfare developer Sledgehammer Games is adding a new pistol to the game, free to all players. The M1 Irons is a new pistol that comes to Advanced Warfare starting today. The weapon is offered as a thank you gift from the developer. Sledgehammer says the Irons is good at range and packs a punch. […]

  • Fall down the Skullgirls Big Band music video rabbit hole with me

    Skullgirls is a pretty amazing fighting game, but did you know it’s also a passable music creation suite? Earlier today I was idly perusing an episode of PlayStation Underground showing off Skullgirls 2nd Encore, a re-release of the indie fighter packing in loads of new features and coming to PS4 – with full cross-play! – […]

  • The many uses of Wolfenstein: The Old Blood’s pipe weapon

    Wolfenstein: The Old Blood adds a sick new weapon to BJ’s arsenal: a pipe. In Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, a pipe is not just a pipe. Not only can you bash nazis with it, you can use it to climb walls, reach hatches, and even break through some walls. Plus? You can dual wield it. […]

  • Mortal Kombat X teaser gives first look at Predator

    Mortal Kombat X’s next celebrity guest was teased during the latest Kast. Today’s Mortal Kombat X Kast was mostly about all about Jason, but also included a very brief nod to Predator. You can watch the full livestream to see the tease in situ if you’re really keen, but IGN shared this convenient edit: There’s […]

  • Rock Band 4 has count-ins, drum fills and vocal harmonies

    Rock Band 4 will more closely emulate the feeling of being a real musician with some neat personalisation touches. For Rock Band 4, Harmonix elected to double down on player ownership of their experience rather than technical precision. To this end, it has implemented a number of cool new features. I am wildly envious of […]

  • Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z, Lost Planet 3 developer shuttered

    Spark Unlimited has gone down with all hands. The Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z and Lost Planet 3 developer has been shuttered and all staff laid off. Chief technical officer John Butrovich confirmed the news in a statement issued to IGN. “Spark Unlimited is closing as a video game developer. The ongoing opportunities for smaller mobile […]

  • PS Now subscription available on PlayStation 3 this month, Vita coming soon

    PlayStation Now’s all you can eat service has finally been dated for PS3. Subscriptions to PS Now, Sony’s cloud-based gaming service, will be available on PS3 from May 12 in the US. The all you can eat package will also be made available on select Bravia TVs and Sony Blu-ray players on the same date. […]

  • GTA 5 is even better with a gravity gun

    GTA 5 modders have made a dream come true, adding a gravity gun to your arsenal of mayhem-causing weaponry. GTA 5 isn’t ready for this. It looks like a heck of a lot of fun, but the poor old Los Santos po po can’t deal with the resulting carnage at all. If Rockstar were ever […]

  • “Mod makers should be able to make money from their creations,” says DOOM creator

    DOOM co-creator John Romero has weighed in on the paid mods debate. Paid mods are a hot issue right now. For years, Valve has been enabling content creators to make money from their work on Counter-strike: Global offensive, Dota 2 and Team Fortress 2, but when it partnered with Bethesda to offer the same for […]

  • Watch WRC driver Kevin Abbring smash through a DIRT Rally challenge

    WRC driver Kevin Abbring has been participating in Dirt Rally’s daily events – and kicking ass. Dirt Rally seems to have ticked one of the most difficult to attain boxes of racing development – creating something professional drivers like to play, and which rewards their years of experience. Codemasters published the video below showing Hyundai […]

  • Mortal Kombat X patch to bring PC version up to console standard

    Mortal Kombat X PC will be fixed tomorrow, NetherRealm has promised. The PC version of Mortal Kombat X has come under fire for poor performance, including stuttering frame rate and bugs as plenty. About 45 minutes into a recent Twitch stream, NetherRealm boss Ed Boon said an update will drop tomorrow to address many of […]

  • Destiny House of Wolves: all new Crucible maps detailed

    Destiny’s House of Wolves DLC will add four new maps to the Crucible, the game’s competitive multiplayer mode. Let’s take a look at all of them. Alex brings you new footage showing all of the four maps that will drop with House of Wolves. He goes over the layout, landmarks, gameplay styles, and other important […]

  • Custom Xbox One Star Wars controllers look very tempting

    Microsoft is celebrating May 4 by showing off concept designs for Star Wars-themed Xbox One controllers. May 4 is of course Star Wars Day and the controller concepts you’re about to see are just that, concepts. Or at least that’s what they said they are. There are four designs and they don’t look very practical. […]

  • Project Cars launch trailer is an anthology of race cars, set to the beats of Deadmau5

    Project Cars comes out this week and there’s just enough time for one last trailer. Project Cars, Slightly Mad Studios’ ambitious racer that has been in development for ages, is finally coming out this week. The racer received plenty of changes throughout its development based on community feedback and the final product will be in […]

  • Star Wars Battlefront dev reveals planet Sullust

    Sullust, a planet that has not been previously shown, will be featured in one of Star Wars Battlefront’s maps. Star Wars Battlefront developer DICE revealed today that planet Sullust will be one of the game’s locations. The planet was mentioned in the films and other Star Wars works, but was only shown today. DICE posted […]

  • Destiny House of Wolves: Tower vendor changes

    House of Wolves will change the inventory of some of Destiny’s vendors and add new roles to others. Here’s everything that has been announced so far. You know that House of Wolves will bring a new social space to the game in the form of The Reef. But did you also know that the good […]

  • Nintendo apologises for Amiibo shortages, will reissue some out-of-stock figures

    Nintendo released a statement today to apologise for fan’s frustrations in finding some Amiibo figures and promised to handle distribution better going forward. Nintendo has been criticised recently for its lack of communication when it comes to new Amiibo figures. Something which has lead fans to not know if certain figures are limited to some […]

  • Halo: MCC “a black eye for us,” Halo 5 won’t suffer the same fate, says franchise director

    The development of Halo: The Master Chief Collection was of an “outrageous complexity,” which was one of the reasons it suffered a horrible launch. None of that will happen with Halo 5: Guardians, according to Frank O’Connor. Frank O’Connor, Halo franchise development director opened up to Xbox Achievements about the difficult task of developing The […]

  • Destiny House of Wolves: weapon Reforging explained

    When House of Wolves drops in a couple of weeks, you’ll be able to change the stats of some in-game weapons. This process is called ‘Reforging’. Alex goes over all the details Bungie revealed about the new Reforging system. This covers the materials you need, the weapons that can be reforged and much more. Make […]