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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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  • Havoc DLC for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare out on PS3, PS4; PC delayed

    The Havoc DLC for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is now available for PlayStation 3 and PS4. Havoc contains the four multiplayer maps Core, Drift, Sideshow, and Urban along with the AE4 directed energy assault rifle, its custom variant, and the Exo Zombies cooperative mode. You can purchase the DLC separately or pick up the […]

  • Here’s a teaser for Resident Evil Revelations 2: Episode 2

    A teaser video for the second episode of Resident Evil Revelations 2 is available, so if you’ve yet to play the first episode, you may want to skip this. Resident Evil Revelations 2′s first episode is out now. Thanks, GamesHQMedia.

  • North American eShop update is full of Donkey Kong games

    Nintendo has updated the North American end of the eShop with Titan Attacks, Donkey Kong Land, Donkey Kong Country and more. eShop on 3DS Ironfall Invasion Titan Attacks! Donkey Kong Land – Virtual Console Donkey Kong Land 2 – Virtual Console Donkey Kong Land 3 – Virtual Console Luv Me Buddies Wonderland Around the World […]

  • Venture into the Valley of the Yetis next week in Far Cry 4

    The next batch of Far Cry 4 DLC, Valley of the Yetis, releases in March and Ajay Ghale will be tasked with surviving violent cultists and the mythical Yeti. Apparently the cult is looking for a secret hidden in the valley, and Ajay has discovered their motives. The DLC features co-op with a friend taking […]

  • The Butcher’s AK/CAR Mod Pack out for Payday 2, has dino masks

    The 19th DLC pack for Payday 2 title The Butcher’s AK/CAR Mod Pack is available on Steam from today. The pack will run you $4.99/€4.99 and features: 11 new weapon modifications for the AK rifles in the game 11 new weapon modifications for the CAR rifles in the game Four new masks together with their […]

  • Battle Chasers slated for PC, consoles; comic picks up where 2001 storyline left off

    Darksiders creator Joe Madureira and Vigil co-founder Ryan Stefanelli have confirmed a Battle Chasers game and a new comic are in the works at their new studio Airship Syndicate. Speaking to Polygon, Madureira and Stefanelli wouldn’t provide details on the the game, but did divulge it will be an adventure RPG with player-controlled Battle Chasers […]

  • Shovel Knight, Hotline Miami 2 discounted for Sony’s annual Spring Fever Sale

    Sony is hosting its annual Spring Fever Sale which runs for eight weeks and features a new title each week. The sale starts next week on March 3 with the launch of Helldivers. Here’s just a few items included in the sale: HELLDIVERS (PS4/PS3/PS Vita) March 3 Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number (PS4/PS3/PS Vita) March […]

  • The gold Super Mario amiibo is a Walmart exclusive

    The Super Mario Gold amiibo which surfaced via a CPSIA certificate earlier this month will be a Walmart-exclusive, Nintendo has announced. The gold-colored Mario amiibo will be released the same day as the Mario Party 10 game for Wii U and will run you $12,96 at 3,000 participating Walmart stores in the US. Along with […]

  • Here’s an overview trailer for Final Fantasy Type-0 HD

    As new gameplay overview trailer for Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, culled from the Active Time Report, stream has been sent over by Square Enix. The video provides a look at the history and environments of the Kingdom of Orience; the 14 memebers of Class Zero; the battle system with customizable magic spells; and the ability […]

  • Final Fantasy 15 video gives you a look at the game’s wildlife

    A new video shown by Final Fantasy 15 director Hajime Tabata during the latest Active Time Report, contains a look at the game’s wildlife and ecology. You can watch the full stream two hour stream through here, or a smaller clip courtesy of GamesHQMedia below.

  • Lionhead ventures into the free-to-play space with Fable Legends

    Fable Legends will be free-to-play when it launches on PC and Xbox One. According to Lionhead, the one versus four cross-platform title borrows from MOBA games such as Dota 2 and League of Legends as it will contain free, rotating heroes which will be added to a roster for a two week period. Once the […]

  • Win! 5 pairs of tickets to the Call of Duty European Championships

    We have five pairs of tickets to giveaway for the Call of Duty European Championships, taking place in London this weekend. The event takes place this Saturday February 28 and Sunday March 1 at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. Winners can watch teams will go head to head for a $10,000 prize pot […]

  • Republique Remastered has released on Mac and PC

    Republique Remastered, which was announced earlier this month, is now available for Mac and PC. The game is 20% off through Steam, GOG and the Humble Store for $19.99 until March 4. Thereafter, it will run you $24.99. The Remastered edition contains all five episodes of the game, with 1-3 available now and the remaining […]

  • LA Cops coming to Xbox One in March

    Isometric shooter LA Cops is coming to Xbox One on March 13. Already on Steam Early Access, the game looks like it’s been heavily inspired by Hotline Miami. Walk into a room, open fire, leave bloody puddles in your wake. It’s being published by Team 17. Check out the video below for some 70s cop […]

  • We have $500 of Steam Wallet funds to giveaway!

    We’re giving away 10 Steam Wallet prizes worth $50 each to VG247 readers, courtesy of Bundle Stars. All you need to do to be in with a chance of winning $50 Steam credit is to enter your details below. Join the Bundle Stars Steam group for entry in the sweepstake, and gain extra entries for […]

  • Lapsed Final Fantasy 14 players tempted back with 10 day freebie

    Square is offering lapsed FF 14: A Realm Reborn players a chance to come back to the game for 10 days worth of free adventuring. Provided you’ve already bought and registered an account you’ll be able to play free of charge from Feb 27 to March 9. Square wants you to sample the new content […]

  • Advanced Warfare: Sledgehammer looking at “opportunities” to recreate classic Call of Duty maps

    Sledgehammer Games has told VG247 it’s looking at opportunities to recreate classic Call of Duty maps in Advanced Warfare. According to co-founder Michael Condrey, players of the latest Havoc DLC are asking how Exo abilities and verticality can be added to classic franchise maps. “We’re taking a look at some opportunities to really highlight the […]

  • GTA Online reader playlist week 7: and the winner is…

    Stuff was shot. But only one player emerged victorious. GTA Online player e031271 won last night’s VG247 reader playlist, beating myself, Matt and regulars solidorwot and Revolting. Congratulations, Mr e031271. A deserved victory. We play a GTA Online playlist in an open session every Wednesday on PS4, because it’s both funny and fun. Anyone’s welcome […]

  • Leaked screens reveal The Reef as Destiny’s new “social space”

    A handful of leaked Destiny screens seem to confirm that The Reef location will be the new social space in Destiny. The new addition is likely to be revealed as part of the upcoming House of Wolves expansion. Reddit user Megamanexe4 dropped the screens on the site earlier this morning, along with grabs that reveal […]

  • Darksiders creator teases Battle Chasers game

    Joe Madureira, creator of Darksiders, has released art that strongly suggests a Battle Chasers game is in the works. Battle Chasers was a comic book from the late 1990s that suffered notorious production problems between issues and was never finished. Madureira formed Airship Syndicate after the collapse of THQ, where he co-created Darksiders. His latest […]

  • Infamous video nasty Axe recreated in GTA 5

    The trailer for notorious horror movie Axe has been recreated in GTA 5. The shot for shot remake is the work of gigerbrick who has previously recreated exploitation flicks like Machete and Hostel using Lego. The original Axe movie was banned in 1984 in the UK but passed with cuts in the late 1990s. Movie […]

  • Payday 2 for PS4 and Xbox One includes “a year’s worth of paid DLC” for free

    Payday 2: Crimewave Edition will include a year’s worth of paid DLC from the PC version of the game for free. The new-gen version of the game will be available June 2015, and includes almost all of the paid and free DLC released so far for Overkill’s popular first-person shooter. That DLC includes The Big […]

  • Yes, Mortal Kombat X will require Xbox Live Gold or PS Plus

    Mortal Kombat X won’t bypass Microsoft and Sony’s premium online play requirements. Reports that Mortal Kombat X wouldn’t require PS Plus or Xbox Live Gold started circling earlier this week thanks to a communications error. Answering fan questions on Twitter, producer Shaun Himmerick accidentally gave the impression that premium console subs would not be required […]

  • This is what Destiny players most want next

    Destiny patch 1.1.1 has resolved or at least addressed a number of complaints voiced by the community, but there are plenty more. des Destiny community manage David “Deej” Dague has put out a call for Guardians to share their concerns – or rather, what they think the community is most concerned about. “Set aside your […]

  • Google AI can play games now, so we’re probably all going to die

    Google has brought us one step closer to our inevitable slaughter or enslavement by machine overlords. Google has developed an AI that can learn to play video games and devise brand new strategies. Let me just rephrase that: Google has created an AI that can teach itself new skills, including how to play video games. […]

  • First footage of Renowned Explorers: International Society surfaces

    Renowned Explorers: International Society is a turn-based strategy game from the team behind Reus, and it looks great. Renowned Explorers was announced almost a full year ago, but has been pretty quiet since then. Developer Abbey games has now announced that the game has hit alpha, and will be open to select testers soon. You […]

  • Cities: Skylines developer commits to mod support

    Cities: Skylines will fully support the modding community. Hailing from famously mod-friendly publisher Paradox, Cities: Skylines is a no-brainer for mod support – especially as a lack of mod support is one of the things SimCity was so heavily criticised for when it firts launched. In the developer diary below, Paradox’s Jakob Munthe is joined […]

  • Nosgoth update adds Vanguard, many fixes

    Nosgoth, the free-to-play multiplayer brawler set in the Legacy of Kain universe, has been given a significant makeover. The major feature of the latest Nosogth game update is a new playable human character called the Vanguard. “Equipped with mighty throwing axes and a shield, the Vanguard can take more punishment than any human class that […]

  • Xbox Live Gold 12 month sub $40 on Microsoft store

    Microsoft is offering $20 off 12 month Xbox Live Gold subscriptions at the moment. An Xbox Live Gold 12 month subscription will normally set you back $60, but a Microsoft Store promotion has it on offer for $40. The offer is restricted to the US store. Although you can opt to grab your sub as […]

  • Tomb Raider movie script to be penned by TMNT writer

    Tomb Raider will be Evan Daugherty’s second reboot of an established universe. The Tomb Raider movie reboot has signed on a writer and a distributor. Deadline reports Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Divergent, Snow White And The Huntsman and G.I. Joe 3 writer Daugherty will write the film. Additionally, Warner Bros. has signed on to distribute, […]

  • Shelter 2 pre-orders open, launch trailer debuts early

    Shelter 2 is a game in which you are a mother lynx and must protect a den of kittens. Yes, it’s delightful. Shelter 2 is coming to Mac and PC on March 9. Pre-orders are now available on Steam at 10% off or on GOG.com with a free skin and soundtrack, or 20% off if […]

  • That Batman: Arkham Knight trailer is full of codes

    Batman: Arkham Knight’s trailer is like a Transformer – there’s more than meets the eye. The new Batman: Arkham Knight trailer contains a number of codes. Eagle-eyed users have spotted four so far, and work on cracking their meaning is progressing. According to an /r/games thread rounding up results so far, the codes pertain to […]

  • Assassin’s Creed haystacks won’t save you from a fall

    Assassin’s Creed fans, don’t try this at home. Assassin’s Creed characters can survive falls of almost any distance as long as they aim for the haystacks scattered handily throughout the environment. As you probably deduced from your familiarity with common sense, this isn’t a real thing: falling from heights kills you, the same way a […]

  • Why are people buying PS4 and not Xbox One?

    PS4 is outselling Xbox One – but why? A new report may have the answer. Last month, the PS4 outsold the Xbox One in the US again, returning it to the top of the charts after just two months away. Why? What has caused this reversal in fortunes in Microsoft’s home territory? According to a […]