Published on October 16th, 2020 | by Daniel
Ride 4 Review – Ride Hard or Not at all
Summary: A true and gorgeous recreation of motorcycle racing. Scratch beneath the surface though and you'll more than a few chinks.
Ride 4 is a motorcycle experience unlike any other. Part smoke and mirrors, part legitimate racer. Ride 4 manages to be equal parts good and bad, a feat not so easily obtained in today’s hot or cold gaming industry. For every moment of true bliss, there is one of equal opposites. A frustration that simply makes you put the controller, or keyboard, down in frustration and walk away. Or worse.
Visually stunning, the game lures you into it’s depths with beautifully recreated motorcycle models, stunning track design, realistic dynamic weather and track conditions and a solid array of bikes to choose from. But beneath the surface, hides a game rife with quality of life issues and a huge difficulty curve that doesn’t sit well.
Immediately on entry to the game you’re thrust into the seat of a Yamaha 600cc power horse. And given a target time to beat, well, three actually. I managed a gold medal time, but getting there was a slug and a half. Where Moto GP succeeded on an innovative control system and AI were challenging but adjustable. Ride 4 seems to fail in this endeavor.
The bikes’ handle like silly string. You cannot accelerate through corners at all, even on corner exit, or else you run super wide and lose position. I do appreciate the loss of traction on the ripple strips however. And the game has a great level of realism in most other cases, for a good representation of how it would handle for real.
But the bike handling isn’t the true killer in this game. It’s the harshness of challenges, even in the early stages. And the AI opponents. Opponents in the game treat you as if you don’t even exist. Constantly taking the best line regardless of whether you’re in the way or not. This lead to a lot of unnecessary crashes, that simply wouldn’t happen in other games with better AI.
So many times, I had to restart races because a crash with an opponent sent me flying. And with the tricky controls I’d be driving my hardest but wouldn’t be able to catch up. I lowered the difficulty to the absolute lowest setting, just to see if I could get past them early on to minimise crashes and actually have the chance to complete a race. And while this worked, it was still tricky to get past everyone without an accident. Several restarts later, I had passed them all by the first corner and then they ate my dust. It was hardly a fun experience by that stage.
The time trials in Ride 4 are a bit easier, thankfully. Though harsh in their punishments about even the slightest venture into the gravel. There are at least no AI opponents to throw you off. So you can slowly learn the tracks a bit better. This allows you to find the best line, when to accelerate, braking markers and how to hit those sweet sweet apexes. So I found these events so much more engaging than the actual race events. Hardly enough to satisfy me as a player however.
Ride 4 definitely out does pretty much all the competition here. The bikes are simply gorgeous. Not a single bolt, dial, or wheel spoke was missed. Colours are vivid and vibrant, garage backgrounds are modern and clean. Even simple things like the setup of the menus are really well structured and smooth. There’s plenty of customisation options too. There’s a huge list of bikes to choose from too. Yamaha, Suzuki, BMW, Kawasaki, Harley Davidson. You name it, they’re all here. All stunningly reproduced.
Rider suits, helmets, stickers, bike liveries. You name it, you can make it. Other games similar simulation games like this can’t boast about the level of detail Ride 4 achieves. The game lacks an in depth character generator however, though this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Faceless sprites allow players to project themselves onto their avatars.
Circuits are impeccable, I usually reserve such praise for graphical masterpieces like Gran Turismo. But here Ride 4 earns top marks. Tarmac looks smooth, carved with the black tyre marks denoting the racing line. The stands are crisp, clear and smothered by sponsor logos. The dynamic weather system and day/night cycle add in some great aesthetic effects as well as an extra challenge. The glisten of water on the road, the pools that form on the tarmacs’ edge. The reflection of light as the sun beams down above you.
Sound is two things in Ride 4. Excellent in some ways, bland in others. Ambient noise is non existent, however great lengths were clearly taken in bike authenticity. The gentle growl of idling cylinders, the roar as you fire it up down the straights. The tone of different exhaust mufflers. A sound unique to each bike, is well represented and near perfectly replicated.
That’s where the authenticity seems to hit a wall however. Crashes sound dull and muted. There’s no substance, no impact in hitting AI opponents. Motorbikes being as light as they are. Carrying all the speed that they do. Have momentum that carries them. There’s no real earsplitting metal grind, no creak or crunch of metal. Just a dull thud and then, reset. You’re back and racing. Against the forefront of absolutely mesmerizing graphical realism, this failing really sticks out like a sore thumb.
The musical score wins a few points back. Similarly to Porject Cars 3, the game has an established troupe of easy listening menu music. Whilst not really being present in races, allowing for no distractions. I can be somewhat bland, I know for myself personally, I love a good blood pumping track to go with the immense speed. But that’s not true of everyone. A double edged sword if you will, you alienate one group when you side with the other. It’s very hard to strike middle ground.
That being said, the smooth beats and light electronic music throughout the menus really just pops. I sometimes found myself just sitting in menus simply because I was vibing to the good tunes. With smooth transition from menu to menu and just the faintest ambient bleep as you navigate options. It never feels invasive or out of place. My only issue here is that I wish they’d included some high octane racing tunes.
For what it’s worth, I’m no expert when it comes to motorcycle racing. That much should be apparent from my review of MotoGP 20. My experience in the genre is four games, including Ride 4. The first being Road Rash. A 90s 2D arcade racer, which absolutely needs a reboot. Not to be mistaken for Road Rage, the second motorcycle game and a downright, less than mediocre experience, that tried and failed to take its place.
So I am by far the wrong person to judge this game too harshly. The game is an even fifty/fifty split for me. I’ve not seen a racing sim this gorgeous for some time. However the minor bugs like bad AI and steep learning curve make it tricky for me to just have fun. At the end of a hard day’s work, even in lockdown, I find myself gravitating to games I’m already familiar with. Or trying ones that are a bit more user friendly, in a pick up and play manor.
Where the game succeeds, it does so beautifully. True to life graphics and fun and funky music are great tools. But at the end of the day, it’s the content within that will determine the fate of you game. I feel that Ride 4, is simply not for newer players. Veteran’s of the style will probably adore it. New players who want to break into the genre, I’d recommend MotoGP 20 first.
Game Genre – Racing, Arcade
Label – Milestone
Rating – G
Year of Release – 2020
Platforms – Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC
Mode(s) of Play – Single, Multiplayer