Ridge Racer Unbounded Review
Ridge Racer Unbounded combines arcade street racing with destruction derby elements in a (partially) destructible environment. It doesn't quite get any of these parts right, and the whole is certainly equal to the sum of its parts.
To say that there's not much of a story to the game would be an understatement, but that's not necessarily a knock at the game. It's more of an acknowledgement between the developers and gamers that no one really pays attention to the throwaway stories that are generally stuffed into street racing games. The net effect is the same, story or not: you compete in a series of events in which you need to finish in the top three positions to mark the event as complete, which in turn unlocks another event or two. The most common event is Domination in which it's you versus eleven other racers in a no-holds barred racing competition through city streets. There are also Frag Attack elimination races, as well as the more straightforward events Shindo (racing without the destruction derby elements), Drifting, and Time Trial, the latter two of which should be self-explanatory.
The tracks are all set on city streets, and although the premise is that you're street racing illegally the tracks resemble closed circuits. Barriers prevent you from taking side streets and outside of the occasional elevated train that goes rolling by the city is completely devoid of traffic or any kind of life whatsoever (and if you get yourself up to the elevated railway to see where those trains are going you'll hit an invisible wall). It's a good thing that the citizens of this city stay clear of the races because the cars aren't only a danger to traffic, but to the buildings that line the streets as well.
Ridge Racer Unbounded features a destructible environment, and you're encouraged to be as destructive as possible. Not only do you build up turbo power by driving through obstacles, you also open track shortcuts this way as well as earn bonus points that go towards your driver level. This may sound like it would make for an exciting racing game, but Unbounded just doesn't pull it off. First of all, the game is inconsistent in what's destructible and what isn't. You can blast through the facades of some buildings and some bridge supports, while others will stop your car cold. Other destructible zones that would be fun to blast rhough such as gas stations or store parking lots are inexpliably placed so far off to the side of the road that diverting from the track to cause a little damage will cost you dearly in terms of your race position, assuming that you can even get back to the track without running into a wall first. The shortcuts that you can open up by blasting through a building in full turbo mode don't really give you an advantage over racers who've been forced to take the "long" way around, and some of them are positioned so that you can come out of the animated sequence that shows you exiting the building pointed straight at an unbreakable wall with no time to avoid the collision. You're given bonus points at the end of a race for opening the shortcuts and causing damage to the city, but the only way to clear an event is to end the race in one of the top three positions. Since destroying things slows you down (especially when you hit something that turns out not to be destructible) and the shortcuts don't give you an advantage, there's a disincentive to do these things which is a fundamental flaw in the game.
If you concentrate strictly on the racing, you'll find that Unbounded is flawed here, too. Like most racers Unbounded starts you off with an underpowered vehicle, but unlike most other racers your competition doesn't suffer the same restriction. This is painfully apparent at the start of each race - the game starts you off at the end of the pack and you'll watch as the entire pack quickly leaves you behind. You can earn better cars as you gain experience from the events, but the car progression is painfully slow and it takes a long time for you to unlock anything that would be considered to be a powerful car. You'll be at a big disadvantage for quite a while and it will take you some time combined with a lot of luck for you to put just a couple of wins under your belt.
Making matters worse, the game makes use of the worst kind of rubber banding. No lead is safe because the game will warp your opponents onto your tail before long, but if you fall behind it will be difficult for you to make up the ground. It's so bad that I've seen opponents that I've fragged while using turbo spawn on the track in front of me already at top speed. When you're fragged, you have to watch an animation of your car crashing while the other racers pull away, and then you're spawned at the site of the crash at a complete stop. This imbalance is so unfair and frustrating that it saps all of the fun out of the races.
It's surprising that a game that isn't designed very well features an easy to use, intuitive track editor. You design the overall layout by placing tiles that contain a section of track and the surrounding environment on a grid until you've completed a circuit. You can then zoom in on the tiles all the way to street level and place everything from ramps to walls, to streetlights quickly and easily. You can take a test drive to try out your design and then jump back into the editor to make adjustments. As you play the game you'll unlock new tiles for the editor, allowing you to create increasingly complex track layouts. You can collect your tracks into a "city" and then upload it all for other gamers to enjoy. The game's online mode highlights a rotating trio of player cities, and you can also browse for cities that pique your interest or check if other gamers have been racing in your city. Designing tracks is fun to do and the multiplayer mode makes for a great way to share and discover new tracks, but unfortunately the racing that takes place on those tracks just isn't all that much fun.
Final Rating: 58%. A lot of different pieces that don't work well on their own, let alone together.