RIDE 3 Review
The funny and ironic part about playing this wonderfully authentic motorcycle simulator is that I don't even know to ride a bicycle. Just never learned growing up, tried to learn when I was in college and broke my arm, never went back. I have a few friends that have owned dirt bikes and motorcycles, but never really gravitated to them or had an interest. Thankfully the gaming industry has enabled people to fulfill their most extreme fantasies and Ride 3 allows me to ride a motorcycle in the safety of my home.
I probably haven't played a motorcycle game since Road Rash on Genesis in the early 90s or even a car simulator since Gran Turismo on PlayStation in the late 90s so I wasn't sure what to really expect. I started the career mode, selected a bike, and we were off to the races. That ease of access is great, but I had no idea what the controls were and there I was in last place pressing all the buttons I possibly could to get going. OK, great, found the gas, oh shoot, here comes a turn...brake, brake, BRAKE! Since I was going so fast and had no idea how to brake I hit the edge of the track, flew off my bike, and was way more behind than before. By the end of the short two lap race I of course finished last but learned a heck of a lot about the controls. In short, there is no tutorial which can be frustrating at first but once you learn gas and brake you are solid. You can also change the view from third person to first person which is all up to your preference. I want to be able to see the bike and what it is doing and to see down the track so third person is my preference. However, it would be amazing if they included VR mode as a patch or next iteration.
The absolute first thing that I noticed when picking my bike and entering my first race was the level of detail and graphics. The bikes look so realistic down to the wheel nuts, handle grips, and brake lines. After your first few races you will have enough money for your first upgrade or customization, too. Upgradable components are categorized by engine, transmission, brakes, suspension, appearance, and wheels. Each has a subset of upgrades all the way down to what kind of oil you are using. There has been so much attention to detail for each bike it is unbelievable. I am not a huge fan of skins or appearance customization so I will remain mostly neutral on that front, but it does show near limitless possibilities. It even looks like you can submit your appearance online to share - creators rejoice! The only problem I had was after only a handful of races I had enough credits to max out the upgrades on my first bike. I am all for progression, but it was effortless. Over the course of many completed circuits I didn't have any difficulty quickly maxing out every bike at my disposal. I even had times where I purchased a new bike and maxed it out immediately. Having to go through each category and subcategory can get old quick. Maybe adding a feature or option to max out a bike would be nice. Also would like to see a feature to auto tune your bike for specific tracks or situations, that would be neat as well. I am not a tinkerer of gear ratios and brake or suspension systems so an automatic feature would help. However in the end I never really had to change any setups of my bikes and generally came out victorious.
There are 30 tracks which are replicas of real circuits, cityscapes, and countrysides which are breathtaking. Eventually you will burn through all of those tracks so to spice things up there are nighttime and rain options. The rain especially will have a huge impact on how you approach the race and the hairpin turns. There is also a drag race mode which is pretty fun because you have to manually shift your gears with precision to gain top speed and best your opponents. Beware, I swear they sometimes start you in neutral and at other times in first which can throw off the timing on the start of the race. Each race, depending on how long of a track and how many laps, will take an average of 5 minutes which isn't much. This is perfect for my gameplay style these days as I don't seem to have long gaming sessions as much as I used to. Easy to jump into a few races, progress, and put it down.
There aren't many options in types of gameplay, but there is career mode and multiplayer. Career mode is where you are given a set amount of credits to purchase your first bike. Once you have a bike selected there are a number of tours that are opened and a green flag indicator highlights which tracks are suitable for your bike. Each tour has a number of events to participate in. Some are time based, drag racing, supermoto, or lap-based. The better your performance the more credits you will earn to upgrade your existing bike or purchase new ones. Credits are plentiful so have no fear if you aren't finishing in the top tier just yet. The credits will come and once you upgrade your bikes you will notice an immediate performance boost giving you an edge against the AI. Finish in the top three of each race and you will also earn stars. The total number of stars will eventually unlock additional tiers of tours. Some tours are also gated by the CC rating of your bike. What did take me a bit to understand is sometimes the CC is lower than the bike you may currently having either forcing you to subtract your upgrades to participate or forcing you to buy a new standard bike. To me this is a little backwards. I worked "hard" to get my bikes upgraded so why make me take away from its greatness to participate in an event. Finish in the top tier on all events within a tour and you will receive a bike as your reward. Eventually you get your hands on a decent collection of bikes. There are also a number of other bikes via DLC which I believe as of writing this review there are three free packs to download. The most frustrating part about career mode is the physics and AI. The control of the bikes feels so realistic however if you hit the slightest bump, sand on the road, any wet spot on the track, grassy spots, or another players wheel, then you will go flying. I get it, you are going at a very high rate of speed, but there is little room for error. Combined with the AI having an uncanny ability to gain ground on you no matter how far ahead you are and take you out without crashing themselves, it all seems slightly unfair. Once you gain a respect for those nuances you can eventually learn to use them to your advantage. There are turn assists on the track so when you are approaching a turn not only can you reference the mini map and gauge the next turn, but there are color code indicators, too. Coming up on a turn at a decent speed the color will remain blue. Coming in too hot and the color will be yellow or red meaning to slow down or brake. If you are behind or trying to gain an edge on an opponent you can come in a little hot and bounce yourself off their bike to get ahead. This can be risky and sometimes backfire, but it does add some intensity to the gameplay. Overall the career mode at first is entertaining but eventually can get monotonous. Get bored of playing the AI in career mode and jump right into multiplayer. Much like most first person shooters these days you and fellow players will collectively vote on a track with preset variables. Those variables consist of weather, CC Bike requirements, mode of physics, and turn assists. I don't really have a competitive bone in my body for racing games and typically just get destroyed, which isn't fun in my book. However, if you have a bike collection at your disposal and know how to tweak them to perfection then this is the mode for you.
Given that I have not played a vehicle simulator since the 90s I thought this was a blast. Ride 3 reminded me so much of Gran Turismo which should be taken as a compliment. The genre hasn't changed much which means the formula for realism still holds strong even today. I enjoyed collecting a ton of bikes and upgrading them to their max then living on the edge dominating on the track. Ride 3 is an easy entry into the motorcycle simulation genre. The level of detail on and off the track is visually satisfying. Over time playing the AI can get a little boring, but multiplayer provides some variety, at least if you win and don't get dead last like I do more than half the time. For someone wanting to get into a motorcycle racing game this is a strong contender. Veterans of the genre may have their niche, but Ride seems to have a good community following. To those veterans I say it is for you to decide if there is enough new content to warrant the purchase. Either way, I hope to see many of you at the finish line!
Final Rating: 80% - A wheel authentic motorcycle simulator.