Simulation sports games can be brutal if not unforgiving. Often times coming into a series late seems like an insurmountable task, especially in the racing genre. After spending some time in RIDE 4, that definitely feels like the case. That does not mean the game is bad by any stretch of the word. It more so indicates you just need to know what you are getting yourself into before you buy.
Intense Simulation Gameplay
RIDE 4 launched within the first two weeks of October 2020, seemingly picking up where its predecessor left off. With the game being the fourth installment and me being new to the franchise, I knew this would be a case of try and try again. Of course, that is exactly what happened. Now, that’s obviously entirely due to a lack of skill and not a fault of the game. However, as with most simulation games, RIDE 4 offers some guidance for new players but not enough for completely new players. From the outset, the price of admission is time and patience.
True, practice makes perfect, an ideal firmly attributed to the nature of ‘simulation’. Thus, one cannot knock a game for requiring players to invest time. This is especially true for simulation games. After all, the idea is to progress organically through practice, repetition, and competition. The only downside is that the fundamentals are rarely, if ever, touched upon. To clarify, the game does give you the control scheme and provides several opportunities for players to improve, but outside of quick tips during loading screens, there is not a dedicated feature to teach completely new players the ropes. Things like brake timing and knowing the ideal speed to enter and exit turns appears to supposed to be common knowledge. It is not.
That said, RIDE 4 does offer driving aids to make things easier like an auto-brake system and guidelines for optimal routing on the track. However, simply showing or pure hand holding is not a substitute for teaching. Without a fundamental understanding of what the ride aids help accomplish, they’ll likely be a crippling crutch rather than a helping hand.
While the above may be enough to deter complete newcomers, I did stick with RIDE 4 long enough to give it an thorough, if not fair, evaluation. Through spills, crashes and invalid laps, being behind the bars of the bike is ultimately fun. RIDE 4 is nuanced as it should be. With each failure I noticed the subtle details the game provided in terms of player feedback. It may not outright explain the fundamentals but it does show you them over and over again. The game begins with testing your skill and allowing new and old players to get acclimated with simulated racing. The same concept occurs in Career with license tests being required before league events.
Certain events in and out of career start off with the bike in ‘autopilot’. I brushed it off the first time but realized soon after RIDE 4 uses the Autopilot to give a quick and dirty lesson of “this is what success looks like” before the bike is in your hands. Most, if not all, the hints in RIDE 4 are “does as I do”. This includes putting tire marks on the track in lieu of the route guide system in certain events.
Skills aside, the simulation gameplay encourages progression and mastery. Incentives are given for turning off ride aids. Before each race players can fine tune bikes in a variety of ways. Pre race Bike Setup lets players fine tune suspension, transmission and calibrations, each with its own set of options from preload settings to gear ratios. This is extremely useful as tracks and conditions vary between events. It’s solid and the gameplay is polished. Even as a novice, I could not find it lacking in any way. RIDE 4 is a racing game that knows its a racing game offering players almost every tool imaginable to help them achieve success and improve with each outing. Even if some will take significantly longer than others.
RIDE 4 does not lack visually. Building off Milestone’s experience within the Unreal Engine, RIDE 4 dishes out better lighting complete with weather effects and gorgeous Day/Night cycles. These enhancements greatly compliment the wide range of bikes available to ride. Majority of the in-game bikes are built from manufacturer CAD files (3D scans). With additions to the materials library, everything looks as authentic, at least to the eye of a novice. Included bikes range from 60s classics to more modern bikes like the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R6. Their recreations are stunning and Milestone’s commitment to detail pays off.
With little to personally compare it to, I imagine the physics are as they should be. Seeing plenty of crashes (not all of them mine), nothing looked wacky or plain impossible. And the overall feel of the bikes felt realistic, meaning the crashes that do happen make sense.
I spent some time soaking in the sounds of the game. RIDE 4 does not disappoint here either. I’m sure many will appreciate the controller vibration harmonizing with the hum (or roar) of the engines during competitions. In terms of soundtrack, the tracks are pretty mild. I appreciate them as they set a mellow tone and pace for anything not on the track, but it’s nothing special. In regards to user interface, well, it’s a simulation game. Menus are simple and modern providing enough contextual feedback for navigation. Getting lost would take effort. Truly.
RIDE 4 offers several ways to play. Ultimately, each one boils down to one of few event types with contextual differences. You have Career, Race, Multiplayer and a few non-competitive modes including Bike & Rider, and Editor.
Career mode is essentially a list of events and tasks to be completed as you progress towards specializing in a certain race style. New riders begin with choosing one of three regional leagues with the others being unlocked at a later time. Riders eventually move on to the World Leagues and then the Final Leagues. The final two leagues (Superbikes and Endurance) require specialization within their respective fields of expertise: Racing Modified bikes or Endurance Modified bikes. Each league is structured with tasks to be completed before moving on.
Race provides the typical exhibition mode experience. Here, players can setup single races and define the a variety of conditions including the track, weather, time of day, if the time of day elapses and so on. In addition to traditional races, players can set up Endurance events with fuel consumption added or a time trial. If nothing else, these are great for general entertainment but also practicing each event outside of Career.
Multiplayer is much like Race but you can join a lobby or host your own to play with friends and others online.
The other two modes are for cosmetics and off-track tuning. With Bike & Rider, players can purchase new bikes from the Dealership, check out their collection within the personal garage, tune bikes and edit riders. The Editor mode is a dedicated spot for creating your own liveries and styles for bikes, helmets, suits and more. You can also share your creation online and download others’. While it may not be as robust as more renown creation suites, the options available include a diverse set of stock logos, patterns, and character fonts. There’s a lot of room to get creative. Don’t be afraid to peruse the online content for inspiration.
I am no pro in simulation racing, arcade tends to be my thing. However, RIDE 4 comes off as a game I want to get good at. As mentioned before, if you are not already not a veteran or seasoned player, it is going to take time, patience, and repetition. It’s a solid game with not many glaring drawbacks. In comparison to RIDE 3, it is a definite visual upgrade and improves upon the overall structure of the game. This is exemplified in the Career layout and sense of progression. If you’re completely new to the series, the learning curve can be steep but for veterans, RIDE 4 exemplifies simulation with deep fine-tuning and modification options.
It can be fun yet challenging and Milestone balances this aspect very well. For the few events I did manage to pass, I felt a genuine sense of accomplishment and came back for more on my own volition. Still, it’s a simulation centric game through and through; if you’re not looking for that experience, then RIDE 4 is likely not for you.
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RIDE 4 Review: Numerous Turns And Steep Learning Curves