In the world of motorcycle racing video games, you would be hard-pressed to find a developer more experienced than Milestone. This studio has been making motorcycle racing games since the late 1990s. Their popular Ride series started back in 2015. Now the latest entry in the series, Ride 5, is out and available exclusively on current-generation consoles and PCs. Does this latest game harness the most powerful hardware to make an incredible experience, or does the game fall flat and spin out? Let’s find out as we take a look at Ride 5.
Upfront, racing in Ride 5 can be very challenging. This is to be expected as the game is trying to be a true-to-life simulation. There are going to be plenty of times you wipe out or completely miss a turn, especially your first few times on a new track. This means that when you do finally nail that turn and accelerate out of it past your opponents, it is an incredibly exhilarating and satisfying experience.
The realism of the gameplay is what makes the game so much fun. You can’t just go full throttle and expect to make tight turns. This is where knowing the track and where you can get away with accelerating through a turn and where you need to brake earlier than usual to avoid going into the dirt comes into play.
Speaking of turning, it takes some time to figure out where to start turning to make it around a curve. For some curves, you can wait until you are right on top of it, while for others you have to start turning before you are even through your current turn. It’s just another reason why knowing the track you are on is so important in this game. I wish there was an option before a race to run a few practice laps on the track to get a feel for it, especially in Career Mode. Currently, the only way to practice on a track by yourself is in Time Trials in Quick Race.
For new players, Ride 5 includes a suite of riding aids and settings to ease you into the game as much as possible. There is automatic steering, braking, and accelerating, which when all are turned on at the same time cause the bike to drive itself. These aids allow new players to focus on learning one aspect of the game at a time before combining them. There are also cornering and brake input modulation aids, which help the user brake and turn while keeping control of their bike.
One aid I wish worked a little better is the ideal trajectory aid. This shows the best path for you to follow as you go around the track. However, this seems to only work properly on some of the tracks. On the ones where it works, it is amazing. It shows me exactly where to go, and when to slow down and start my turn. However, on some tracks, it needs some tuning. There will be times when it tells me to start slowing down when I should be accelerating and vice versa. It is hard to know when I should listen to what it is telling me and when I should ignore it.
The main modes in Ride 5 are Career Mode and Quick Race. Quick Race is as you would expect. You can choose between regular races, time trials, or endurance races. Local split-screen co-op also returns this year, so you can play with your family and friends on the same console.
Career Mode is where you will spend the majority of your time in Ride 5. The mode begins with rider customization. From helmets, to suits, to gloves there are tons of options from several brands that you can purchase to kit out your rider. Everything you purchase in this game is done using credits, which can only be earned through gameplay. When I first loaded into the game and saw the credits icon, I assumed there would be an option to purchase credits for real money. However, this turns out not to be the case. Monetization in this game seems to be very reasonable. There are a handful of bike packs available in the store for about $2 each, along with an optional $40 Season Pass which includes new tracks, new bikes, and a multiplier to the credits you earn in the game.
Getting back to the Career Mode, once you have your driver looking just how you want them to, it is time to pick one of three Championship competitions to compete in to start your career. Career Mode is comprised of four Acts. Each Act has a set of primary and secondary events. There are ten primary events, which range from championships to head-to-head challenges. Players must earn Leaderboard Points to progress through the primary events. Once you earn enough points, the next primary event will unlock. Once you have cleared all of the primary events in one Act, the primary events for the next Act will unlock. If you score high enough in the corresponding primary event, you will also unlock that event’s secondary event. These events present unique challenges, with higher entry fees and much higher rewards.
There is also a Race Creator mode, where you can compete in a race other people have created with custom rulesets, weather, and more. However, it looks like the online component of this mode is not yet available, which makes it almost the same as Quick Race for the time being.
Presentation and performance are where Ride 5 truly stands out from the crowd. Performance-wise I reviewed this game on a PlayStation 5 and did not experience any bugs or performance issues. The game ran at a silky smooth frame rate the entire time.
The audio and visual design in Ride 5 is nothing short of phenomenal. The new 3D cloud and dynamic weather systems work together beautifully. You can start a race looking at the sunset bouncing off some light clouds in a beautiful swirl of colors and finish it in pitch-black darkness while fighting off a torrential downpour. The lighting and shadows coming from the riders also look incredibly realistic.
On top of looking great, the bikes sound fantastic as well. The sound of the bike accelerating in the straightaway or idling as you slow down around a curve makes driving much more satisfying. Usually, with games like this, I turn the sound off and put on a TV show or YouTube video in the background, but I left the sound on for Ride 5 just because I enjoyed it so much.
Customization is impressive in Ride 5. While there aren’t many options for your driver’s face, you won’t see it that often, so it really doesn’t matter. For everything else, the options are expansive. From bike liveries to helmets, gloves, and more there are several brands and designs to choose from. You can also create your own designs or download one someone else created and uploaded for everyone to use.
When it comes to accurately simulating motorcycle racing, Ride 5 is the top of the top. The game is incredibly realistic, both in its gameplay and its design. The game looks, sounds, feels, and plays just how you would expect an actual motorcycle race to.
While this is great for hardcore racing sim fans, I do question if there is enough here for newcomers to the series and genre. With features missing from Race Creator, and not much to do outside of just racing in Career Mode, it could make the $60 price tag a bit much for new players.
However, the game is so good at what it does that I feel it is worth picking up if you are interested. Once those additional features are added in, this becomes an easy game to recommend. The game makes it so easy to just sit back, disassociate, and lose yourself in these races.
Newcomers will struggle to get started in Ride 5, but returning fans are in for a treat. Although the game doesn’t have much going for it outside of career mode, Ride 5 still produces a great hardcore racing experience.