Born to be Bland
Motorbikes: loud, obnoxious, buzzing, vehicular banshees periodically screeching down the road outside my house. They’re like cars but with two wheels. They’re the source of endless hilarious ragdolling when crashing in Grand Theft Auto. They’re what the cast of Sons of Anarchy ride occasionally when not lying to and kiling eachother. Up to this point in my life, this has been the entirety of my experience with motorbikes – but with our resident grizzled bikers waylaid, a hapless civilian like me was forced to review the sort of game I pretty much never play: the sports simulation game. So yeah, disclaimer: I don’t claim to be any sort of expert on these sorts of games, so I’m giving my impressions as an outsider to the genre and seeing how well Ride 3 holds up for those who are more fond of Harley Quinn than Harley Davidson.
Genre Thrills (Or the Lack Thereof)
It’s not as if racing sims can’t sometimes get me revved up. I’d happily play Daytona (“Ret’s go avay!”) for hours for the amazing music alone. Ridge Racer’s insane drifting and ecstasy-inducing techno music blew my mind. And I remember how I loved skateboarding sims of old like the Tony Hawk series of games because of the genuine attempt to introduce me to the music, style and culture of these radical dudes with tudes.
The real problem with Ride 3 if you’re not a biking aficionado is that there’s no attempt whatsoever to draw you in. The races have no music – only the grating sound of blaring engines of several different bikes, which all sound somewhere on the aural spectrum between a buzzing wasp and a continuous fart. There’s no story, and no real stakes – even the tutorials give purely perfunctory textual explanation of what you have to do. I kind of worked out myself that there’s a handy blue line appearing on the track that represents the optimal speed and route for the courses. It gets orange or red when you’re going to fast for the corners. So you use the thin blue line to accelerate, brake and corner. Different types of bikes mean you have to do these three things a little differently. That’s it! I hope you don’t like complex, varied, evolving gameplay, because you’re not going to get it here.
Usually I notice how beautifully racing sims tend to render their environments, which is totally understandable, given their more narrow focus, but I was again underwhelmed. Maybe it’s because I’ve so recently played Red Dead Redemption 2, but I was totally underwhelmed by the style and presentation of Ride 3. The scenery is acceptably textured, but nothing looks memorable or distinctive. There’s no extreme weather to race in or anything like that. I was hoping to see my bike splashing through puddles, creating shimmering splashes of water – just something to break up the monotony of racing on tiresomely overcast days, but nothing.
Generic Guy With a Generic Life
There’s actually some character customization options, but the existence of these seem to highlight the pointlessness of it all. There’s 5 different bland faces you can choose between, and a vast variety of corporate logo emblazoned shirts. But all this merely determines what your avatar will be wearing in the menu screens between races as he sits totally alone in his apartment: idling aimlessly in a world where his life is devoid of reason or meaning between racing sessions.
There’s some of quibbles and annoyances that really hindered my enjoyment of Ride 3. Firstly there’s the fact the mini-map is absurdly small given how early you have to start braking to corner with the of the more powerful bikes. Many tracks I was unfamiliar with, I had little choice but to simply learn through gruelling, dull trial and error.
Speed Racer Dreams
Maybe it’s a sign of the times that sports simulation games are increasingly targeted towards catering towards their specific demographic, without there being even the slightest attempt to bring in an audience outside enthusiasts. Couldn’t I at least get some sort of story mode? Perhaps I’m playing as some ragamuffin young street punk who gets arrested in an illegal street race, before some inspirational Coach Carter figure shows me the right way is through proper, legitimate, (though still horrendously risky) high speed racing.
Maybe I could have a friend-turned-rival who gets some sort of big sponsorship deal – turning into some sort of arrogant, corporate shill who forgets his roots because of money – who you face off against in the big final race (and we can assume the result somehow determines the fate of the local inner-city youth club/orphanage). Then, when I finally win the race, I offer him a firm handshake and a gruff: “…remember man, it’s about the bikes!” which causes him to repent, flip off his evil corporate sponsor and high five me from the second-place podium. Or something… literally anything to invest me in the proceedings.
But do I get any of that? Nope. Instead the career mode is just a drab collection of boxes from which you can select challenges. You play challenges to win points to unlock more boxes of challenges. You also win money to purchase more bikes and so on and so on. The bikes look pretty well rendered and seem to be true to life. I actually got a bit excited for a moment reading the descriptions of some of the vintage 1960s Japanese bikes. It made me think: “Wow, how cool would it be to play as a biker in recently reconstructed Japan in the tumultuous 60’s during the era of Speed Racer and You Only Live Twice?” Then the waspish-farting of the revving bikes awoke me once again to the depressing reality.
If I found the core game enjoyable, I could tolerate the career mode being basically just a high-speed hamster wheel of getting more bikes and unlocking more challenges, but I don’t. If you’re not a connoisseur of all the gleaming zippy bikes on offer, there’s just little point to it all.
Ride 3 just didn’t get my motor running, let alone made me want to head out on the highway. There’s very little adventure and only the most straightforward racing gameplay coming my way. I was born to be wild, but Ride 3 didn’t sate these lusts at all: just being what I would assume is an accurate simulation of driving in a twisty, tarmac circle a lot (and occasionally in a twisty, tarmac line). If seeing an accurate simulation of bikes going “vroom vroom!” fills your heart with happiness, then disregard most of this review, you’ll probably enjoy Ride 3. However, most people will find the lack of any flair, atmosphere, complexity or hook for non-enthusiasts a big let-down. I’d rather play Road Rash.
Final Verdict: 2.5/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed) ; Publisher: Milestone S.r.l. ; Developer: Milestone S.r.l. ; Players: 1-12 ; Released: November 30th, 2018
Full disclosure: This review is based on review code given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.