Milestone knows a thing or two about motorbikes. The industrious Italian developer has been pumping out licensed two-wheeled titles like MotoGP, MXGP, and SBK for years now, and RIDE represents its most recent return to the saddle. Unlike its older endeavours, however, this is an original intellectual property inspired by the likes of Gran Turismo and Tourist Trophy – but has it got enough gas in the tank to keep pace with such esteemed names?
There's so much passion on display here that it's honestly almost perverse. A rousing Robert Frost-esque narrator introduces each category in the World Tour mode with an innuendo-laden overview that you won't want anyone to hear without the context of your television screen. And that obsessive nature spills over into the gameplay side of things, where you can, for example, manually adjust the posture of your created racer when you enter hairpin bends.
This is not a slight against the game – it's the kind of detail that aficionados will absolutely appreciate – but it should give you an idea as to the type of experience that you're getting into. This is a game that isn't especially interested in outfitting you with nitrous and power-ups – a bright blue brake cable can be considered ample reward for a race well won.
We're mocking ever so slightly, but to be fair to the game, it delivers in this department impressively. There are over 100 bikes to choose from – spanning several different manufacturers across various automotive eras – and each can be furnished with licensed parts. It's all about finding your dream machine and tuning it exactly to your tastes, from a specific type of throttle all the way down to those wheel rims that have been sitting in your eBay watch list for weeks.
And you'll afford these extras by participating in copious events; from standard head-to-heads through to multiple race championships, you'll always have a reason to take to the tarmac and burn Pirelli rubber. Unfortunately, due to the emphasis on tuning, the balance isn't always there; fail to upgrade your brand new bike and you'll find yourself getting roasted on the straights, but equip the best engine and you'll have ample opportunity to tackle a quick crossword or two once you've reached the front of the pack.
It's an issue which leaves the racing feeling quite clinical, and it's not exactly helped by unadventurous AI riders, who are unwilling to ever stray from the optimal track line in order to block off passersby. This means that events such as time attack and track day – where you need to overtake a certain number of riders – are much more fulfilling; the drag races make you think about the setup of your bike in a way that few other events do, too.
But it's honestly all a bit boring – and we reckon that even the most extreme enthusiasts would say the same after a while. There's no atmosphere when you're in the saddle save for the roar of your engine and a dodgy soundtrack that includes everything from jangly Johnny Marr-esque guitar riffs to Sigma-style drum and bass beats – and sometimes both at the same time. The developer would probably argue that it's a 'pure' experience, but that's often corporate speak for 'dull'.
Don't get us wrong, the simulation is solid enough, especially when you reach the pro physics tier – but canned animations give some of the vehicles a 'samey' feel, and you'll never quite get that sense of terrifying speed that a top-of-the-range superbike should convey. The depth's there if you want it – offering manual brakes for both front and back wheels, as well as a dedicated button for streamlining your body down straights – but the on-track experience feels sterile regardless.
This isn't helped by the visuals, which are serviceable but plain. The bike models are incredible, boasting the kind of obsessive attention to detail that even Kazunori Yamauchi would appreciate – but the tracks, inspired by a number of real-world circuits as well as more general geographic flavours, are ordinary, with last-gen foliage and copy-and-paste objects peppered around the roads just to give you something to whiz by. Play this directly after DriveClub and you're in for a rude awakening.
And the single player progression is similarly insipid, putting you through your paces in a series of events which earn you ranking points in a fictional league table. Granted, you'll be unlocking different motorcycles as you slog your way through the endless list of tasks, but becoming the best ranked virtual racer in the world doesn't feel like an accomplishment, because all you're really doing is increasing an arbitrary number that has no real meaning or purpose at all.
There are Elite events that you'll unlock as you progress, but these merely offer more of the same with the promise of – you guessed it – more vehicles to attain. Building up a showroom of custom bikes does have a certain allure, but even the most ardent fan's interest will drop off eventually – there's just not enough to the single player component to sustain any real prolonged appeal. This is an area where MotoGP 14's challenges really changed the game.
You can take the action online, of course, but we've struggled to put in many meaningful miles here – despite waiting until late on launch day to play more. The problem is that the lobbies are quieter than a motorised scooter right now, and while the game will fill out any unoccupied player slots with AI riders, you don't really come to the multiplayer to race against the computer. The servers at least seem stable, so you'll just need to keep your fingers crossed that they fill up.
RIDE's adequate in almost all areas, but it's never going to offer the ride of your life. There's a clear passion for motorcycles on display here, and petrol heads will appreciate the depth of the tinkering that's on offer – but the on-track experience is far too clinical to confidently capture the pastime that the developer is so enthusiastic about. If you want to build up a stable of obsessively rendered motorcycles, each tuned to your exacting tastes, then this may get your internal engine roaring for a while – but everyone else will find a competently made racing game that, beneath all of the gusto of its creepy announcer, never really hits top gear.